There are dozens of decent US medical dramas out there. It appears to be a trend to find a successful formula and then milk it for all its worth, bombarding viewers with different series that all basically provide the same goods. It happened with CSI, which not only has two of its own spin-off series but has also spawned several inferior imitators. The medical arena has suffered in much the same way, with Grey's Anatomy, House and even the cringe worthy Dr. Vegas all vying for second place (amidst others) with E.R. probably at the top spot (although admittedly Hugh Laurie's House is far superior viewing). In amidst all these 'straight' medical dramas, Scrubs was commissioned, a completely different take on the medical world that has more in common with Friends or Ally MacBeal than E.R. An outright comedy, its often surreal approach and use of comical 'fantasy' sequences have adorned it with quite a following, its popularity seeing the show return for several seasons.
The series follows several doctors working in Sacred Heart Hospital. First and foremost we have the twentysomething J.D., now a third year resident who has the responsibility of tutoring those even more inexperienced than himself. He works alongside fellow resident Elliot, the fun but ditzy professional blonde with whom he's been having an on-off relationship for quite some time. His best friend is the young surgeon Turk, who is engaged to marry the head nurse on the ward, Carla. The head doctor is a grumbling old eccentric, Dr. Kelso, but below him we have the supremely sarcastic Dr. Cox, the Chief of the younger residents. He's silly, cynical and slightly manic, but underneath a mocking protective layer, he's actually quite human inside.
This, the third season, immediately establishes that not much has changed in this particular medical circle. J.D. is still regularly taking a brutal word-beating from Cox and still longing for a second chance with Elliot, but unfortunately she's just rekindled her relationship with Sean the Dolphin trainer. Carla and Turk are still sailing happily towards their wedding day and Kelso is still patrolling the floor with a sour look on his face.
Across the twenty-one episodes we find much in store for these characters, with J.D.'s love-life getting yet more complicated as he falls for Cox's sister-in-law. Cox has his own issues -with his estranged wife, his young child, his potential promotion and with getting old. Turk finds things are not great at home when his fiancée's brother comes to stay, something which J.D. also has to deal when his own brother hits town.
It's another solid, fun season for these young doctors, their colleagues and friends. Garden State's Zach Braff is still outstanding in the lead role of J.D., keeping the jokes coming hard and fast. His inner narrative, dream fantasies and wry sense of humour all keep him very human and very easy to relate to. Sarah Chalke is equally cute and ditzy as Elliot - skipping around the corridors with her perfect haircut and sparkling smile. John C. McGinley (who had bit roles in everything from Platoon to Seagal's On Deadly Ground) is consistently entertaining as the enigmatic Dr. Cox and Ken Jenkins grumbles his way through his role as the miserable Dr. Kelso.
Aside from the main cast members, who are all still full of life, we get plenty of big names providing cameos across the season. American Pie's Tara Reid pops up as J.D. love interest and The Mummy's Brendan Fraser is slightly underused over his brief appearance as Cox's equally jovial best friend (although it is a great episode) but the best cameo is Michael J. Fox, starring as the visiting 'Superdoc' Dr. Casey who has severe OCD. He still clearly has that star appeal and it was great to see him back on the screen across a two-parter.
The humour of Scrubs may not be to everybody's tastes but to those who do like the sarcasm and fantasy sequences this third series is well up to the standards of the others and is watchable almost back-to-back. The cast is on top form, the humour is fast and still imaginative and I can't wait for the next season to be released.