"I don't think people are meant to be by themselves. That's why if you actually find someone you care about, it's important to let go of the little things, even if you can't let go all the way. Because nothing sucks more than feeling all alone, no matter how many people are around."
Simply known as JD, he is the show's protagonist and resident doctor. The show depicts the problems and fears he has to face in the hospital, accompanied by his Inner Monologue. JD may just be the embodiment of a Cloudcuckoolander for his most prominent habit of daydreaming, which almost always ends with a weird comment said out loud which, of course, nobody but him understands. Despite being an enthusiastic, clumsy person with a lot of self-doubt, he is an intelligent good-by-heart doctor, who cares deeply about his patients.
Big Brother Mentor: Sharply contrasted with Dr. Cox's sink-or-swim approach, and also deconstructed in that it is JD's style of teaching that is considered terrible, stemming from his own personal need for everyone to "like" him.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: However eccentric he becomes (and they really pushed this one in later seasons), he is consistently shown as an excellent doctor, with Cox describing him as one of the best he's ever seen.
White Sheep: Both his dad Sam and brother Dan had extreme Man Child qualities, but while good people they simply did not aspire to anything and achieved nothing. Dan later confessed to Dr. Cox that everyone knew J.D. would be something great and urged him to take the role of Mentor seriously because J.D. had no one in his family to look up to.
Elliot: My therapist thinks my trouble in bed stems from a basic fear of intimacy. But I just think it's just because any type of repetitive motion makes me nauseous. Oh, and since I was a little kid, I've always had nightmares about being crushed. Carla: That poor shrink.
Neurotic but sweet.
Elliot is another promising young doctor, who initially showed signs of fear and low self-esteem as an intern, but has later grown to become a confident, yet extremely odd, doctor in the series. She has a tendency to ramble on about her issues as well as stories about her life, but she's extremely intelligent and takes her profession seriously when she must. Due to a fear of commitment, she has a constant on-again-off-again relationship with JD.
Break the Cutie: Mid season two her dad cut her off financially and she had to fend for herself for the first time in her life. This took a toll on her and life didn't start looking up until about season five when she took a private practice job.
Finger Poke of Doom: A childhood of harvesting apples gave her enormous finger strength, enough to lay out JD with a single poke to the chest.
Gender-Blender Name: Her father named her "Elliot" because he wanted to have a son. Her desire to please him is part of what leads her to become a doctor (widely seen as a man's profession).
Which seems odd, considering that Elliot has two brothers anyway.
Given that Elliot mentions that they once tried sending her gay brother Barry to "Hetero-Camp", it's likely that her other brother Bradley also failed to live up to her father's ludicrously high expectations. It definitely would make sense that she was supposed to be the son he wanted.
Motor Mouth: Talks at the speed of light whenever she gets upset/excited.
Ms. Fanservice: Very much so. The writers even claimed they tried to think up ways for Elliot to be in just her bra at least once a season.
Tomboyish Name: Elliot's proud of having a mostly 'male' name, to the point that she's annoyed when another member of staff, Veronica, changes her name to 'Ronni' not long after Elliot arrives.
Took a Level in Jerkass: Her behaviour in Season 3, where she's dating Sean, then hops into bed with J.D, who is still in love with her, only to go running straight back to Sean when he unexpectedly turns up. The fact she accuses him of not being a good friend to her when he is angry about the way she treated him is the lowest point.
It didn't stop there either in the later seasons. And there's her treatment of Keith during the short time they were engaged.
Ungrateful Bitch: Complains in Season 5 that Dr. Cox "has always been a total bastard" to her, ignoring the fact he punches Kelso out for mistreating her, made her and J.D co-chief residents so they would learn to get on and various other Pet the Dog moments. Not to mention, he arguably has been even worse to J.D than Elliot.
"You know, I love how kids of divorce really have the market cornered on family dysfunction. But let me share with you a typical Thanksgiving at the Turk household: It starts with my mother yelling at my sister for yelling at my grandmother who's yelling at the television screen, which happens to be the microwave. And then my militant brother Jabari - formerly Bob - gives my father attitude for using the word black, even though he's referring to the turkey. Which, by the way, only got burnt because instead of turning the oven off, my bi-polar aunt Leslie tried to shove her head in it. But you know what we do? We kiss... and we hug... and we apologize for all the things we said... 'Cause a month later, we gonna get together and do it again at Christmas!"
