Bill Lawrence, who created the cult hit sitcom Scrubs, says that the three episodes pulled from streaming because of blackface may be edited and placed back online. The showrunner, who based the main character of J.D. (Zach Braff) on a college friend of his, also created Cougar Town, starring Courteney Cox. The shows were set in the same universe, with a number of characters, such as the recently departed Sam Lloyd’s Ted, appearing in both shows.
Last week, it was announced that three episodes of Scrubs were being pulled from streaming service Hulu. The episodes in question, one from season 3 and two from season 5, featured Zach Braff and Sarah Chalke, who played Dr. Elliott Reid, in blackface. The request was made by ABC, as well as the show’s producers, including Lawrence. The decision followed similar moves by shows like 30 Rock, Golden Girls, and Community, which have all pulled episodes for featuring blackface.
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Lawrence appeared as a guest on Braff and Donald Faison’s (who played Turk) podcast Fake Doctors, Real Friends, and tackled the subject head-on. In the 41-minute episode, titled “Our Difficult Past: Blackface on Scrubs,” Lawrence says that he may edit out the blackface scenes, which aren’t integral to the plots of any of the episodes, and place the edited episodes back on Hulu. He mentions that due to the pandemic, he hasn’t had the time or equipment to do so and so pulling the episodes entirely was the only option, adding that their presence online made him “feel sh-tty.” Lawrence also says the decision to include blackface on the show was an “ignorant” and “arrogant” one, made because the show’s creators thought they had a “free pass” to not get in trouble for blackface due to having a fairly diverse cast.
Lawrence adds that as showrunner, he takes full responsibility for the decision to include blackface in the three episodes and apologizes to Braff, Faison, and Chalke, who was also a guest on the podcast. Lawrence’s desire to edit the blackface out of the episodes echoes a similar move made by Greg Daniels on The Office. He removed a scene showing blackface in season 9 of that show, and the re-edited version is available to watch on Netflix.
It’s refreshing to hear directly from a show creator, particularly when they are honest and up-front about their decision to do something which they clearly no longer agree with. Lawrence’s apology seems genuine, but he also doesn’t ask anyone to ignore the fact that his decision to use blackface on his show hurt people.
However, one does have to ask why he thought it was a good idea in the first place, or even why the actors agreed to do it. Scrubs was made less than twenty years ago, and blackface was known as a racist and hurtful practice then and had been for decades. At least everyone involved has been able to admit the hurt it caused and make some sort of amends, by removing the episodes.
More: Scrubs Season 1 “My First Day” Is A Perfect Comedy Pilot
Source: Fake Doctors, Real Friends
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About The Author
Daniel Gillespie has been a writer and editor for the past 11 years. His favourite filmmakers include Stanley Kubrick, Denis Villeneuve, Christopher Nolan, Wes Anderson, Edgar Wright and the Coens. Currently working out of New York City, he is a film-obsessed immigrant from Cape Town, South Africa. When he isn’t watching, writing about or thinking about films, Daniel likes to go hiking in the mountains with his wife.
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