Longtime NBC comedy “Scrubs” is heading to rival network ABC.
Sources say ABC is in negotiations to pick up 18 episodes of the show from Disney corporate sibling ABC Studios, which has produced the series for NBC since 2001. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture between NBC Universal and Microsoft.)
A broadcast show switching networks, though often discussed during contract renewals, is a rare event. Previous network jumpers include “JAG” (NBC to CBS) and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (The WB to UPN).
The writers strike cut short NBC’s 18-episode final-season order for the Zach Braff medical comedy to 12 episodes. Sources say the network has been reluctant to order additional episodes for next fall, citing the fact that it already has some fresh episodes in the can. NBC reportedly floated various end game scenarios to producers, including ordering one final episode, or producing the remaining episodes direct to DVD.
Details of the ABC deal are still being hammered out as contracts for most cast members and writers have not been picked up beyond the current season.
After struggling in recent years to launch a hit comedy, ABC scored this season with Christina Applegate freshman “Samantha Who?” The “Scrubs” pickup will give ABC another half-hour title with a built-in audience, and it makes financial sense for Disney.
It’s been a rocky ride for “Scrubs” on NBC. The network has repeatedly shifted the critically praised but modestly rated show around its schedule. For the past two seasons, NBC also waited until the 11th hour to pick up the comedy series with partial season orders.
Most recently, “Scrubs” has aired as part of NBC’s Thursday night lineup along with “The Office,” “My Name Is Earl” and “30 Rock,” where the medical comedy was often the lowest-rated of the bunch.