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Scott D. Pierce: Scrubbing up

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A lot of "Scrubs" fans — including yours truly — are ticked off at NBC once again for the way the network is handling the show.

After keeping it off the fall schedule for the second year in a row, NBC is putting it on tonight at 8 (Ch. 5) opposite two ratings juggernauts, "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI."

"We like to come back just at the point you think that the show isn't on the air anymore," executive producer Bill Lawrence joked. "That's always been our strategy."

It's aggravating beyond belief for us ... but, apparently, not so much for Lawrence and star Zach Braff.

"No matter where they move us, whether it's Saturday morning before cartoons or Sundays after the preachers, we always have the same amount of people watching," Braff said. "I just feel like like, no matter where they put us, that same, loyal core audience will continue to watch the show."

"We used to wake up and look at ratings all the time on this show the first three years," Lawrence said. "But we've been there six years in this creepy, deserted hospital (where the show films). We're just happy to have jobs."

They're not changing anything to try to compete, al-though Lawrence joked that 'We're going to nickname Zach's character McWeenie. And it's going to be one (love) triangle after another."

"Scrubs" is still "Scrubs" and tonight's episode is full of laugh-out-loud material. Which probably won't make any difference in the ratings.

"People shouldn't have high expectations for what it's going to do against 'Grey's Anatomy,"' Braff said. "It's preposterous. Or 'CSI,' whatever we're up against.

"It's actually both of them, Zach," said Lawrence, who isn't so stoic that he didn't note ABC's "ruthless" change in plans, airing new episodes of "Ugly Betty" and "Grey's Anatomy" tonight instead of the originally scheduled repeats in order to thwart NBC's launch of a four-sitcom lineup — "My Name Is Earl," "The Office," "Scrubs" and "30 Rock."

"I don't think anyone, including us, has any high expectations for the show competing on a crazy-high level with the biggest show on television. We just don't have that fan base. But we do have an incredibly loyal fan base," Braff said.

"In TV, when you have high expectations, like 'Studio 60,' or even back when we went on after 'Friends,' it's almost impossible to meet them," Lawrence said. "But when you have low expectations, it's much easier to be a pleasant surprise to everybody. I would be shocked if most of our core audience didn't stick with the show."

And what's he going to do? It's not like struggling NBC has any "dream time slots," so his goal is to "make a show for the fans."

"I totally care about the quality of the show, but to care about where they put us on, I'm a little past that," he said.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com