For its long (some might say too long) nine-season run on NBC, Scrubs was probably the best sitcom on television. And yet, it’s easy to forget just how influential Bill Lawrence’s goofy, absurd, heartbreaking show about the residents, staff, and patients of Sacred Heart Hospital was to the fabric of network comedy.
Like Lawrence’s later show — the Internet’s current darling/core of shockingly bitter Internet discourse Ted Lasso — Scrubs worked tirelessly to thread its wacky, colorful characters and endearingly cinematic sight gags with an essential core of dramedic sentiment. You could count on Scrubs to make you laugh for twenty minutes, but in the last two before the credits, it was liable to make you cry.
Much of the success of that thematic juggling act was bolstered by the show’s soundtrack, which usually presented itself in an array of end-of-episode montages that put a poignant button on all of our characters’ respective conflicts while some painfully-earnest pop track played in the background.
It’s a trope that would become well-worn by the time Scrubs went off the air, but nobody did it better than Lawrence and the show’s cabal of music supervisors, who would release three official soundtracks during the show’s run. (Star Zach Braff would cop a few of these artists, and this music-heavy approach, to his 2004 indie darling Garden State, which, regardless of its age, won a Grammy for its soundtrack and cemented The Shins in the minds and hearts of angsty white Millennials everywhere.)
Sure, there was the catchy theme tune, Lazlo Bane’s breathy “Superman,” which perfectly encapsulated the lighthearted whimsy its characters would use to offset the life-or-death stakes of its hospital setting. But the songs that ended each episode of Scrubs (and, occasionally, broke through the fabric of the series and burst into the show’s diegesis) were a who’s-who of indie pop and rock acts of the 2000s, widening the musical scope of network TV while also shaping the musical tastes of the millions who watched it.
For the show’s twentieth anniversary — the pilot aired on October 2nd, 2001 — we looked through every weepy montage, every unexpected burst of musical showmanship, and every surprising cameo to find twenty songs to celebrate each year since its premiere (ranked in order, of course). Strap on your stethoscopes, sit down, and listen up, newbie!