JD's Black Best Friend, who JD has known since they were roommates in college, and Carla's husband. He's a very skilled surgeon but his arrogance sometimes exceeds his talent. His attitude does come across as a typical jock, but he takes his work seriously and is atypical as a surgeon in that he strives to get to know his patients. He loves basketball, video games, using slang, and making sweet love with his wife.
Character Development: Turk is probably the only character to remain consistent throughout the entire series. His main development was in becoming noticeably more responsible thanks to having to cope with his diabetes, being married to Carla, and becoming a father. He doesn't have nearly the same level of character arc that J.D., Elliot or even Dr. Cox have.
My Sensors Indicate You Want to Tap That: Turk and JD can sense whenever the other has hooked up. In fact, they even have a Sex-Gong that they ring to let the other one know, even if they are several miles away.
Surfer Dude: Probably the first impression one gets from him
The Spock: No matter how often he appears to care about his patients, he'll still say he works better without emotion or attachment.
Small Name, Big Ego: In the beginning of the series his confidence outweighed his actual skill, it was humbling to learn that several other surgical interns were actually better than him. In fact it was only J.D.'s encouragement to spend more time with his patients that put him good enough to get a Surgical Attending position. But by the end his leadership ability became his greatest asset, nearly everyone in the hospital nominates him to become the new Chief of Surgery.
Vititrolic Co-Workers: With Doctor Cox. They aren't friends, but they're both egotists who love competing and trying to one up the others and have a strong amount of respect for one another.
JD's mentor (much to his chagrin) and resident doctor of Sacred Heart. He comes across as a typical Dr. Jerk with a huge ego to match. However, he believes his hard teachings mold interns to competent doctors and he cares more about treating patients that deserve help rather than the budget of the hospital. He has a tendency to rant on about anything that ticks him off even slightly.
Alcoholic Parent: His father was this and often took it out on him and his sister. It was so bad that it's difficult for Cox to be around his sister because it reminds him of those experiences.
The Alcoholic: It's a major part of his character that he does drink a lot. It really comes to the forefront in "My Fallen Idol."
Jordan claims that Jack's first full sentence was "Daddy drinks a lot".
Broken Ace: When Cox says he's the best, nobody disagrees with him, but he has some huge issues.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: This is actually a plot point in that he is too good of a doctor to get fired but he absolutely hates the bureaucracy of the hospital and jumping through hoops to get promotions that would get him anywhere besides a basic staff attending doctor. J.D. is the only person to make him understand that his attitude was getting in his own way and he slowly starts taking on leadership positions that let him make a difference rather than just complain about it.
Character Tics: His habit of touching his nose. John C. McGinley stated that this is an homage to Paul Newman's character in The Sting.
He also holds his hands together behind his head whenever he's worried or stressed. This is lampshaded by Carla at one point where - after showing him that he's not reaching his patient - she asks if he wants to put his hands behind his head. He does.
Even Doctor Cox Has Standards: He often calls people out on their worst moments, like Dan hooking up with Elliot or Murray being a selfish dick about his dad who knew he wasn't his biological father, but stayed in the game anyway.
Insufferable Genius: Is there a moment when he doesn't brag about his skills as a doctor? Let it be granted, because he really is that good.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite his attitude and speaking to everyone—coworker and patient alike—with disrespect, Dr. Cox genuinely wants to help people and when he's incapable of doing so it affects him strongly. Also, the finale of season 8 revealed he truly did like JD after all, though he admits it when he thinks JD isn't around.
Part of his attitude is motivated by the fact that he sees it as the only way to get people to listen to him.
Before Jack's baptism, JD comments that Cox is actually very tolerant of many things (except Hugh Jackman).
