I’ve had this conversation a couple different times now with a couple different sets of old-guard journalists, and it rarely gets any less exhausting or more productive. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter what Philip Roth thinks the iPad says about the future of reading, or whether you can comprehend why your neighbor would cancel their newspaper subscription, or whether one individually believes the more conversational nature of blogging and/or online film criticism and (gasp) actual interaction with readers is not “real” or “legitimate” journalism, and its practitioners are ergo wholesale frauds and idiots. The dominant mechanism for 21st century news and entertainment conveyance has been decided, and it is not print. It will continue to exist, but that train has left the station. So, professionally speaking, you’ve either got a ticket and are on board or you will not make it to the next town.
Created by Bill Lawrence, Scrubs premiered in October 2001, and quickly distinguished itself as an airy, slapstick-laden, effervescent delight, the perfect whipsmart antidote to both the self-seriousness of other hospital-set small screen shows and America’s post-9/11 anxiety and ennui in general. While it never quite had the full zeitgeist snap of sexier NBC sitcom hits like Friends and Seinfeld, the series was nonetheless a reliable and consistently funny performer, launching Zach Braff to stardom as well as affirming the comedic gifts of any number of bit players, from John C. McGinley to Neil Flynn, as, respectively, the show’s gruff mentor and demented janitor, both of whom long nursed antagonistic relationships with Braff’s daydream-happy John “J.D.” Dorian.
After failing to get re-upped by NBC following its eighth season, ABC picked up the series for an aborted run, but their hearts never really seemed in this rebooted “Scrubs 2.0.” And it’s somewhat understandable, actually, as the reformed Scrubs never could seemingly decide quite what it wanted to be. While McGinley and Donald Faison each reprise their roles, most of the series’ original players have moved on (Braff returns in a half dozen of this set’s 13 episodes, embarking upon a characteristically misguided career as a short-term teacher at the med school), making for an awkward and sometimes jarring mash-up of old and new.
The joke writing is still above-average (analog clocks are derided as “old people clocks,” and Faison lectures his young charges that being a surgeon “isn’t about the glamor, the money, or even making a great mix CD for the operating room”), thanks to Lawrence’s guiding hand, and the retention of a handful of staff writers. But something always feels off, starting with the casting. The rebooted Scrubs is built around a new group of interns. Lucy (Kerry Bishé) is the wide-eyed innocent — a narrator and stand-in for the audience, very much in the mold of J.D. Tomboyish Denise (Eliza Coupe) and Drew (Michael Mosley), a previous med school washout, are the romantically intertwined couple, and Cole (Dave Franco) is the cocky, focus-stricken jerk. Maya (Nicky Whelan) and Trang (Matthew Moy) also pop up in ill-defined roles in slightly more than half the episodes. None of the performers really pop and draw you in, either in sympathetic fashion or courtesy of bravura and/or standoffish “bit” energy, as McGinley, Ken Jenkins and Robert Maschio previously did in the show’s earlier incarnations. Though his character is purposefully meant to grate, Franco in particular — a shaggy, low-rent/goofus version of his older brother James — becomes wearying quite quickly, always demonstratively playing the most obvious emotion in a scene.
