The Janitor On Scrubs Felt Like A Fever Dream & 12 Years On He Still Lives Rent-Free In My Head
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I could rattle off a hundred reasons why Scrubs is iconic. Between J.D .and Turk’s sweet friendship, Dr Cox’s percussive rants, and “The Poo Song” –  just one glorious part of the only musical episode (ep six of season six) on TV that doesn’t make me cringe for eternity – it’s gold.

If you’re not familiar with Scrubs, it’s a comedy that followed a bunch of doctors and nurses at the fictional Sacred Heart Hospital over nine seasons from 2001 to 2010. (Although let’s be real, if you copped the final season let’s just say eight seasons.) It followed best buds J.D. (Zach Braff) and Turk (Donald Faison) as they start as interns with Elliot (Sarah Chalke) and work their way up the ol’ hospital ranks ‘till they’re bloody running the place. 

But how is that different to every other medical show under the sun you may be wondering? Concept-wise, it doesn’t differ – I feel like I’ve watched a zillion interns blossom into wonderful doctors on TV. But Scrubs had a few things setting it apart. It was silly, had a world built out with background players you know and love (just like The Simpsons), and of course, it had The Janitor.

The Janitor feels like a fever dream, right? To this day, I can’t believe he appeared as he did on TV. For the run of the show, we got to know all the weirdness that was The Janitor, and I tell ya what, I’m yet to see another character remotely like him. A lot of his absurdity came out because Neil Flynn, the actor behind the jumpsuit, would improvise a tonne on set. He’d come up with gems so good that they couldn’t be cut, which is part of the reason his character ended up sticking around when he wasn’t meant to at the outset.

In the pilot, we’re first introduced to The Janitor when, as he’s fixing a door, J.D. suggests someone might have put a penny in it. And therein began the biggest showdown in television history.

Okay, let’s break it down because there’s a ~lot~ to unpack with Mr Itor. Also, it shouldn’t need to be said given you clicked on this, and the show finished a whole tween lifetime (12 years) ago, but there are mad spoilers below. Star on Disney+ has all nine seasons to catch up on before you venture any further forward.

Let’s get into it.

He didn’t have a name for (almost) the entire series

I just don’t think you could get away with this now. We fell in love with the character and he didn’t even have a bloody name, known only as The Janitor for the entirety of the show. It wasn’t until the finale of the whole damn shebang that his character finally tells J.D. what his name is. It’s Glenn Matthews, but that’s a stranger to me. Only The Janitor has my heart. 

Neil Flynn Nbc GIF by HULU

His ~unlikeable~ qualities

On paper, The Janitor is weird as hell. He was into taxidermy, tormented the protagonist, J.D., relentlessly, and never really did his job. In fact, in multiple scenes we see him mopping the hospital’s carpet, leaving the doctors and nurses to squelch around all day. And yet, we still loved the son of a gun. That’s no easy feat. And truth be told, J.D. needed to be put in his place every now and again.

Angry Neil Flynn GIF

His creativity & commitment

We could all learn a thing or two from The Janitor. You gotta hand it to the fella because he had some ripper ideas. And even when they weren’t good, he backed them. From installing an open-air toilet on the roof of the hospital, to inventing “knifewrench” and a medical alter-ego known as Dr Jan Itor, he had an endless stream of out-of-the-box ideas. He even created a fake game called Jiggly Ball to trick J.D. into pretending he’d heard and played it. No one had more commitment to a bit. No one.

Zach Braff Scrubs GIF

What was real?

Whack on any episode of Scrubs and The Janitor will likely spew out some wild story about himself to someone else on the show. So much so, that they even call it out in one episode. J.D. demands that The Janitor fess up to all of the lies he’s told them, which to name a few standouts, include: 

  • He has a “brother-dad” and “sister-mum”
  • He was once a world-class, 100-metre hurdler
  • He had an affair with Amy Carter (the daughter of President Jimmy Carter)
  • ​​He was once in the “janitor branch” of the army 
  • He has a wife with only a forefinger and “thumb-pinky” on each hand
  • He was in the movie The Fugitive

Ok, so most were lies. But some were true – he hurdled to prove it. And Neil Flynn was in The Fugitive, so that checked out.

Scrubs Thumbs Up GIF

If you’ve never watched Scrubs and don’t know any of those references, good on you for getting through what must have read like gibberish. All seasons are streaming on Disney+, so go watch it now to soak in that strange, beautiful master at work.

Image: Scrubs