Scrubs creator and TV producer Bill Lawrence is back with his first new series in five years, the Apple TV+ original sports comedy Ted Lasso, co-created by and starring Jason Sudeikis. It also marks an unexpected reunion with Scrubs star Zach Braff, who joins the series behind the scenes.
A continuation of the character Sudeikis first portrayed in a series of promos for NBC Sports’ coverage of the Premier League, Ted Lasso follows a former small-time college football coach from Kansas who has moved across the pond to coach a professional soccer team in England.
“I watched those videos like everybody else and they cracked me up,” Lawrence tells ET’s Nischelle Turner about watching the former Saturday Night Live star’s promos. Years later, the producer got together with Sudeikis, when the actor pitched the idea of reprising his character. “He said, ‘You’d be surprised to know, but when I go overseas, I get recognized more as Ted Lasso than as the guy from SNL or We’re the Millers or Horrible Bosses.’”
From there, the two turned the character into a three-dimensional person and built a show around him “that not only has heart but is optimistic and hopeful, in a time we could use that,” Lawrence explains. And the end result is a charmingly funny, “fish out of water” sports comedy, marking both Sudeikis and Lawrence’s welcomed return to TV.
After success creating Scrubs, which ran for nine seasons, and co-creating Cougar Town, Spin City and the cult animated comedy Clone High, Lawrence’s last major series was Ground Floor, a TBS comedy he co-created with Greg Malins in 2015. Over the course of his career, Lawrence has easily become part of the TV zeitgeist, which begs the question: Is there added pressure when creating something new?
“What’s weird is, I so far have been really lucky in that I kind of hitched my horse to -- the first thing I ever created starred Michael J. Fox,” Lawrence says. “On all of these shows, people are lovely to give me credit, but I’ve had plenty of shows that didn’t work because I wasn’t lucky enough to work with these people that are, you know, Jason Sudeikis.”
He adds, “I don’t feel the bar is set high for me as much as I just want to come through for the actors and actresses that are so talented, and not let them down.”
In addition to Fox and Sudeikis, that also includes Braff, who led Scrubs as J.D. and was roped into helming episode 2 of Ted Lasso. “I suckered Zach into directing an episode 'cause he was in London,” the producer says. While the reunion was brief, it was another excuse to work with a longtime friend.
But it may not be the last time Lawrence and Braff work together in some capacity. Recently, MTV officially ordered a reboot of Clone High, which featured occasional voice parts by Braff in addition to other Scrubs stars Donald Faison, Christa Miller, Neil Flynn and Sarah Chalke.
However, there’s no word whether Scrubs will get the same treatment anytime soon. While Lawrence says they sometimes joke about doing a movie or one-off reunion, there’s nothing officially in the works. “We’re all such close friends, Judy [Reyes] and Donald and Sarah and Zach and Johnny [C. McGinley] and my wife,” Lawrence says. “If we don’t see each other for a while, then we always start emailing, going, ‘Hey, let's do this again.’ Just to get to see each other.”
In the meantime, he points to Braff and Faison’s podcast, Fake Doctors, Real Friends, during which the pair recap every episode from the series. “That’s making us all hang out again,” Lawrence says, teasing, “I bet you we'll revisit Scrubs. You know, just as an excuse to get to hang out. We all love each other.”
Ted Lasso debuts with three episodes on Friday, Aug. 14 on Apple TV+.