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Upfronts: 'Scrubs' creator reflects on the move to ABC

May 13, 2008 | 11:51 am

Three measly episodes is all it would have taken for creator Bill Lawrence to let go of “Scrubs” and be a happy (and fulfilled) camper.

But after 18 different time slots, NBC unceremoniously dumped the single-camera comedy, even though the writers had “meticulously” planned its final arc and they had only eight episodes left to produce.

“After seven years, they had no interest in it, and it was incredibly frustrating,” Lawrence said Tuesday, after ABC welcomed the show into its lineup. “The thing that I was most excited about was getting to finish ‘Scrubs’ out correctly.”

Enter ABC President of Entertainment Stephen McPherson, who developed it when he ran Touchstone Studios  (which is now ABC Studios). Assuming ABC was interested in giving “Scrubs” its final lap, Lawrence galvanized the writers and cast. They hired younger actors to play new interns. (McPherson said Tuesday that the old cast, including Zach Braff and Sarah Chalke, will remain with the show under a one-year contract.)

“We all had to get creatively inspired again,” Lawrence said. “And that meant going back to the show’s roots. Being more and more real and less cartoony and less silly. In our heads, this was our last hurrah!”

Then McPherson started talking about the future, one he had envisioned years ago when he pictured it as a comedy version of “ER” that could last years with rotating characters.

“I can shockingly see it happening because it seems very fresh and new right now,” Lawrence said.  “Regardless, this season feels like an end to the eight-season story we’re telling. If we were to go on, I would almost guarantee that it would be in a new and hopefully creatively exciting direction. If it’s not an embarrassment and there’s a chance to keep people working, I would do everything I could to make it something we could all be proud of.”

-- Maria Elena Fernandez