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The Great Train Robbery

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Season 2 of NBC’s Scrubs is out on DVD. As with the first season’s release, there are some extra features for hard core fans, but the main reason to look at the DVD is the show itself.

Scrubs for Beginners

Not as neatly packaged as the first time, but easier to use
Not as neatly packaged as the first time, but easier to use

For those unfamiliar, Scrubs is a sitcom set in a hospital. Our protagonists are three fresh-faced young doctors — J.D. (Zach Braff), Elliot (Sarah Chalke), and Turk (Donald Faison). They are mentored and tormented by the senior staff at the hospital, including the sarcastic chief of medicine, Dr. Kelso (Ken Jenkins), the hard-nosed senior Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley, who often steals the show), and a staff of nurses who parry the doctors’ first-class status with their years of seniority and hands-on experience.

I generally loathe sitcoms; laugh tracks seem to have the exact wrong effect on me, eliciting annoyance and not laughter. But Scrubs is filmed on location in a real (abandoned) hospital. It’s shot, on film, as a “one-camera” production. In short, it looks more like a movie than 90% of the sitcoms on TV.

And the show still continues into its fifth season. Which means there will be more at least three more DVD sets to come!

DVD Extras

The packaging of Scrubs Season 2 isn’t nearly as neat as the first DVD set, which had slipcases, transparent x-ray inserts, and more moving parts. This case, by contrast is basically just printed cardboard (with some raised effects to give the illusion of complex packaging).

But at least the extra features are presented better. This time, the package actually tells you which disc to put in your player to see which extra features. It’s too bad the menus are more elaborate, and therefore slower.

The features themselves are a mixed bag. Disc one has a documentary with some behind-the-scenes stories and interviews. Disc two has a documentary (Stunt Casting) on the show’s bigger-named guest stars — Heather Locklear and Dick Van Dyke among them, and a series of outtakes called “alternate jokes” — lines written and delivered as backups in case the original joke fell flat. It’s all too clear why most of these were merely backups; this is a surprisingly unfunny feature.

The third disc has deleted scenes (these are actually pretty funny), a section called “musical stylings” that explains how the show uses musical cues to turn the emotion on a dime, and a revealing, depressing segment called Secrets & Lies. In this segment, the cast complain about each other’s lack of professionalism, the times they lose their temper, and the times they play cruel, unfunny practical jokes on each other. To industry insiders in L.A., this may be an unsurprising featurette on the daily life of a TV show, but to those of us living in the real world, it’s a glimpse into why we should be grateful that we aren’t working in the biz.

Picture and Sound

As the music segment reminds us, the sound of Scrubs is an integral part. The songs do seem to be recorded at a higher volume than they need to be. That may be a deliberate attempt to beat the audience over the head and force us to follow along. It may be necessary for TV, but it’s not necessary on home video, where we’re already hooked, and not distracted by commercials.

Because Scrubs is shot on film the show looks very good. There’s little room for outstanding cinematography because the bulk of the show is dialogue, but the fantasy sequences give the photographers room to play and break the routine. It won’t show off your home theater, but it looks as good as can be expected.