Through eight (plus one) seasons of television, battling inconsistent ratings, a fluctuating time slot, and a network jump, Scrubs stayed on the air for nearly a whole decade — rather miraculously. Much like Community, Scrubs treated its fans well over the years, providing lovable characters, fun bits of fantastical fancy, realistic dramatic stakes, and some quotable bits of dialogue. The show is also prone to many inside jokes, meta bits, and several strange reoccurring gags that have made the show a treat for anyone who continued watching throughout the years. There are so many of these type of jokes throughout Scrubs' unorthodox run, but we're here to list a few of our favorites. Here are some inside/meta Scrubs jokes that are still brilliant.
Turner & Hooch
One of the best recurring characters in Scrubs' history is the character of Hooch (Phill Lewis), an orthopedic surgeon at Sacred Heart Hospital who is proven to be literally crazy as time passes. At first, JD and Turk jokingly say "Hooch is crazy!," but they realize he's legitimately insane in the membrane, and their goofy pranks only push him further into the brink of insanity. One of the best gags involving Hooch is when JD and Turk switch their schedules so that they have the satisfaction of seeing Hooch paired up with Dr. Turner, thus creating Turner and Hooch, which is the same title as the 1989 Tom Hanks comedy. While initially annoyed, Dr. Turner and Hooch prove to be a great duo, which makes the joke funnier. What also makes it better is that Dr. Turner is played by Jim Hanks, i.e. Tom Hanks' younger brother.
Dr. Cox and the Red Stapler
As an actor, John C. McGinley, who played the endearing curmudgeon Dr. Perry Cox, has an astonishing filmography. He has lent his acting talents to a wealth of famous films over the years, including (but certainly not limited to) Se7en, Platoon, Wall Street, Point Break, Nixon, Born on the Fourth of July, Any Given Sunday, Talk Radio, The Rock, and more. One of his most famous roles, however, was in Mike Judge's cult classic workplace comedy, Office Space, where he played Bob Slydell, a stuffy business consultant brought in to downsize the company who are impressed by the brash confidence of Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), a disgruntled employee who stops playing by the rules. While the movie wasn't a hit during its theatrical run, its repeat showings on Comedy Central helped it find its audience, and it became a hit on home video.
References and homages to (and recreations of) Office Space have been seen throughout media in the 21st century, and that includes Scrubs. From at least Season 5 onward, a red stapler similar to the one seen in Office Space appears in the hospital. In Season 5, Episode 16, "My Bright Idea," Dr. Cox points the stapler out directly, having an imaginary one-on-one conversation with the office supply and noting that "the red is killer" in an effort to get Elliot to stop talking to him. The stapler has became a well-sold item since 2002, following the cult classic comedy's rising popularity. Its inclusion in Sacred Heart Hospital is a direct reference to John C. McGinley's involvement as one of the Bobs.
Additionally, in Season 9, the show casually revealed that Dr. Cox was college roommates with Michael Bolton, which serves as another cheeky reference to Mike Judge's late '90s comedy.
The More You Know
Since 1989, NBC has aired a series of public service announcements called "The More You Know." These educational messages feature several celebrities, including (but not limited to), Steve Harvey, Joan Rivers, Amy Poehler, Jimmy Fallon, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Barack and Michelle Obama, and more, and they've been praised for educating a wide audience about many important public matters.
They've also been easily ridiculed, notably by several popular NBC shows, including The Office, Will & Grace, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Saturday Night Live, and Scrubs. In Season 5, Episode 21, "My Fallen Idol," JD talks about Munchausen Syndrome (by proxy), which is where a parent will smother their child to gain attention for themselves. What follows is a fantasy sequence wherein JD imagines himself as a television personality giving a message about the dangers of smothering their kid in the style of these famous PSAs.
My Wife & Kids
In the Scrubs pilot, titled "My First Day," JD is watching the TV in the break room as a sitcom appears. In a flash, JD imagines himself on the show with Elliot Reed, the woman he has feelings for, and they quickly begin making out before Dr. Cox hastily wakes him up. If you thought the backdrop looked familiar, it's because it's the set of My Wife & Kids. The showrunners were graciously given the chance to shoot a short scene on this set, and it most certainly added to Scrubs' heightened surrealism for this brief moment — particularly early in the show's run, as it was establishing its stylistic format.
If you were to catch an episode of Scrubs in passing and saw JD being swung in the air or flying around —for whatever reason — yelling "EAGLE!," you might be confused (or think little of it). But this small-but-sweet gag is one of several reoccurring jokes throughout the comedy series, starting from the very beginning. If JD is ever in the air in any capacity, he's prone to exclaiming "EAGLE!" at the top of his voice. While it's usually Turk who swings JD around, sometimes it's Dr. Cox or another character. And if it's not Turk, then it's usually not in a loving fashion. It's a small, stupid joke, but for longtime Scrubs fans, it's a small comfort every time it's heard.
NBC has produced hundreds of shows over the years — many of which haven't lasted more than a season. The network isn't the best when it comes to keeping their shows on the air; it's basically a miracle Scrubs lasted as long as it did (even if they had to jump to separate network to finish its run). The peacock network is also known for making several corny, generic family-related sitcoms/dramedies that the network kept on the air for a season, then cancelled. When it comes to Legal Custodians, the fictional NBC sitcom in JD's mind that imagines Ted and The Janitor adopting a child together, Scrubs poked fun at NBC's typical template, even eventually making a Legal Custodians webisode. One of the best gags involved a fake side-screen Legal Custodians promo that was seen on the side of the screen, where NBC normally promotes its new/popular shows.
What's your favorite inside joke or meta gag from Scrubs? Please let us know in the comment section below!
Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.
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