Why Scrubs Would Have Never Worked As A Multi-Camera Sitcom

No matter how goofy "Scrubs" got, it always tried to stay somewhat grounded to the fact that it was a show about a hospital. No matter how many goofy cutaway fantasy sequences happen, a hospital is still a pretty dour place. No matter how much the characters are horsing around, they still are at their workplace, where people could die at any moment. The show was based on the real experiences of a real person, and creator Bill Lawrence felt that meant they had to make sure things felt authentic.

Even as the show got weirder in its later seasons, "Scrubs" maintained a level of control over just how absurd things got. Many of those efforts to keep things feeling and looking grounded started at the very beginning of the show. This includes the way "Scrubs" was filmed, which Lawrence spoke about in an interview with IGN.

In the interview, Lawrence speaks on why he feels that "Scrubs" could never have worked as a traditional multi-camera sitcom. According to Lawrence, when he pitched the show he knew that it could never be shot on a traditional sitcom set with a live studio audience providing canned laughter. It just wouldn't fit the tone he wanted the show to achieve.

Feeling realistic

According to Lawrence in the IGN interview, the multi-camera sitcom format would have killed any realism the show could have had.

"I think that the second you put a medical show in one of those sitcom prosceniums, it looks like a bunch of television actors playing doctor. For the show to look realistic at all it had to be a single camera show. But no, I don't think you could have the same environment on a stage, because I think there'd be people on top of you and it wouldn't be as fraternal and it wouldn't be... it honestly feels like making a student film every week."

Lawrence was ahead of his time with this thinking, as the rise of shows like "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation" led to the fall in popularity of the traditional multi-camera setup, which now reads as cheesy and fake-looking. The use of what Lawrence calls a "giant creepy hospital" as the show's set, which lends the setting the depth you'd expect from a real medical facility, makes the show feel much more lived-in, as well as allowing the show's crew room to work. "Nobody ever comes by, so there's no network presence or real studio presence," said Lawrence. "...I doubt I will have as idyllic an experience again."

The multi-camera sitcom is hardly endangered, but it has more competitors in its habitat than ever. We can thank "Scrubs" for this new biodiversity.