Over the past few weeks, several sitcoms have had content removed from streaming services due to the use of blackface and racial insensitivity. One of the shows to join the ever-growing list was the hospital-based sitcom Scrubs, for which creator Bill Lawrence asked Hulu and parent company Disney to remove three episodes from circulation. Though he did not release any sort of statement at the time, Lawrence has now suggested that eventually the episodes will be edited, with the offensive scenes in question being removed, before being made available again.
Lawrence also came out in defense of the stars of the show, stating that the burden of responsibility stopped with him.
"I did see some things directed at Donald and Zach and Sarah, and everybody should know that the reason that word 'showrunner' exists in television is because you're the gatekeeper, and anything that gets allowed on a show, you have to ultimately take responsibility for."
Lawrence then apologized to the cast as well as the audience, saying that some of the dated material in the show is something that he had not thought about since the show had first aired. The removal of certain episodes had disappointed some fans, with some accusing him of bending to 'cancel culture'. Lawrence responded to these concerns also, saying that while it is likely that the episodes will be made available again somewhere down the line, he could not appropriately edit them at the moment due to the global situation. "I don't really have an editing facility up right now," he said. Lawrence added that "The first thing I wanted to do was get them off TV because it bummed me out personally and it made me feel sh---y."
Lawrence continued, saying that while he acknowledged that editing a show's content is a slippery slope, he felt that it was necessary to do so in this case. "For me, it's my show and I'm proud of it. Those moments make me feel like s--t, make me feel stupid." He also said that he had been rewatching the show and that while a few other elements also felt dated, there was nothing so far that had made him feel as bad as the blackface episodes.
Following in the footsteps of other popular sitcoms such as 30 Rock and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Lawrence requested that several episodes of Scrubs be removed from streaming platforms due to racial insensitivity. The service Hulu has now taken down three episodes that feature characters in blackface. The three episodes in question are the episode titled My Fifteen Seconds from season 3 as well as My Jiggly Ball and My Chopped Liver from season 5. The episodes feature Zach Braff's J.D. and Donald Faison's Turk attending a party dressed as each other, while Sarah Chalke's character Elliot appears in blackface during a fantasy sequence. Creator of the series, Bill Lawrence, responded on social media to a user who said that the example set by NBCUniversal and 30 Rock needed to be implemented with Scrubs, with Lawrence replying with "Agreed. Already in the works."
Along with Lawrence, many of the cast members also feel guilty for the use of blackface in the show, including Zach Braff, Donald Faison, and Sarah Chalke. Braff and Faison have been telling fans for some time not to use blackface if non-Black people are dressing as Turk for Halloween, with the actors not realizing the hypocrisy until recently.
"They're doing it because I did it, because Sarah did it," Braff said. "Last night I was tossing and turning and I had a little bit of a eureka moment -- that's probably why all of those people did it, they saw that it was okay because we had done it, and that's really f--king embarrassing to me."
"I remember I posted that -- I said, 'look, I feel like I have to remind you people that when you go out this Halloween, if you're going ot dress up as Turk and you're not African-America, it's not alright to go blackface," Faison added. "And somebody tweeted me back and was like, 'yeah, but Donald, you did this,' and they showed me a picture of you and me, me dressed in whiteface and you dressed in blackface...and I couldn't retort because I was like 'holy s--t, that's right, we did do this. And I didn't remember we had done that until that moment."
"This is the thing that makes me cringe and feel horrible and so regretful," Braff said. "If we contributed in any way to X amount of young people being like, 'it's okay because they did it,' that's what I truly regret and am so apologetic about."
Lawrence added that part of the reason why so many creatives and showrunners are now beginning to realize these past mistakes is due to a historical lack of diversity in the industry, and particularly in the power structures in Hollywood. He also addressed the concerns from those who believe that looking back and changing things to reflect modern society will ruin creativity and art.
"There's also this wave right now as artists and as actors and actresses, writers, directors, that people are going like 'oh, the PC culture is going to ruin art,' and it's not. Art's gonna be fine. I'm so old...when I first got into writing comedy, nine of the ten writers' rooms you would walk into, if there were eight writers, it would be seven white dudes and one woman. Even though there's still tons of way to go as far as equal representation for not only Black writers on shows but people of color running and creating their own shows, art's better for it. At every stage of my career, there's been some version of this [debate] and the end result is not that art's worse. I think TV especially is in a great era right now for content. Art gets better for it."
This comes to us courtesy of Fake Doctors, Real Friends podcast.