In 2006, it was looking questionable about the future of the NBC sitcom Scrubs. Series star Zach Braff said that he didn’t expect the series to go another year. But, few months later, Braff signed a $350,000-per-episode contract for the series’ seventh and supposedly final year.
Season seven was interrupted by the writers strike so production was shutdown before all of the episodes could be filmed. When the strike was over, series creator Bill Lawrence asked NBC to let them go back into production to film the remaining episodes and finish the series properly. The network decided against it. The quirky series has never been a big success for NBC and has been the subject of a tug-of-war between the peacock network and ABC (whose production company produces the sitcom). To little surprise, NBC cancelled the show in May. Since Scrubs performs well in syndication, it made sense for ABC to pick it up for themselves for season eight, the “final season.”
Will the show really end next May? While it once appeared that the end date was a sure thing, it looks like the show could continue. When ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson picked up the series for season eight, the exec apparently told Lawrence that, if the series performed well, he might want to renew it for season nine. Lawrence says, “It’s a real conundrum for me. Whether the show goes on or not is really tough. I don’t just mean making cash, ’cause I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. We’ve got a family there and a crew of people and a landscape that’s not friendly now to TV production. And they love it there.”
One thing’s for sure, if there is a ninth season, the sitcom will have to do without its longtime narrator. It seems Braff’s been yearning to focus on his film career and his Scrubs contract expires at the end of season eight. Braff recently confirmed that the upcoming season will be his last, saying, “Thanks to Steve, this has been a bonus amazing year, but my sense is that this is my last year.” Lawrence says, “J.D. will be leaving the hospital and without giving away too much, the show is about whether, when you leave [a job], you can hold on to your relationships or not.”
If the sitcom ends up continuing without him, Braff says he’d be open to returning. “I hope to be able to visit and direct some episodes and do craft services, if they need the help.”
The uncertainty of the show’s fate creates another challenge for Lawrence. One of the show’s ongoing jokes has been that we never hear the name of the “Janitor” (Neil Flynn). Lawrence has said that he would only reveal the custodian’s name in the final episode. Filming of season eight should be completed by September 1st but the decision to renew the show won’t be made until next year, possibly not until next May. What to do?
Well, Lawrence has a plan. He told IfMagazine, “We have to shoot it two ways because if I shoot what his name is in the final show and the show’s gonna go on, I wouldn’t want it to air that way, because he’d still be on the show. So we’ll shoot a backup, alternate part of him and Zach when Zach leaves, one that he says his name and one he doesn’t.”