The Last DJ: In some ways he's a deconstruction of this trope: he lives for his job and has far too much integrity to kiss ass and play the games needed to climb ranks in the hospital. That in turn leaves him locked out of any chance to change things, and the more he complains about how the hospital is run or goes outside the rules to help patients, the closer he comes to actually getting fired for good and being unable to help patients at all. It takes a whole range of people trying to give him wake up calls and several opportunities falling into his lap before he realizes that he can get himself into a position of authority and improve certain things without compromising his integrity.
The McCoy: A lot of the time, especially when with Kelso.
Cox: (exasperated) "Look! We have me! A emotionally-crippled narcissist! And you (JD's brother Dan), an emotionally-crippled narcissist who is in a bathtub filled with by now is mostly his own urine! Hopefully we can come together and make ONE fully functioning adult!"
Sink or Swim Mentor: Mainly justified in this approach; he wants his interns to learn, as quickly as possible, that lives depend on them, and that eventually they must rely on their own skills rather than outside assistance
"Well, you're a surgeon. So, you've got the god-complex, the cockiness, the whole "married to the job" thing. You're cute, but you're very, very aware of it. You have no idea what I'm like, so all of your feelings for me are coming from down there [points at his crotch]. But most of all, I'm looking for the real thing; and you're nothing but a little boy who's not used to being told "no." So there's a bunch of reasons. Pick your favorite."
She's the Spicy Latina who's the resident nurse of Sacred Heart and wife of Turk. Carla molded JD and Elliot over the years with her tendency to be there for them, which has resulted in their friendship. She can be rather hotheaded to people and feel like her friends are overwhelming her with her quirks, but she cares about them and it shows.
If anyone implies that being a nurse is in any way inferior to being a doctor...watch out.
Honestly, anything she doesn't approve of can set it off depending what it is.
Clingy Jealous Girl: If Turk so much as looks at another woman, she goes nuts and yells at him.
The Dreaded: Comedic example, but not even Cox and The Janitor have the guts to say anything bad about her. Even Kelso from the seasons, before he was softened up, avoided getting into a direct confrontation with her, especially when it pertained to work matters.
Only Sane Woman: The sanest of the principal cast and mostly everyone else who works at the hospital
Overshadowed by Awesome: In-universe. For a nurse Carla has a lot of power in the hospital, and this was BEFORE she was head nurse. Lampshaded by JD's monologue after one episode where the only doctors present were himself, Elliot and Turk.
JD: (Inner Monologue while he, Elliot and Turk walk out the hospital) "Tonight we practically ran the hospital. But tomorrow, we'll go back to being the most under-appreciated people here."
Carla: "You think I enjoy being den mother to all of you!?"
(Everyone gives her a "Well duh" look)
Carla: "Okay fine. It's like crack to me."
Robert Kelso (Ken Jenkins)
"Dr. Dorian, do you not realize, that you're nothing more than a large pair of scrubs to me? For God's sake, the only reason I carry this chart around is so I can pretend to remember your damn name!"
He may not look like the devil...
The Chief of Staff of Sacred Heart, Kelso is a snide and grumpy old man who allows improper practices and makes strict rules for the sake of the hospital's budget. However, he does show some care to certain people, even if it's extremely rare and his decisions in the hospital aren't always easy to make for him.
Hard Head: According to The Janitor, who was a paid a few bucks to whack him in the head with his mop handle, it just made him angry.
Janitor: He's got a head like a mountain goat.
Jerkass: He cheats on his wife and keeps her doped up on anti-depressants, openly dislikes his gay son, and treats his staff like crap.
Hidden Heart of Gold/Jerkass Façade: Sort of. He's not above being a Jerkass to those that work for him. However, decisions that can harm some patients and simultaneously benefit the hospital take a toll on him — even though he doesn't let anyone else see it. He also revealed that he's well-aware of the staff treating patients without insurance, but pretended not to notice. And although he does seem to really have a bad relationship with his wife, he does care deeply for his son, remaining connected and offering advice, even at one point seeing if JD was free to date his son and getting angry at Perry for making fun of him.
He has a good relationship with his wife too (more or less). It's hinted she is his college sweetheart, and when she dies in the 9th season he reveals that he's taking longer hours at the hospital purely because he doesn't like going home to an empty house. Given how open he is with everyone else about his infidelity it might be reasonably speculated that she knows and is okay with it, since in the end the two are still married after all those years (not to mention, the anti-depressants are designed purely to kill her own out-of-control sex drive). His treatment of Edith is mostly Played for Laughs, but read between the lines and it's clear he cares about her.
