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The Ausiello Files: June 26, 2009

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Scrubs undergoes a premise transplant
Scrubs is going back to school.

The cancellation-defying ABC comedy finds itself on the receiving end of an extreme makeover that will shift the action from the hospital to the classroom and make med-school professors of John C. McGinley’s Dr. Cox and Donald Faison’s Turk. ”It’ll be a lot like The Paper Chase as a comedy,” explains Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence of the show’s upcoming ninth season. ”It’s going to be a different show. It’ll still be life-and-death stakes, but if it’s just Scrubs again in the hospital with a different person’s voice-over, it would be a disaster and people would be mad.”

Of course, Sacred Heart won’t go away altogether. Although J.D.’s old stomping ground will no longer serve as the show’s base of operations, the students will occasionally rotate through its halls — and bump into many of its familiar faces. In addition to McGinley and Faison, who are expected to be full-time regulars alongside a quartet of newbies (most of them playing students), Scrubs vets Zach Braff (J.D.), Sarah Chalke (Elliot), Judy Reyes (Carla), and Ken Jenkins (Kelso) have agreed to make guest appearances. (Neil Flynn has a costarring role as Patricia Heaton’s husband in the new ABC sitcom The Middle, so his name-challenged Janitor will be MIA.)

But Lawrence insists ”half the cast, if not 60 percent of it” will be composed of freshmen, one of whom will be more recognizable than the rest. ”[ABC] is really after us to hire a big name,” he reveals. ”So one of them will be fairly famous.”

SCOOPLETS

True Blood fan fave cheats death

True Blood‘s second-season premiere last week confirmed what many of us had hoped: Series creator Alan Ball opted not to remain faithful to Charlaine Harris’ books and spared Lafayette, the fierce, ghetto-fabulous character played by Nelsan Ellis. No one was more relieved by the character’s stay of execution than Ellis himself. ”I thought I was a goner,” the actor confesses. ”[Alan] didn’t tell me he was bringing me back until after the table read for [the season 1 finale].” But Ball says the decision to save Lafayette was made much earlier — during production of the pilot. ”The first time we shot Nelsan, it was obvious that he was a special talent,” he recalls. ”It was like he was channeling from some alien but deeply hilarious and fascinating planet to which only he had access. I knew at that point the show could not lose him.”

E.T. phones Dr. John Carter

Steven Spielberg is pursuing Noah Wyle to headline his as-yet-untitled alien-invasion pilot for TNT. The potential series, produced by Spielberg’s DreamWorks studio, takes place six months after evil extraterrestrials land on Earth and decimate mankind. Wyle would play the leader of a ragtag group of citizens who try to bring down the aggressors.

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