“Scrubs” has had so many close calls over the years that fans could be forgiven for not hearing about the latest.


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After seven years of flirting with cancellation on NBC, the medical comedy got a chance to finish off its expected eighth and final season on ABC. After the finale, ABC unexpectedly picked up another season of the show, which posed some problems, given that the show ended with protagonist J.D. (Zach Braff, “Garden State”) leaving the hospital for good.

The final season’s ending definitely puts the new “Scrubs” season into an odd spot — it’s less of a new season than an ostensible spin-off, moving the show from the hospital to a medical school and adding to the ensemble while keeping some old cast members around.

Relative unknowns Michael Mosley (“Kidnapped”), Kerry Bishé (“Virtuality”) and Dave Franco (“Privileged”) are the newest additions to the cast as the show’s core group of medical students. Between dealing with hospital drama, they have to handle student life with the help (or sabotage) of most of the show’s regular cast, who now work at the hospital as professors.

Beyond the new cast members and new setting, though, there’s nothing earth-shatteringly new this season. The voice-over narration returns with Bishé, as the neurotically quirky student Lucy and the new show’s main character, trading duties with Braff, who returns for a handful of the season’s early episodes.

It also makes ample use of the show’s trademark daydream sequences and returning cast members. In particular, John C. McGinley (“Platoon”), as the acerbic Perry Cox, is still reliably solid. McGinley was easily one of the best parts of the original show and the change in setting gives him new chances to sarcastically mock his students: In his first class, Cox declares his students “murderers and assassins that have been sent here to try and kill (his) patients.”

Simultaneously juggling new and old elements is one of the show’s weak spots, though. Bishé is a capable lead — she handles the show’s comedic moments well enough — but within the show, Lucy occupies an awkward niche. She’s essentially a female version of J.D. In addition to her frequent dream sequences, a running storyline in the pilot has Lucy worrying about making the right first impression with the other students and faculty on her first day of class, directly mirroring J.D.’s origins.

The problem is, Lucy finds herself somewhere between the quirkiness of J.D. and the downright insanity of Elliott (Sarah Chalke, “How I Met Your Mother”), but never finds a consistent balance between the two. The show’s more surreal moments worked because J.D. was weird enough a character to make them feel authentic, but through Lucy, they come off as forced.

The new ensemble has its highlights, though. Franco plays Cole, a douche bag-type whose family donated to the hospital, with appropriate levels of smarminess. And Mosley’s Drew, an older student who dropped out during his first time in med school, already feels sketched out as an engaging character.

But for all of the potential problems that ABC’s second recovery of “Scrubs” might pose for the show, it’s not nearly as bad as the precedent of “shows renewed after their presumably final episodes” might suggest.

The “Scrubs” of the past eight seasons is still intact in this one, quirky sensibilities and all. Figuring out how to make a coherent show from a “Scrubs” that’s simultaneously a new season and a spin-off presents some obstacles that the show can’t quite overcome just yet — there’s enough that works here, though, that it’s hard to worry too much about “Scrubs,” regardless of whatever it may become.

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