In his Day in the Limelight episode, he specifically states in his narration that he often takes on the role of the Jerkass to unite the staff. When he temporarily drops it, the entire staff is torn apart, nearly killing a patient who he cares deeply about.
On the other hand, the only reason he stopped being a Jerkass....was because he was taking less hours, and he's STILL not a nice person...he's more a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk, then the latter. Or, in his own words, a bastard-coated bastard with bastard filling.
Mentor Archetype: In late season 7 and throughout season 8, after retiring he is able to drop the "mean bureaucrat" facade and tap into his years of experience as Chief of Medicine and as a doctor in general to guide the characters. In particular, he helps Dr. Cox with understanding the responsibilities that come with being Chief of Medicine and teaches J.D. that he needed to be what Dr. Cox was to him, a thankless Morality Chain.
Necessary Evil: Crosses over with Zero Approval Gambit and Mean Boss. As the Chief of Medicine, Kelso has to do what's best for the hospital, even if that means some patients end up dying as a result of his decisions.
Parental Abandonment: His father left him and family when he was a child, using a bicycle. As such he hates bicycles.
Put on a Bus: Subverted twice. When he's fired in season 7 he seemingly leaves the hospital for good, however season 8 keeps him as a regular by having him hang around the hospital coffee shop all day. At the end of season 8 he decides to leave Sacred Heart to become a doctor again else where, even taking his favorite chair from the copy shop with him. Then come season 9 there's a Time Skip and he takes a teaching job at the new hospital after his wife dies.
The Spock: His primary role. He is all to willing to coldly sacrifice individual patients for the good of the hospital. However, its been shown that he really doesn't enjoy it and he gets moments that bring him closer to being The Kirk.
Tragic Bigot: In "My Five Stages" it's revealed that he's apparently this toward... bicycles. More specifically, to anybody who associates with them.
Kelso's Father: Son, Daddy's got to move on. And I just want you to know that since the car is in your mother's name, I wouldn't be able to leave the family forever if it weren't for your bike.
The Almighty Janitor who has a dislike of doctors, especially JD. When he's not tormenting JD at every chance he gets, he tells zany stories (which are mostly lies) to the staff and helps out Elliot when he can. He's also insane.
Abusive Parents: Implied from most of the times he's actually telling the truth about his past, which include things like his parents sticking him in a cat carrier.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: In-universe example. In the Season 9 premiere, Turk states that the Janitor didn't know JD was leaving the hospital for good. Upon being informed of this, the Janitor just disappeared and no one knows where he went.
Doubles as a Call Back to the show's first season, where he was originally supposed to be a figment of JD's imagination.
JD: "Oh, it looks like I did something wrong. I guess this means you'll decapitate me for it right?"
Earn Your Happy Ending: "His Story III." The Janitor feels like he doesn't make a difference in the hospital, but then a paralyzed patient he spent the episode talking to thanks him for treating him as a person and not as an object.
Everyone Has Standards: Is very nice to Elliot, even though he doesn't even know her name and just calls her "blonde Doctor".
He tells Sunny the reason he didn't go after her when she and two other interns touched his cart was because he didn't think she was strong enough to handle it. Of course, this turned out to be a test of character, in which she succeeded (unlike JD).
I Just Want to Have Friends: Type B... more or less. He told Elliot that she was the only person on the hospital staff that treated him as a person. Neil Flynn also theorized that the Janitor's pranks were a very odd way of showing overtures of friendship to JD.
No Name Given: Lampshaded and obviously played for laughs. In the season 8 finale, the Janitor apparently reveals his name to JD, but as soon as JD leaves, someone else walks by and calls the Janitor by a different name. Word of God says the name given to JD, Glen Matthews, is his actual name. Also at Turk and Carla's wedding it appears he actually did give his name to Danni, who says Hey Glenn while Ted and Doug fight about which of them she is referring to, having both made out with her recently and competing over who she is giving more attention to.
