Friday, December 01, 2006

If House visited Scrubs

I regularly watch House and Scrubs. Both shows take place mostly in hospitals, but Scrubs is more likely to have scenes elsewhere. Scrubs seems to have more minor and recurring characters than House, which mostly revolves around a few people (the Simpsons has far more than both put together, but since tremendously talented voice actors can do multiple cartoon characters this is no surprise). House is about complicated diagnoses; it's the medical equivalent of a mystery or "whodunit", while Scrubs is more about the daily and routine trials of hospital work. House is a drama that often has (acerbic) funny moments. Scrubs is more of a comedy with token dramatic moments. Scrubs has its share (or more) of shmaltz, but House is more stingy in that regard. Most prominent of all, in my opinion, is that House takes place in a realistic setting, and Scrubs takes place in a surreal setting (including J.D.'s imaginative mind).

What I find fascinating is the huge contrast in tone. Consider this thought experiment or scenario: J.D. can't figure out what's wrong with a patient. He calls Dr. Cox. After calling J.D. Rhonda and launching into a drawn-out tirade about how he isn't a genie to be summoned at will by the incompetent, Dr. Cox decides to bring in the renowned Dr. House. Dr. Kelso meets Dr. House at the door, smiling widely and generally trying to flex his political know-how. House nods politely until Kelso is done talking, then nails him with a surgically-precise insult. Dr. Kelso raises an eyebrow in surprise that someone stood up to him so well, then walks away in a huff. If J.D. watched this exchange, then there may have been a daydream sequence in which House and Kelso fought in a Western quick-draw gun duel. When House arrives at the patient's bed to deliver his first cynical comment about the root cause, the patient immediately starts convulsing and coughing up blood, because that's what House's patients do. Carla stabilizes the patient with her usual quick action. When House orders her to perform a painful test, she flatly refuses before giving House unsolicited advice on his lack of caring. House gives the standard retort that "all he's trying to do is save the patient's life", to which Carla responds by telling House to do it himself. If the test is highly expensive, House may also need to cajole Dr. Kelso into allowing it at all. Later, House concludes that some surgery is needed, so Turk comes by to receive instructions. In the ensuing conversation, House makes a racial joke, but it flies completely over Turk's head. At meal time, House sits with Dr. Cox to fill him in on his diagnosis so far. He starts by making a poor analogy, then waiting for Cox to ponder what he's saying. Cox makes his own poor analogy between doctors who don't say what they mean and women with deceptive breast implants. House mocks Cox for being so slow, and Cox mocks House for treating his work like a game. Eventually they manage to communicate. Towards the end, Jordan joins Cox at the table. House includes her by indulging in some thinly-veiled innuendo. Jordan not only fails to be embarrased by this, but follows it up by insulting House's masculinity in some way. As all this is going on, there is a subplot involving J.D. and Elliot, but nobody cares because the guest star is more fun. In the end, the patient may or may not die because this is Scrubs, but in any case it won't be because House was wrong. With well-hidden enthusiasm, House will leave, overjoyed to return to a hospital where people take things, such as Dr. House, more seriously.


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  2. an excellent post for all scrubs and house fans, including yours truly.