Jun 2, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Loyalty has paid off for NBC’s sophomore dramedy Scrubs, according to the show’s creator-executive producer Bill Lawrence.

By maintaining continuity during the past two seasons, “We have evolved and not repeated the mistakes from the first year-being too cartoony or too fast-paced,” he said. “This season, we hit our stride by focusing on the characters that our audience now knows and care about.”

At the same time, the show has continued to be one that has viewers “howling out loud one minute and then punched in the gut with emotion the next minute,” said Steve McPherson, president of Scrubs producer Touchstone Television.

What’s more, said Mr. McPherson, Mr. Lawrence has developed “one of the great ensemble casts. Every single person in the cast, including the smaller players, can fully carry a story line.”

A consistent-and coveted-time slot hasn’t hurt, either.

The series distinguishes itself as the first program to follow Friends in its current time slot that did not give up its time period to midseason tryouts. In fact, Scrubs is the highest-rated comedy to have launched in the past four seasons in the key 18 to 49 demographic. NBC President of Entertainment Jeff Zucker declared simply, “Scrubs is the smartest and classiest show we have put in that time period in years.” At the recent upfront presentation, Mr. Zucker proudly announced that the hospital series is the first program to be renewed in the post-Friends time period “out of strength” rather than out of a hope that the series might grow and establish itself. (Think Single Guy and Jesse.)

Mr. Lawrence attributes the staff’s solidarity to several things, including a lot of time spent together. It takes longer to shoot a series like Scrubs-one of only a few single-camera comedies on network television- than some of its half-hour counterparts. That turned out to be one of several advantages of the single-camera technique, according to Mr. Lawrence. “I did not even realize all the creative perks,” he said. “With single-camera, we can do all kinds of visual gags, fantasy sequences, music video montages. It’s like shooting a movie in a hospital.”

The combination of the additional time required to shoot a single-camera show and a location Mr. Lawrence affectionately describes as “the creepy, abandoned hospital in the Valley” helped mold the Scrubs team into an “exceptionally close-knit group.”

Mr. McPherson saluted Mr. Lawrence for infecting the Scrubs team with camaraderie, including often promoting writers from within. “He is a loyal guy,” Mr. McPherson said.

Still, for the team behind Scrubs, season two launched with some trepidation. When NBC scheduled Scrubs after Friends on Thursdays at 8:30 p.m., Mr. McPherson considered the move “a double-edged sword. We are delivered the largest audience on television but it’s a difficult assignment.”

So far, Scrubs has cleaned up.