5 great shows like Scrubs

Scrubs cast

Admittedly, they look a lot dorkier here than they are on the show. Which is saying a lot.

When Scrubs first showed up on the scene, it was a spectacular breath of fresh air, the kind of show that could have you laughing at one moment, and bawling your eyes out the next. It was fun, sure, but it had enough respect for its audience that it knew the viewers could handle the serious subject matter of the setting. And far from being just another medical drama, it was endlessly surreal, with half the scenes taking place in the daydreaming protagonist’s head. Not much has been done like that before or since. Which makes it tough to find shows like Scrubs worth watching. But I shall soldier on. Much like JD in the face of janitorial opposition.

Here’s what made Scrubs so gloriously entertaining, and worth watching (for the first several seasons, anyway):
  • Plenty of well-written jokes
  • A highly relatable lead character
  • Compelling stories, even when told quickly and humorously
  • Worthwhile life lessons
  • Random tangential daydream cutaway silliness
Those cutaways were just great. Anyway, moving on.

Oh, and we’re skipping “medical drama,” because there are just about a billion of those and I don’t care. We’re here for the hilarity dammit.

Awesome shows like Scrubs:

1) Community

Community cast

They’re locked in a non-padded room, entirely appropriate to the craziness of their minds.

This is a great place to start. The mix of humor with serious life lessons, as well as the endlessly offbeat and quirky interactions of the cast give it a personality that would make Community into Scrubs’ best friend if they were both human. They’d be the Ben Affleck and Matt Damon of quirky comedy shows.

Though the shows have plenty of differences (Community is a lot more subtle, and portrays a broad range of characters instead of centering on the lead, as Scrubs does with JD), the blend of quirky humor and character growth are central to both shows. Anyone who enjoys JD encountering one challenge after another, while going off on sitcom-related tangential nonsense, will get a kick out of the characters on Community doing much the same thing. Even Cracked got in on the actual by pointing out that Scrubs and Community are basically the same show, and it’s eerily adorable how closely the characters match up.

But watch out. Once you go down the Community rabbit hole, you may find yourself unable to watch mediocre TV ever again.

2) Malcolm in the Middle

Malcolm in the Middle

Plus, there’s the whole Breaking Bad conspiracy theory that says Walter White renamed himself Hal and ran away from his past.

Malcolm in the Middle has acquired something of an odd position as a show that was often way too clever for its relatively young audience, who tuned in thinking it was a fun but quirky sitcom, missing all the subtlety that went swooshing over their heads as they bathed in the glow of Dewey being adorable and stuff.

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with that; but my point is that Malcolm in the Middle was a lot smarter than you might imagine, and the brilliant crafted disasters that the writers concocted for the characters were quite often the type of thing an Orwellian dictatorship might devise to punish its citizens.

The episode “Cliques,” in which the smart kids’ classroom burns down and the students become the ringleader of every social circle in the school is like watching a Bach concerto. Of hilarity.

This show, though far less focused on the meaningful life lesson front (“Then why would you want empathy?” Reese once asked), has the quirky characters, wacky antics and crazy adventures that you may have enjoyed seeing on Scrubs.

3) Arrested Development

Arrested Development cast mugshot

Finally, their white-collar crime spree is at an end.

Quick, what’s your favorite part of Scrubs? If you said “antics,” then Arrested Development is for you!

Taking the phrase “quirky cast” and “oddball comedy” to the zaniest of heights, there’s little that can be said about Arrested Development that hasn’t been said before, but damn is it good. And it’s the type of show that fans of Scrubs (particularly the wackiness) will thoroughly enjoy.

The personalities bounce off each other like those super bouncy balls in a vacuum, and the endlessly ridiculous situations in which the characters find themselves is all part of the fun. Arrested Development even has voiceover narration, though of course in a different way than what you see in Scrubs. This show is less heavy, but more fun (and in much the same way), as Scrubs.

Zach Braff even makes a welcome appearance in the show, proving that Tobias isn’t the only one of his kind in the world.

4) The Simpsons

The Simpsons cast and house

The show that made family life actually look real. Despite being a cartoon.

Much like Scrubs, the Simpsons features a rag tag cast of fun characters, smart and densely-packed witticisms and other funny lines, and the seemingly effortless ability to jump back and forth between serious life lessons and wacky comedy, or, even better, both at the same time.

And, much like Scrubs, it all went downhill after a while. But let’s focus on the positives.

Just like Scrubs, the Simpsons, in its heyday, was perhaps the world’s best example of a show that could be taken seriously, despite the fact that literally every other line was funny. The joke density during some of the Simpsons‘ best seasons is as rock solid as a neutron star. But even then, they’d go into family togetherness, the difficulty of growing up, the challenges of parenting when you don’t know if you can handle it, and spousal affections, often all in the same ten seconds. And they did it well.

It’s hard to find shows besides Scrubs that had the same level of jokes-per-minute achievement while still being capable of dealing with heavy life issues in the same breath.

5) Futurama

Futurama cast

AKA Dorkorama.

Though it would seem to be targeted toward a younger audience, Futurama often looks like it’s for kids, but they’ll throw in a theoretical physics gag that you have to have paid attention in class to get. It’s simultaneously smarter and more kid-friendly at the same time.

I will say, however, that the blend isn’t as seamless as is the case with shows like the Simpsons, but it has both the zany antics and smart comedy that fans of Scrubs will enjoy. It less often touches on “serious” subjects, but it’ll throw those in there once in a while as well. For the most part it’s a much lighter show, more focused on being fun and funny, but its style is clever, somewhat fourth-wall breaking, and could very often be described as “off-the-wall.”

And then, of course, there’s the pet dog episode, which has gone down as the shining example of how Futurama can be serious even as it’s being silly. It doesn’t do it often, but it can certainly do it right.

More shows like Scrubs?

As mentioned previously, the medical drama genre was completely ignored here, as it’s been done enough that I expect you can find a few of them on your own. This list was more about the personality of the show, rather than the setting. I’d say South Park deserves an honorable mention as well. But if you’ve got any more favorite shows similar to Scrubs, chime in!

None found.

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