Another sitcom face-off where I take two similar shows and decide which one is superior. Today we have two great ensemble comedies, one from the 80â€™s and the other from the 00â€™s.
Night Court premiered in 1984 and was a major part of NBCâ€™s Thursday night lineup for years. Scrubs premiered in 2001, and was also a dependable hit for NBC. What these programs have in common is the type of shows they were, both being physical comedies with very broad, slapstick kind of humor including great sight gags and physical comedy. The jokes came fast on these shows and the characters were quirky and a bit crazy. Both of these shows were fun, but which one was superior?
As with the last time I did two ensemble comedies, I need to change the categories a bit. I broke the cast down into three categories, comparing similar characters on each show. So for the first category, we will discuss the main characters.
Round 1:Main Cast (1)
Judge Harold T. Stone vs. Dr.John Michael “J.D.” Dorian
Harry Stone and J.D. are both fun loving guys who act a tad immaturely at times. Harry loves practical jokes while J.D. has no trouble expressing his feelings, even if the person he is expressing them to isnâ€™t interested. There is a reason why Dr.Cox always gives him girlâ€™s names. Of course J.D. is always living inside his head, as he monologues to himself every episode. If that wasnâ€™t enough, he also has fantasies in his head relating to whatever is going on. Sometimes the fantasies can be pretty elaborate. Harry is a would-be magician and practical joker. He uses the jokes and gags as a release, since being a judge can be depressing. It is said being a doctor is even worst, which is why J.D. needs to find escapes of his own. They also both had trouble with relationships, Harry having only one serious one and J.D. going from girl to girl after a few episodes. What makes them both great at their jobs is their humanity. Harry talks to the defendants like their people and treats them with compassion, and with J.D. you can tell he is a doctor who truly cares for his patients. They are also loyal to their friends as well, always there for them. So, who is the winner? J.D. is a great doctor but sometimes he acts so immature that itâ€™s real hard to take him seriously. Most of the time the other cast members feel like they have to protect him. I donâ€™t have that problem with Harry, despite the gags and jokes he is a great judge and knows when to act like, well, an adult. That is something J.D. doesnâ€™t do enough, in my opinion.
Round 2:Main Cast (2)
Dan Fielding vs. Perry Cox
So letâ€™s talk about the other characters on these shows. My two favorites, as pictured, are Dan from Night Court and Dr.Cox on Scrubs. These are the two characters I tuned in to watch more than any other. With Dan, you never knew what he was going to say. He always had a crude comment or a remark, and the way he chased women was just amazing. However, as good as Dan was with his remarks Dr.Cox takes it a step further with his remarks and rants. His rants are so amazing I sometimes canâ€™t believe they were written, if I didnâ€™t know better I would swear the actor is just adlibbing. That is how good John C.McGinley was. John Larroquette was good making a horrible lech like Dan incredibly charming, not an easy task. He won four Emmy awards for a reason, he could be funny and a total jerk not to mention a spineless wimp. Both characters deep down are really good but flawed people who keep that side hidden unless it really needs to come out. It takes some doing, but you can find Dr.Cox being understanding and caring like when he comforts J.D. after his father died. The problem with Perry is that it is really hard to get there; sometimes it takes some serious guilt trips or seriously crossing the line in order to finally express any real feelings. Dan can be caring and genuine as well, I could list the times he stepped in and helped a friend when least expected to. It seems easier for him to turn off the vile stuff and be a nice guy. He doesnâ€™t need to be told to be nice, he just know when he has to be. Not saying Perry isnâ€™t a great friend itâ€™s just such a struggle for him. On top of that, he comes off as downright mean in some cases. So, who wins? Real tough call, I love Perry but I think I have to give the nod to Dan for knowing when to turn off the crassness and be a good friend.
Round 3=Romantic Interest
Christine Sullivan vs. Elliott Reed
Both shows had on and off again romance. Harry and Christine went back and forth just like J.D. and Elliott did. However, letâ€™s be honest. The romance between Harry and Christine was never that good; I know I never really cared about it. J.D. and Elliott on the other hand, now that was a true romance which felt genuine. J.D. and Elliott were great together, and had some real ups and downs over the years. Elliott was a very flawed character; she had self-esteem issues and tended to get carried away with things. Christine had very high aspirations in the beginning; she is the product of an overbearing father and tends to get carried away with herself being soooo positive. I will talk about this more, but as the show progressed Christine started to become less goofy and more real. Elliott likewise learned to have confidence in herself and her skills. Elliott and Christine are a lot alike. It’s no surprise that Markie Post, who plays Christine, showed up on Scrubs as Elliot’s mom! Who wins? I think Elliott has to win because Sarah Chalke was so hot. Kidding she wins because Elliott was just a more realistic character and her relationship with J.D. was more believable.
Round 4=and the restâ€¦..
