Zach Braff and Sarah Chalke in Scrubs by Dean Hendler/NBC Photo Zach Braff and Sarah Chalke in Scrubs by Dean Hendler/NBC Photo

One of the many reasons I love Bill Lawrence is that the dude doesn't mince words. At a time when sound-bites have become as carefully crafted as a Martha Stewart petit four, Bill continues to tell it like it is. And on the heels of the official confirmation that Scrubs is headed to ABC for an 18-episode final season, he has a lot to tell. About the show's network-hop. About the beef he has with the suits at NBC. And about the somewhat radical changes in store for J.D. and Co.

Why'd it take so long to announce this thing?
Bill Lawrence:
As I understand it, it was legally very important not to say anything officially until after the show had finished its run on NBC.

What led to the break-up with NBC?
Lawrence:
When the strike ended, we told NBC that, even though we had another seven episodes mapped out, we could do it in three, and they just didn't have any interest. Total harsh buzz of not giving a s--t about a show that had been on the network for seven years and made them millions of dollars. And I'd be more bitter, except that it worked out good for us.

They didn't want to do any kind of wrap-up?
Lawrence:
Not only did they not want to do any kind of wrap-up, but they took an episode that was supposed to air in the middle of the season - the fairytale episode - and marketed it as a series finale. Which was bulls--t. It was never supposed to be a series finale, much less a season finale, and I think it ended up getting judged kind of harshly because of it. If it was just a regular episode that people had tuned into I think they would've thought it was cool and funny.

I was under the impression NBC was willing to give you one episode to finish things off. No?
Lawrence:
Well, here's the thing. When the strike ended, NBC said, "You can shoot an hour-long finale, but we'll only pay for half of it." They wanted [ABC Studios] to suck up all the expenses, and ABC said that was unacceptable. And it felt especially harsh because Scrubs was pulling in better [ratings] than 30 Rock and My Name is Earl - even though I love those two shows - and they were encouraged to do as many f--king episodes as they can after the strike. And after seven years, I ask for three episodes to wrap up the series and they say, "Tough s--t."

How do you go from three episodes on NBC to 18 on ABC?
Lawrence:
It was weird, man. I was thinking we'd put these last six episodes on DVD, just so we can wrap the show up and be proud of it, but the head of ABC Studios, Mark Pedowitz, said, "Bill, if you can make the show a little cheaper, I can probably get us a full season on ABC." I didn't answer right away. The first thing I did was call the cast and the writers together and I said, "Look, if we're going to do this, we have to get back to something we creatively can all be excited about." Because, personally, I felt like this past season we were less than inspired comedically. So I said to them, "This means you guys working harder. It means having emotional stakes and losing all the goofy, broad stuff that I think is easy to write " And everyone said they were on board for one more season.

Will the show still be a comedy?
Lawrence:
It's still a comedy, but when we first did the show, it was a drama with elements of comedy and lots of stupid sound effects. But some of the strongest episodes in the second and third year had character comedy. You can still do things like kill Brendan Fraser and have the lady that loved musical theater die and then sing a song at the end. This became a very Simpsons-esque show with incredibly broad, unrealistic moments and fantasies that were both in reality and not in reality. When you've been writing this show for seven years, it's so easy to get into these patterns of writing the same jokes over and over: J.D. loves Turk, J.D. wants Dr. Cox's approval, Elliot's whiny and neurotic. But this year the stuff is really f--king good. I think our old stand-by fans are really going to dig these shows.

Is Ken Jenkins (Kelso) still a series regular?
Lawrence:
He's still a series regular. The core of his participation this year is with Dr. Cox, who becomes Chief of Medicine. Now that Dr. Kelso is no longer a hospital bureaucrat, he is actually a decent human being and is Dr. Cox's confidant because Cox can't really talk to anyone else about how much that job sucks.

I heard you were looking to cast a new Chief.
Lawrence:
That's just a piece of stunt casting that we're going to do for three episodes.

Talk to me about these budget cuts that ABC requested. Are we going to notice anything missing?
Lawrence:
No. We have a smaller writing staff and we're filming the show in four-and-a-half days instead of five. And, you'll never notice it because we have so many actors on the show, but every cast member is taking two episodes off.

Even Zach?
Lawrence:
Even Zach. Remember, I've done one or two episodes every year where J.D. isn't in the show except for one line, and some other character has the voiceover. It wasn't all that noticeable. It just looks like a cool creative choice.

OK, Scrubs fans, you buying what Bill L. is selling? Does the prospect of a more grounded, less zany Sacred Heart make you giddy with excitement? Would one episode on NBC have been enough of a send-off, or are you happier with the 18 we're getting on ABC? (I think I know the answer to that one.) Comment away below!