Housed in a regular, clear plastic Amaray case with a snap-in tray, in turn stored in a cardboard slipcover, Scrubs: The Complete Ninth Season comes to DVD presented on two discs, with a Dolby digital audio track. In addition to a two-minute “Live From the Golf Cart” stunt bit involving some minor characters, there’s also a peppy two-minute blooper reel in which plenty of pastry is tossed about, and Braff gets frisky with a costumed raccoon tail. Creator Lawrence then pops up in an adjunct video screen for optional commentary during the disc’s presentation of deleted scenes, complaining good-naturedly about how a half-hour sitcom is really only 20 minutes and 41 seconds. There is also a six-minute featurette about some of the old cast members passing the torch to the new cast (Braff jokes about it being the Muppet Babies version of Scrubs), with plenty of back-slapping interview tidbits interspersed throughout. It’s a fine one-time watch, but there’s nothing of real substance here — much like the series’ wrap-up, sadly, which ends with a whimper in the form of “Our Thanks,” an episode in which the med students are tasked with coming up with kind words to say to the families of those who served as cadavers. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C (Show) C+ (Disc)
Budget horror thriller The Rig has a good setting, but little in the way of top-shelf or even moderately sustained engaging execution, alas. When a tropical storm forces an offshore drilling company to evacuate non-essential personnel from their Gulf Coast oil rig, the small but experienced crew left behind hunkers down to ride out the fury of Mother Nature. Their routine is interrupted when a crew member goes missing, and
an extensive search proves futile. Slowly, rig boss Jim (The Devil’s Rejects‘ William Forsythe) and his crew discover that a deadly
creature is stalking the crew, eliminating them one by one. Surrounded
by nothing but raging ocean with no hope of escape, the roughnecks must
survive the stormy night with an unrelenting force of death hunting them
Directed by Peter Atenscio, and boasting special effects from the team behind Aliens vs. Predators: Requiem, The Rig deserves credit for not tipping over into crazy, over-the-top CGI, unlike a lot of its direct-to-video brethren. Yet neither does its general emphasis on practical scares reveal a fantastically imaginative mode of suspense storytelling. There’s a quite nice sense of space and atmosphere, but David Twohy’s Below better conveyed tension through watery isolation. Many of the supporting characters come across as two-dimensional, and time spent detailing their stalking and bickering means that the powers of dramatic engagement that Forsythe’s mustache boast are not given their full due. For those still interested, the film also stars Stacey Hinnen, Serah D’Laine, Art LaFleur, Marcus Paulk and Dan
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case in turn stored in a cardboard slipcover, The Rig is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio track and optional English and Spanish SDH subtitles. Bonus features consist of a feature-length audio commentary track with director Atenscio and producer James D. Benson, a 10-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that gives details on the movie’s location shoot, and trailers for the film and a couple other Anchor Bay releases. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C (Movie) C (Disc)
Having first gained notoriety for his recurring role on the second
season of Chappelle’s Show, Bill Burr was actually the first comedian
to perform on Conan O’Brien’s short-lived version of The Tonight Show, and is still a regular performer on The
Late Show with David Letterman. Representing the culmination of material he developed through 2008 and ’09, his new concert special Let It Go finds Burr, trading in what he deems his own brand of “uninformed observational logic,” mixing hilarity with honesty, in often self-eviscerating fashion.
Directed by Shannon Hartman, and captured from a set at San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore, the hour-long Let It Go finds Burr in top form, riffing in irascible fashion on his many disgusts. Watching a woman eating multiple Egg McMuffins and then wipe her face with the bag leads Burr to conclude that he’s pro-swine flu (“We need more plagues”). Burr, who is also on tour
this fall with his new show, You
People Are All the Same, then talks about his girlfriend’s love of all holidays, and pondering suicide as a means to escape the off-the-cuff commitment of making a pie for Thanksgiving. His funniest material, though, shrewdly attacks the differences in the sexes. Burr talks about liking to watch his girlfriend watch Oprah Winfrey, and he amusingly lays into the false difficulties of motherhood (“Women are constantly patting themselves on the back for how difficult their lives are, and no one corrects them — because they want to fuck them!”). Those sniffing a strictly misogynistic sensibility, however, get an amusing surprise when Burr turns his guns on men: strokes at 55 years of age, he asserts, come from five decades of stupidly suppressing the urge to hug puppies, admit kids are cute and the like.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, Bill Burr: Let It Go comes to DVD presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, with an English language Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio track. Bonus features on the disc consist of outtakes and a couple excised bits, as well as material from and about Burr’s popular Monday morning podcast. Bill Burr: Let It Go is also available via digital download, incidentally, but to purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. B+ (Concert) C+ (Disc)