Following the announcement that episodes of “30 Rock” featuring white characters in blackface have been pulled from Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, another NBC sitcom will be plucking similarly problematic episodes from streaming services.
Three episodes of “Scrubs”, which starred Zach Braff, Donald Faison and Sarah Chalke as rookie doctors, are being removed from streaming: “My Fifteen Seconds” (season 3, episode 7), “My Jiggly Ball” (season 5, episode 4) and “My Chopped Liver” (season 5, episode 17). Of the three episodes, one featured Braff’s character in blackface at a party, while another included Sarah Chalke’s character in blackface during one of the show’s signature fantasy sequences.
On Monday, TV Line reported that the missing “Scrubs” episodes will likely return to Hulu in edited form, without the instances of blackface.
Show creator Bill Lawrence revealed the news in the latest episode of the “Fake Doctors, Real Friends” podcast with stars Braff, Faison and Chalke.
“The reason why that word ‘showrunner’ exists in television is because you’re the gatekeeper, and anything that gets allowed on a show you ultimately have to take responsibility for,” Lawrence said. “So, first off, super sorry that any of you guys had to deal with any stuff because… even though we’re all friends and it was a super creative and reciprocal environment, you guys still, at the end of the day, did and were receptive to doing whatever stuff we told you [to do].”
He continued, “It starts with ignorance. We almost thought that we had… a free pass to not have those thoughts [about the history of blackface] back then because we were so f**king proud of ourselves for doing a very diverse show, in front of and behind the camera. [We had a] great black-and-white friendship that exists as a real black-and-white friendship, a great interracial couple… It was almost a block of arrogance where we were like, ‘We’re so good at what we’re portraying and doing and showing that we could never venture into muddy waters.’ And even now, with that same ignorance, we never really connected the two of those things until now. You do the reading, and it’s not any different.”
Lawrence then revealed that he may edit the episodes in order to bring them back to Hulu.
“Twitter is like, ‘Why did you pull the whole episodes?’ Why didn’t you just edit those moments out and put them back on?’ And I said to one person, ‘It’s a pandemic. I don’t really have an editing facility up right now.’ I’ll probably do that, but the first thing I wanted to do was get them off TV because it bummed me out personally,” he said. “It just made me feel sh**ty.”
According to Variety, the removal of the episodes came at the behest of Lawrence, and ABC Studios, which produced the series.
Lawrence confirmed the episodes’ removal when he responded to a fan’s tweet.
Agreed. Already in the works.
— Bill Lawrence (@VDOOZER) June 23, 2020
The circumstances to the episodes’ removal are remarkably similar to what took place with “30 Rock”, with series co-creator Tina Fey and NBC Studios writing a letter to the streaming platforms that carry the sitcom.
“As we strive to do the work and do better in regards to race in America, we believe that these episodes featuring actors in race-changing makeup are best taken out of circulation,” Fey wrote. “I understand now that ‘intent’ is not a free pass for white people to use these images. I apologize for pain they have caused. Going forward, no comedy-loving kid needs to stumble on these tropes and be stung by their ugliness. I thank NBCUniversal for honouring this request.”