Not so Above It All: While normally immune to insults and the like, he will become genuinely sad when told he doesn't make a difference.
Pet the Dog: Has some moments of this with Elliot and Ted. With the latter, for a while he's the only person that actually makes an effort to be nice to him.
Secret Test of Character: Informs JD in the finale that the reason for all his pranks are because JD failed one in the Pilot. Turns out the penny in the door fell out of JD's pocket accidentally and the Janitor saw it happen, but punished JD because he kept lying about it.
Janitor: It was a test of character. You failed. And you lost out on a wonderful friendship.
The Sociopath: Again, to JD. He IS capable of empathy- in one episode, he spends it talking with a bedridden person who requires a computer to speak to keep him company. He often sticks up for Elliot on several occasions.
Todd "The Todd" Quinlin (Robert Maschio)
"I'd like to double her entendre!"
The Todd is a plastic surgeon at Sacred Heart. He loves hitting on women (presumably) for sex and hands for high-fives as well as showing off his physique. He's also a good friend of Turk.
Abusive Parent: After a session with Molly, she stated his behavior stemmed from an abusive mother.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Several episodes depict him swapping between his normal personality and a very serious, confident doctor (e.g. My Hero. That episode compared Turk and The Todd in their skills, showing The Todd is much more single-minded on the task while Turk is easily distracted by everything else he has to do). Because of that single-mindedness, while The Todd may appear to be an idiot, when he's in surgery, he is one of the best by far because he is so focused on the task at hand.
Driven to Suicide: One episode has him standing on a ledge of the hospital and pledging that someday he'll have to courage to jump. He finally jumps at the end of the episode only to have his fall broken by a pile of trash that the Janitor was hiding from Kelso.
Hair Today Gone Tomorrow: Some episodes show him having an impressive head of hair when he started working at the hospital. On another occasion, he says he went bald at fourteen. Another episode implies he had hair when he got married.
Throw the Dog a Bone: Finally gets a girlfriend in Season 8 and gets to show her off to the people who thought she was made up.
Too bad it's revealed she left him for Hooch in his appearance on Cougar Town.
"Thanks for everything, Ted. Sincerely."
The Janitor starts befriending him in Season 7.
Jordan Sullivan (Christa Miller)
"If you talk again, I'm going to eat you!"
A member of the board at Sacred Heart Hospital, and Dr. Cox's ex-wife-ish. Saying she has a vindictive personality is putting it mildly.
Ascended Extra: Was originally only supposed to appear in one episode, but due to her popularity (and also perhaps to a small extent due to being married to the creator), she became a recurring character for the rest of the series.
Hannibal Lecture: Jordan gives one of these to the entire cast at the end of the first season.
Happily Married: Inverted; she and Dr. Cox seem to have a much better relationship divorced. Finding out in a later episode that they were still legally married worsened their relationship and they filed for divorce again.
While the never actually marry again, season eight puts them on the path to acknowledging they actually love each other and not the childish Slap-Slap-Kiss they ALWAYS had going on before.
Death by Irony: She constantly tries to prove Cox wrong and tell's him that everything in life happens for a reason. The morning after she convinces him that he might be wrong, she is caught in a car accident on the way to work, putting into a coma and eventually killing her.
Black Comedy: He's killed a lot of patients and that's funny.
Coroner: Have you seen this before?
Doug: Seen it? Upstairs, they call that "a Doug"
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He may be as weird as 99% of the other staff of the hospital and horribly incompetent when trying to treat living patients, but (in part due to killing so many patients) he is an extremely skilled coroner.
Determinator: Despite being a nervous wreck, killing a lot of patients and being the only person in the history of Sacred Heart to repeat their third year of residency; Doug never falters in his dedication to try to be a good Doctor. He fails miserably, but its the trying that counts, right?
You could theorise he never cracked under pressure like other more confident interns, because that happened so long ago, that being in that state is normal for Doug.
Hidden Depths: Originally a one-note failure as a doctor, it's later revealed that he's killed so many patients it makes him easy to identify a cause of death, so he became a top-rate coroner.
