Although Scrubs is a sitcom, it still dabbles with many serious themes including life and death, family, and love. It utilizes several well-established dramatic techniques to tell the story and to move the audience emotionally.
The drama in Scrubs revolves around the characters and the different themes that recur in their careers and lives. Many of the relationships between the characters can result in secrets and repressed emotions. The narration can help guide the audience through what the character is feeling. In many episodes Scrubs, after struggling with a problem, a character will confess their true desires or feelings to another character. The vulnerability associated with these confessions, as well as their subjects, typically lead to a dramatic and emotionally moving result.
- J.D. dumps Elliot after realizing he only wanted what he couldn't have. ("My Self-Examination")
- Carla telling Laverne a farewell. ("My Long Goodbye")
- J.D. confessing to Elliot about how much he really loves her. ("My Soul on Fire, Part 2")
Dramatic irony is similar to comedic irony. It occurs when the audience knows something that a character does not, and this lack-of-information has repercussions on the character. It also occurs when the audience or character expects one event to occur, but the opposite happens. Another example of dramatic irony would be when something happens as a result of a character trying to prevent that something from happening.
- Just as Patricia Wilk is leaving Sacred Heart fully healed, she gets an infection from a handshake. ("My Cabbage")
- After debating about the existence of a "greater plan", Laverne falls into a coma after an auto accident. ("My No Good Reason")
- After exploring an unfortunate reality where everything goes wrong, an alternate reality explores circumstances where everything falls into place, only to have the patient still die. ("My Butterfly")
- Category: Music
Bill Lawrence himself has said that the use of music in Scrubs can set the mood of a scene better than any other technique. (The Complete Second Season DVD) Typically, at the end of every episode, one or multiple main characters will confront their problems face on. This is also tied deeply to education as a narrative theme.
- The song "Hey Julie" by Fountains of Wayne sets the cheerful mood of J.D. and Julie Quinn's relationship. ("My Half-Acre")
- The Fray's "How to Save a Life" sets the sober mood of Dr. Cox's depression. ("My Lunch")
- "The Rescue Blues" by Ryan Adams sets a tone of reconciliation while Dr. Cox accepts himself as a father and Elliot helps a patient. ("My Clean Break")
- Main article: Narrators
Just as the narration can make the audience laugh, he or she can direct or shape the story to convey certain emotions. This technique is used most frequently during the voice-over at the end of the episode, showing the lessons the different characters have made or need to make.
- J.D. narrates as Dr. Cox, Ben, Turk, J.D., and Carla all feel alone. ("My Hero")
- J.D. puts on a polite facade while competing with Nick Murdoch, but internally he thinks about his incompetence. ("My Super Ego")
- As Elliot and Keith get engaged, J.D. thinks to himself that it should have been him. ("My Cold Shower")
The element of surprise can easily catch a character or the audience off guard. Several emotions can spring from surprise, including anger, sadness, and shock. Surprise can also be used as a comedic technique.
- Dr. Cox isn't actually attending Jack's birthday party, but in reality Ben's funeral. ("My Screw Up")
- Dr. Kelso quits his job immediately after being allowed an extension on his contract. ("My Dumb Luck")
- Dr. Cox is torn between two women, and while the editing leads up to believe he chose one, he actually chose another. ("My Fruit Cups")
- After donating multiple organs to patients, it is discovered that the donor had rabies and the recipients all died. ("My Lunch")
A cousin of surprise, suspense is when the audience or a character is expecting something to happen. The act of anticipation and waiting causes suspense, which can be slightly uncomfortable. It can be waiting for something good to happen or for something bad to happen.
- Dr. Cox and J.D. must go through the five stages of grief when Mrs. Wilk is dying. ("My Five Stages")
- The audience knows J.D. doesn't want to be in a relationship with Elliot, but do not know when he will reveal it to her. ("My Self-Examination")
- J.D. waits for his son to be born. ("My Hard Labor")
|SCRUBS FORMAT & NARRATIVE|
|Comedy||Comedic Techniques • Pratfall • Recurring gags • Slow Motion Girls • Nicknames|
|Drama||Dramatic Techniques • Music|
|Themes||Approval • Education • Family • Friendship • Life and Death • Love • Mentorship • Rivalries • Sex|
|Alternate reality • Breaking the fourth wall • Clip show • Cultural references • Fantasies • Flashbacks • Janitor story • Meta references • Narrators • Story episodes|