Series nom soothes benched 'Scrubs'

Bill Lawrence has some timing issues.

After all, the scribe’s NBC skein, “Scrubs,” is easily one of TV’s most critically acclaimed half-hour comedies. Yet, despite the buzz — and that the network TV sitcom landscape has seldom appeared so barren — the Peacock has never really known what to do with the show. As a result, ratings have never been what they could be.

Then there’s the whole Emmys thing.

During its first two years on the air, “Scrubs” couldn’t get arrested by the TV Academy. So it was nothing short of a shocker when, last month, the skein snagged a nom for comedy series. Star Zach Braff — hot off his feature turn in “Garden State” — got a shoutout for lead actor.

Only problem? “Scrubs” isn’t on NBC’s fall schedule. So unlike past underdog laffers that have used Emmy love to woo new viewers — think “Arrested Development” and “Cheers” — the promo benefits of the TV Acad noms for “Scrubs” are, well… zilch.

But Lawrence is trying not to bitch too much. In this case, it truly is an honor just to be nominated — and a much-needed morale boost.

“It was hard to find enthusiasm about coming back to work,” Lawrence says. “Nobody was excited about coming to work in a giant, creepy hospital for a show with no timeslot. So to get that validation was such a big spirit-lifter.”

Right after the noms were announced, Lawrence went public with his displeasure about NBC’s decision to hold “Scrubs” for midseason. The producer hoped the Peacock would reconsider in light of the noms, but so far, nothing’s changed.

“We think it’s a shame it’s not on the fall schedule,” says Mark Pedowitz, president of Touchstone TV, which produces “Scrubs.” Across Disney’s Burbank lot, Buena Vista TV officials — now prepping the series for a Fall 2006 syndie launch — undoubtedly agree.

Making things worse is that NBC’s only other Emmy-nommed comedy, “Will & Grace,” is slated to return in September and is getting a big promo push from NBC touting the skein’s multiple noms.

Of course, even if by some miracle NBC decided to put “Scrubs” back on in the fall, there’s no evidence the noms would help ratings.

While shows like “Cheers” found new auds after being celebrated by Emmy, “Arrested Development” got no such bump after its comedy win last season. In fact, ratings went down a tad.

Still, 20th Century Fox TV was able to market “AD” DVDs with “Emmy winner” stickers, and the kudo certainly made Fox execs think twice when it came time to renew the show for season three.

Pedowitz says he’s “not sure there’s any economic advantage” to Emmy noms or wins. He thinks their real value is “validating everyone, letting them know they’ve produced a great show.”

Ironically, hospital-set “Scrubs” is getting its Emmy love in the same year medical skeins of the hourlong variety are hitting it big.

ABC has found success with “Grey’s Anatomy,” while “House” is huge for Fox. In the same way “ER” helped make the world safe for “Scrubs,” Lawrence says he wouldn’t be surprised if the newer skeins were at least partly inspired by his show.

” ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ is completely original, but on some level, it’s sort of ‘Scrubs’ as an hour,” he says of the ABC skein, which revolves around medical residents.

Even Hugh Laurie’s Dr. House can be described as “a Dr. Cox-like character,” Lawrence adds, referring to the acerbic “Scrubs” doc played by John C. McGinley.

Whatever the politics of Emmy noms, Lawrence — who before “Scrubs,” co-created ABC’s “Spin City” — says he’s looking forward to attending the kudos next month, win or lose.

“If we win, I’m done with my snarky sour-grapes stuff. Validation from peer groups is awesome,” he says. “And if we don’t, we’ll just have a blast.”

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