A medical resident at Sacred Heart. First introduced as a timid intern, he eventually becomes very popular, adapts to his hospital responsibilities and starts dating Elliot, to whom he eventually proposes.
The Ace: Part of why JD hates him. Even though he was just an intern at the time, he was popular, handsome, and skilled.
Awesome McCoolname: Dudemeister. And yet JD claims he can't think of anything good to call him.
A intern introduced in Season 8 who becomes a Resident in Season 9. J.D. takes her under his wing. She's not very good at being caring and compassionate.
Character Development: Under J.D's influence, she becomes a little better with being compassionate and able to be kinder to her patients and co-workers, in Season 9, she's able to genuinely have a proper relationship with a med student.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: As harsh, angry and unfriendly as she is, she does care deep down, she's just unable to openly express it properly.
Really Gets Around: She loves fat dudes, they don't expect commitment and they're really grateful, so they put in a lot of effort.
What the hell, J.D.?!: She gets pissed off at J.D. for trying to apologize for giving her a hard time for going through with a procedure that ended up helping find out the patient's illness, since his pushing her to be more compassionate is helping her being a better doctor.
Dan Dorian (Tom Cavanagh)
J.D.'s less successful older brother. Usually shows up Once a Season and mooches off of his brother.
Dan: (solemn) "Look. My brother will never look up to me. But he hangs on your (Cox) word."
Jerk With a Tiny Heart of Bronze: Dan has always been a jackass to J.D., sleeping with his college girlfriend, sleeping with Elliot, constantly bullying J.D. as they grew up and whenever Dan showed up, he mooched off of J.D., constantly annoyed him and gave him all kinds of hell for no reason other then For the Lulz. But he made it clear that Dr. Cox took being J.D.'s mentor more seriously out of concern that J.D. would become a cynical jackass who hated his job (Season 3), comforted J.D. when their dad died and bought J.D. a new car. (Season 7)
What the hell, J.D.?: He wasn't happy that J.D. told him that he's meant to be the loser of the family.
Grace Miller (Bellamy Young)
An attending introduced in Season 3. She's a incredibly condescending Jerkass and sees any attempt to defend her from men as sexism. She was written out of the show at the end of Season 3.
"Hey guys, how are you? I'm great! You know me, I'm up, up, up, up, up, and then some fashion nazi on the E! Network says that pear-shaped people shouldn't wear stripes, and whoosh, guess who's ear-deep in mint-chocolate chip ice cream. Meheehee."'
A recurring patient of the Sacred Hospital. J.D. and Cox found her rather annoying. She passed away in season 5 due to rabies, which triggered the events of "My Lunch". She's one of the most recurring patients of the series.
Armor-Piercing Question: "How have things been going lately?", which prompts her to admit she tried to kill herself.
Driven to Suicide: A failed attempt in "My 15 Seconds", although J.D. and Cox manage to figure it out and try to help her. It's uncertain if it was her cocaine overdose or the rabies that killed her in "My Lunch", but J.D. was wrought with guilt thinking he could have helped her.
Our Ghosts Are Different: After her death, she haunts Cox. It's comparable to how Laverne does this to Carla as she's dying.
"Pictures capture moments in time. When they're posed, they're not real. You know, I hate that whole, like, "gneen!" thing. That's why, at a party, you'll see me in the bushes with my camera."
Ben Sullivan is Jordan's little brother, and close friend to Dr. Cox. Infamous for taking photographs all of the time. Ends up in Sacred Heart as a patient suffering from leukemia. Played by Brendan Fraser.
Camera Fiend: Ben's hobby is taking pictures of people when they aren't expecting it.
A medical student at Winston University giving it a second go. He had previously been in jail and was apparently shot by a 12 year old. He describes jail as "cold". He is in a relationship with Denise. He is apparently Dr. Cox's favorite student; at one point Drew was forced to tape a "#1" sign to his chest by Cox, which is shortly replaced by a pink t-shirt saying "#1"
A medical student at Winston University. His family donated a large portion of money to get the new Sacred Heart Hospital built and as such, Cole believes that he can do whatever he wants, as he is "untouchable". While spoiled, arrogant, and immature, he occasionally reveals himself to have a good heart.