Christopher Turk was J.D.â€™s best friend. Actually, they were more than just friends. Whatâ€™s that term, bromance? It is nice to see such close friends on TV but sometimes it was too much. Turk is also an excellent surgeon. Turk got together with the receptionist Carla, who was tough when she had to be and a very good friend. She was like a mother hen, watching out for everyone else at the hospital even being the one person Perry respected and could confide in. On Night Court, we had the clerk Mac Robinson who sometimes felt like the only sane member of the cast. He was married to a Vietnamese woman named Quon Le who appeared many times. Roz Russell was the tough as nail bailiff who deep down was a good person; she just had a quick temper and tough exterior. Dr.Kelso was head of the hospital and was a nasty person hated by most. Deep down he was a nice guy but was unable to show that or else heâ€™d lose the respect of his employees. Then we had the fan favorite on both shows. Bull Shannon was the tall bald bailiff who was dimwitted but had a big heart. He was usually there to be the punch line, but we loved him. The Janitor was mean and anti-social, but the way he aggravated J.D. in every episode made us want to watch him. Neither of them would be tolerated in the real world, but the actors behind them do such a great job of making them charming and likable. Another thing these shows have in common were the guest stars appearing as patients or defendants (respectively). Night Court had Mel Torme, John Astin and at the time unknowns like Brent Spiner and Teri Hatcher. Scrubs had Nicole Sullivan, Mathew Perry, Michael J. Fox, John Ritter, Dick Van Dyke and many more. So, who wins? Well, the supporting cast of Scrubs goes on a bit more if we include Ted, Perryâ€™s ex-wife Jordan, the receptionist Laverne, and others who came and went. Itâ€™s safe to say that Scrubs definitely had the stronger supporting cast and aside from that Night Court had lots of cast changes in its early days but Scrubs pretty much the people in the pilot were still there at the end and some had been expanded. The winner in this category is obvious.
Round 5=Theme Song
As much as I enjoy â€œSupermanâ€ by Lazlo Bane there is no way I can ignore the Night Court theme. I love this jazzy tune and this opening is one of my favorites ever. I have watched this show since I was a kid and the title sequence brings back some great memories.
Ok, here is where we get serious. Which show told better stories and was just funnier? I said in the beginning that Night Court was a slapstick comedy, but the problem was that as great as it was at that, there wasnâ€™t much else. Scrubs was a crazy comedy but it did so many other things. They did serious episodes and really put the characters through hard times. There were music bits in every episode and morals to even the silliest show. The characters were allowed to be flawed. They made mistakes, they argued, and they grew. Night Court was funny, but that was really it. When they did do a serious episode it was only for that episode, and the characters never learned anything (typical 80â€™s show). It was pretty much the same formula, some crazy defendant would appear in the courtroom and the plot of the episode revolved around the issue that defendant brought while a B story usually had Dan chasing, or being chased by, some woman. For years the show was more about the environment not the characters. When the show did finally start to get more into the characters, it sucked! The last couple of years were horrible. Not only were they not funny, but it wasnâ€™t even interesting. The character actually started to get boring, especially Harry and Christine who from fun and positive to depressing. When Christine got pregnant that was the worst thing the show could have done. They couldn’t even keep Dan the same, making a do-gooder which likewise made him unlikeable, until a great episode when they finally returned him back to the Dan we loved. Then in the second to last season the creators decided to just mess everything up and suddenly the show was dark and totally unwatchable. When they got the final season, the creators had to fix everything and put the show back to the way it had been. Scrubs did a much better job making the show about the hospital and the environment they inhabited. We got just as much laughs from the patients as we did the regular cast. Sure the show golt old as it went on, I didn’t like it when they made J.D. a father, but it never really lost that formula. They also took more chances doing a musical episode which was great, an episode designed like a traditional sitcom which was great, and when time came for a clip show rather than show clips they literally reenacted moments from earlier shows. They even did a famous â€œsixth senseâ€ episode featuring Brendan Fraser which I actually thought was effective. Point is that what Night Court failed at Scrubs was able to do very well. That is, telling funny stories while letting their characters grow and learn. The one thing about Scrubs is that it does not have the timelessness that Night Court had. I donâ€™t really miss Scrubs and have no great desire to catch it on re-runs. It is the kind of show you just donâ€™t miss watching. So, while in its day Night Court could be funny as hell, that doesnâ€™t change the fact that Scrubs just did a better job.
Round 7=Jumping the Shark
As usual it all comes down to which show did a better job at the end of its run. First, let me state I am not including that 9th season of Scrubs n this discussion. That would be like talking about Saved By The Bell and talking about The New Class. That was its own show which sucked, and thatâ€™s how I feel about that 9th year. For me the show ended at the end of the 8th, with that amazing episode about J.D.â€™s last day at the hospital. I gotta say, that was a very, very well done episode. True I didn’t watch the show so much by that last year but when I tuned it was still decent enough. Night Courtâ€™s last season wasnâ€™t all bad, though hard as it tried it was still not the funny show it had been in the early years. It was still stuck in that depressing mire where the stories were dark and the show just wasn’t as funny. The final episode had most everyone moving on, and ended with the most ludicrous scene ever. We see Bull go to Jupiter with a couple of aliens. Seriously! Bull and the aliens disappear, and the credits roll over silence. What a horrible way to end the series! Final analysis, I loved Night Court. It was a favorite when I was a kid and will always have a special place in my heart. However, I have to be honest and as much I loved it, the better show and winner of this has to beâ€¦â€¦
Final Thoughts=Think I said all I can, if you agree or disagree let me know.