The final season of Scrubs – the real final season, season eight – aired during my last year of high school. It’s impossible to divorce my feelings about that final run of episodes from the time in which I viewed them, although that’s basically the case with all of Scrubs. A few years ago I tweeted a list of my favourite TV shows, including Scrubs, and a couple of friends reacted with incredulity. But any kind of media attains personal significance based less on its own merits and more on what it means to you, and Scrubs meant a huge amount to me growing up. It was the first TV show I fell truly in love with. I started watching it in 2006 and Scrubs, in a lot of ways, ran parallel to my coming-of-age. Saying goodbye to the show in 2009, then, became inextricably linked with saying goodbye to the last chapter of my pre-adult life. When I’ve looked back on Scrubs in the years since, it has always remained shrouded in a golden glow of nostalgia, forever tied to my adolescence.
I’ve mentioned in other blogs how much I’ve been enjoying the Fake Doctors, Real Friends podcast hosted by Zach Braff and Donald Faison; it’s the reason I’m thinking about Scrubs at all at the moment, as I’m re-watching the show along with every new podcast episode. But if I’m really honest I’ve found that in the years since the aforementioned tweet Scrubs has slipped in estimation for me. That doesn’t for a second mean I love it less or anything, just that I’ve come to understand that stubbornly insisting it is one of my top five favourite ever TV shows becomes a harder stance to maintain when my tastes have changed so much since I first discovered it. On reflection, the glib goofiness of the show is something I would struggle to get past nowadays, an element that on re-watch I find myself cringing at if anyone apart from myself is in the room.
For years, my Top Five movies and TV shows remained the same. I would proudly reel them off in any film-centric conversation, tweet them in response to prompts to name favourites. But to rigidly maintain the notion that your personal creative canon should always be these few things is to try and deny your own development as a human being.
Some properties have retained their place of significance for me. Jaws and Psycho remain at the top of my lists because those films have withstood shifting perspectives. Nostalgia is a key part of why I love them, but my relationship with them has grown over the years. I find new reasons to love them with every revisit. Scrubs? I’m not so sure anymore. I still think that Scrubs taught me early on that humour and heartbreak aren’t mutually exclusive in storytelling, that they’re both essential parts of the human experience and that a good story can include both and far more besides. The ambition of Scrubs to be gutsy and real even as it got increasingly silly remains, I believe, laudable. But twenty-eight-year-old me has found that as far as TV comedies go it’s shows like Community, shows that go deeper and darker and weirder, that hold more inspiration and emotional impact. Shows that, by the way, I think Scrubs partly paved the way for. Just like it paved the way for so much of my own creative sensibility.
It’s okay to know that you’ve moved beyond something but still love it for what it once meant for you. Ultimately, I think it underlines what I’ve suspected for a while; that set in stone ‘all time favourites’ are stupid. They don’t account for the different ways you can love something. Circa 2020 I love Community more than Scrubs, but the former wasn’t there when I was growing up and rightly or not that makes a big difference. Inglourious Basterds, for a long time loudly touted as my favourite ever movie, probably wouldn’t crack the top five anymore but that doesn’t change the fact that it remains one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had in a cinema. I never got to see Jaws or Psycho on the big screen until I’d already watched them countless times alone at home, and even seeing them at the movies felt in the end more like a novelty. The thrill of discovery, unlike Inglourious Basterds, was never really a factor there. That’s not nothing.
I suspect that re-watching Scrubs has basically plunged a stake through the heart of my categorising favourites into lists. You can love something without having to explain where it ranks and why. You can also change your mind about something (I did in the case of Community). As human beings we’re not fixed in who we are. Our relationships with the media that helped shape us shouldn’t be either.
Writing words about writing words.