Scrubs Early Episodes Had To Get Cheesy To Appease Network Execs

One of the most interesting parts of "Scrubs" was its willingness to showcase such a drastic dichotomy in terms of its tone. The show could often be a very silly comedy, with daydream cutaways used to tell jokes too fantastical for the show's realistic hospital setting. It was also able to become extremely serious at points, dealing with literal life-or-death issues and some of the darkest aspects of working at a hospital and the human experience in general.

As the series went on, they leaned farther in on both ends of the spectrum, with the sillier gags becoming even more silly and the show's real-life inspiration and setting getting graver and affecting the characters even more. But with their spot on the network already secured, they weren't afraid to crank things up, according to creator Bill Lawrence in an interview with Vulture. "We lived in a time that once your show had a very passionate fan base, you knew you could stay on for a while if you kept feeding people what they're enjoying."

At the time when the show began however, in 2001, there weren't many comedies on television willing to do this. It's no wonder that Lawrence was afraid of whether a show with such a disparate tone would be picked up by a major network. This is why, in the show's first season, the show featured some uncharacteristically cartoonish sound effects, as Lawrence said at a panel at the ATX Television Festival.

Cheesy appeasement

Getting a television show made is hard enough on its own. When your show manages to tow the line of both "too weird" and "too serious" like "Scrubs" did, you likely have to take any opportunity to appease the desires of the network executives. For Lawrence, this appeasement was in the form of wacky sound effects, which he spoke about at the ATX Television Festival.

"The people at the network at the time said there are no single-camera comedies. They thought they were flat and unfunny, and you know they want the loud, raucous audience laughter, and so, trying to get the show picked up, we put nine thousand side effects in."

If "Scrubs" wasn't going to use a traditional laugh track, the kind that shows like "Friends" and "Seinfeld" had, it would have to make up for it in other sound effects. This included things like whooshing sounds any time somebody turned their heads, or a cartoon slap sound effect whenever people high-fived.

While inserting these sounds felt necessary at the time, Lawrence does not look back on them fondly. "Every time I see those episodes, I hate myself, and I die inside," said Lawrence, also the creator of "Ted Lasso." Luckily for Lawrence and audiences everywhere, they stopped inserting the sound effects after only a few episodes.