Ad jokes in sitcoms: classic or crutch?

ScrubsI’m beginning to think advertising jokes are the crutch of dying TV comedies. Consider NBC’s Scrubs, which until this season was one of my favorite shows. For three weeks running, the show has referenced TV ads in its scripts, first with a mock “The More You Know” PSA that paled in comparison to The Office’s April Fools’ spots, then with a parody of the classic ’80s drug-awareness PSA featuring a mustachioed, cokehead dad and the melodramatic line, “I learned it by watching you!” This week, Zach Braff’s J.D. tried using Mazda’s  “Zoom, zoom” tag as his own nonsequitor capper. And a barbershop quartet sang the Chili’s babyback ribs song at a baby shower, because “that’s the only song we know with the word baby in it.” Instead of being clever cultural touchstones, the jokes feel stale and unoriginal. Sure, The Simpsons might survive a few bad ad jokes in what was a rocky start to its 17th season, but I fear the odds aren’t so great for Scrubs.

—Posted by Deanna Zammit