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Scrubs good as ever, Homeland Security a dud in ABC's new Tuesday pairing

Scenes from ABC's Scrubs and Homeland Security USA.

No amounts of ominous-sounding or pulse-pounding music can make ABC's new Homeland Security USA much more than a crashing bore.

But then comes Scrubs in its first and last season on ABC. Thanks, we needed that.

Homeland Security gets the leadoff spot (7 p.m. central) in ABC's totally revamped Tuesday lineup. It's from producer Arnold Shapiro, whose much-parodied but long-running Rescue 911 kept host William Shatner before the viewing public in times when it didn't yet seem like he was on TV endlessly.

There's no host for Homeland Security, which instead has abundant off-camera narration from a guy whose name is Phillip Crowley, but who sounds like Bill Kurtis. Things get desperate in a hurry when the men and woman safeguarding our country from terrorists stop and detain a buxom, cleavage-brandishing lass at LAX.

"Something seems amiss with this Swiss Miss," we're told before authorities dig into her luggage and find a bunch of belly dancing costumes. Obviously she's a clear and present danger lacking the proper papers. So we're strung along with snippets that take viewers way to deep into tonight's opening hour.

"Without a work visa, will Nora be dancing in America anytime soon?" the narrator wonders.

Then the plot thickens when she gets hungry: "Nora's belly may be her livelihood, but right now it's a little empty."

What to do? An officer whips up a Cup of Noodles brand repast while Nora gets grilled on why she's here and whether her motives in fact are "that of a tourist."

Homeland Security otherwise bounces around rather aimlessly, dangling a series of other little story lines that too often carry littler weight. The premiere episode's biggest bust nets a cache of cocaine with a street value of $786,000.

"This is your car on drugs," an officer more or less jokes. A booty of little barbecued bats from Thailand also is confiscated before the delicacy is sent on its way.

The producers likely have packed as much wallop as they can into Tuesday's impression-setting first of 13 episodes ordered by ABC. The upside: If this as scary or eye-popping as it gets, then we all should feel very safe and secure. Still, lulling viewers to sleep probably isn't quite what the network has in mind.

Scrubs turns up next, though, and ABC plans to air back-to-back new episodes all the way through this month and next. The appointed hour is 8 to 9 p.m. central. A one-hour series finale has been filmed, but a Scrubs spinoff without star Zach Braff and creator Bill Lawrence could materialize if the ratings on ABC are magically beyond mediocre. That would be very un-Scrubs-ish, though, and perhaps ill-advised at this late point.

NBC had canceled Scrubs after all but killing it with off-on scheduling patterns and umpteen time slots. Then ABC stepped in not entirely out of altruism. The series is produced by ABC Studios, and more episodes offer extra padding in the syndication market.

Tonight's first of two episodes, subtitled "My Jerks," introduces guest star Courteney Cox as new chief of medicine Taylor Maddox while also fleshing out new interns named Ed (Aziz Ansari), Denise (Eliza Coupe) and Katie (Betsy Beutler). There's also "Jimmy the Overly Touchy Orderly" (Taran Killam), which turns out to be a nice touch in short bursts.

Scrubs is all about short bursts of out-of-body humor and very occasional dabs of poignancy. Tuesday's second episode, "My Last Words," manages to take itself fairly seriously in the final minutes of a dying man's life. This always seems a bit like Mad magazine drifting into a Reader's Digest coma. But Scrubs still carries it off even after J.D. and Turk (Braff and Donald Faison) first relate a vision of the afterlife that segues from a dip in a milkshake pool to longing gazes at a Cloud of Lesbians.

Scrubs' official afterlife is yet to come. But this has always been a near-infinitely better comedy than its Nielsen ratings and lack of awards suggest. The closing credits for tonight's My Jerks" episode include a little riff on that sore spot. To which Scrubs is certainly entitled.

Homeland Security USA -- C-minus
Scrubs -- A-minus