If "Scrubs" has life beyond the 2008-09 season, it will probably have to live without Zach Braff.
The new-to-ABC comedy series is at this point only guaranteed to air this season, its eighth overall. But ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson has made no secret that he'd like to keep "Scrubs" around if it does well, and Wednesday at the TCA press tour, creator Bill Lawrence said he's open to the idea as well.
"I think it's Zach's last year on the show," Lawrence says. But that doesn't necessarily mean that would be it for the series.
"When I created this show, Steve McPherson [was] president of the studio," Lawrence explains. "... He was really supportive when I pitched it as this show possibly being like 'ER' as a comedy, with some revolving cast members and, you know, putting new blood in."
To that end, Aziz Ansari ("Human Giant"), Betsy Beutler ("The Black Donnellys") and Eliza Coupe ("I Think I Love My Wife") have joined the cast as new interns at Sacred Heart. The long-serving regular cast is all back as well -- even the retired Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins), who is still collecting his free-muffins-for-life reward at the hospital coffee stand.
Lawrence says the regulars would all be welcomed back should "Scrubs" get picked up beyond the coming season (it's scheduled to debut on ABC in early 2009). Both he and Braff acknowledge, though, that the end of the road is near for Braff's character, J.D.
"The sense is that we thought we were ending, and then thanks to [McPherson], this has been a bonus, amazing year. We're having a blast doing this," Braff says. "My sense is this is my last year. If the show does continue like he's saying, like an 'ER' kind of thing, I would love to come back and visit and definitely direct some -- and do craft service if they need some help."
Lawrence also says that J.D. will get a proper sendoff: "If this show pulls a legitimate number and people like yourselves still find it creatively viable, I think there's a chance it will go forward. We're making the shows now, so we're certainly going to film the last one like it's young Zach Braff's exit and make a big deal out of it."