For a show that takes place in a hospital, “Scrubs” was never afraid to have some absurd characters floating around. The long-running medical comedy produced such memorable characters as the brutally sarcastic Dr. Cox and the frat boy surgeon known as “The Todd.” But no character pushed the boundaries of the show’s commitment to any amount of realism quite like the unnamed Janitor.
The Janitor, played by Neil Flynn of “The Middle” fame, is a mysterious and outrageous figure in the hospital. Nobody knows his real name, or frankly his real intentions. In the first episode, he becomes angry with Zach Braff’s JD, the main character, and spends the rest of the series antagonizing him at every opportunity. Whenever the show needed a weirdo around to make whatever kind of joke was required, the Janitor would step in and steal the scene. The Janitor’s presence on the cast was a key aspect of Scrubs going from a relatively grounded comedy to a much more madcap one.
The Janitor was an enigma on the show, with his identity standing as one of the show’s primary mysteries. At one point, it was theorized that the Janitor was imaginary, existing only in JD’s mind.
While many of the Janitor’s lines were improved by Flynn, one thing about the character’s arc was always clear, according to a 2006 interview with IGN. When the Janitor’s true name was revealed, it would be a sign that the show was coming to an end.
Creator Bill Lawrence never had “Scrubs” mapped out precisely, but he had some basic ideas about how the series would go. But plans don’t always pan out. For example, one of the show’s key relationships was never supposed to have a happy ending, until it did.
In terms of the revelation of the Janitor’s identity, Lawrence’s terms were always clear. In the interview with IGN, years before the show would come to a close, Lawrence addresses what would happen if the Janitor’s name was revealed in an episode.
“It means the show’s over. It’s a huge hint. If his name is actually uttered on television, it means that it’s the last episode of the show. So anybody that wonders if the show is over now, watch for the finale, and if we say his name…”
The Janitor eventually did reveal his true name, Glenn Matthews, at the end of the show’s eighth season. Funnily enough, that ended up not being the last episode of the series after all, as the show was rebooted for a ninth season with a mostly new cast. The Janitor was not among those that returned for the ninth season, which was poorly received and quickly canceled.
In the end, the Janitor’s name reveal did not spell the end for “Scrubs,” because even in addition to the ninth season there are still talks about a possible reunion. This, along with the show reneging on its desire to keep JD and Elliot from ending up together, just goes to show how unpredictable creating a TV show can be.
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