- Whether they were a comedy, drama, or a blend of both, medical TV shows have been popular for decades.
- Fans love shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and critics have given “M*A*S*H” a lot of praise.
- “Nurse Jackie,” “The Knick,” and “The Good Doctor” have also been a hit with some critics.
Since the immense success of the drama “ER” over two decades ago, there has been no shortage of medical shows on TV. These series’ dramas range from drama to comedy and everything in between and they have featured famous and rising actors like George Clooney, Ellen Pompeo, and Zach Braff.
From classics like “M*A*S*H” to newer series like “The Good Doctor,” here are the 12 of the best medical TV shows that have aired on television.
“Chicago Med” is a well-paced entry in the medical genre.
In the same style of “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago PD,” “Chicago Med” is the third entry in Dick Wolf’s drama series. The medical drama is currently on its fourth season and stars Colin Donnell, Oliver Platt, and S. Epatha Merkerson. Critical reviews for the show generally range from favourable to mixed. Among fans “Chicago Med” has largely retained its place in the ratings and premiered its most recent season to 7.78 million viewers.
In his review for Roger Ebert, critic Brian Tallerico praised the show for its quick pacing and escapist feel. “Nothing lags, nothing bores, even the familiar,” wrote Tallerico. “In today’s network TV world, after a long day at work on a Tuesday, just a quick escape to a world of beautiful men and women having much tougher days than we just did can be enough.”
“Doogie Howser, M.D.” was a light-hearted show about a medical prodigy.
“Doogie Howser, M.D.” is a comedy-drama that premiered on ABC in 1989 and ran for four seasons. The show starred Neil Patrick Harris as Doogie Howser, a 16-year-old prodigy who graduated from medical school at age 14 and began his residency at a hospital in Los Angeles. The show was canceled in 1993 due to low ratings, but it is still remembered fondly by fans who were Doogie’s age when the show premiered.
“‘Doogie Howser, M.D., is a true product of its time: the late ’80s and early ’90s,”Common Sense Media’s Matt Springer wrote in his review of the show. “It’s easy to be distracted by the show’s dated look and feel, but Doogie was actually ahead of its time when it came to dealing with issues important to teens with humour and honesty.”
“The Resident” is darker than most medical dramas.
A newcomer in the realm of medical TV shows, “The Resident” is still proving itself as a show. The series takes place in a Georgia hospital and follows the lives of the hospital staff, namely a resident (Matt Czuchry), a medical intern (Manish Dayal), and a nurse practitioner (Emily VanCamp). The show has slowly gained more viewers over time and a recent November episode had the highest total viewers since the show’s premiere in early 2018.
TV Line critic Dave Nemetz saw the show as a breath of fresh air amidst TV’s crowded medical genre. “Genuinely gripping and armed with a deep cynical streak, ‘The Resident’ takes a hard look at the thorny ethical issues surrounding today’s health-care providers,” Nemetz wrote. “[It] delivers a refreshing jolt of darkness to a genre that’s too often swimming in schmaltz.”
“Nurse Jackie” explored the life of a nurse with drug addictions.
“Nurse Jackie” is a comedic drama that ran for seven seasons on Showtime from 2009 until 2015. The show starred Edie Falco, Eve Best, and Merritt Wever and mainly focused on Falco’s turn as the titular character Nurse Jackie. A complicated figure, Jackie is a talented nurse who is addicted to the variety of pills she prescribes on a daily basis.
Throughout its seven seasons, the show was praised by critics as a gritty and thought-provoking show with a complex lead character. The Atlantic’s Suzanne Gordon wrote, “A series like ‘Nurse Jackie’ is a rare gem because it manages to entertain, instruct, and debunk traditional stereotypes about nursing all at the same time – quite a hat-trick for TV.”
“City of Angels” was praised for putting diversity at the forefront.
A short-lived hospital drama, “City of Angels” is a medical show set in inner-city Los Angeles that ran for two seasons on CBS in 2000. Although it was cancelled while still in its infancy, “City of Angels” broke barriers as the first medical show on television with a primarily African-American cast. The show starred talented actors like Vivica A. Fox, Blair Underwood, and Michael Warren. It also served as a platform for rising stars like Maya Rudolph and Gabrielle Union to get their start.
In Steve Johnson’s 2000 review for the Chicago Tribune, Johnson said that the show was best when it did away with medical show stereotypes and delved into deeper social issues. Johnson wrote, “when the show strays from the corridors of the L.A. hospital it is named for and moves into the political world it has to operate in, ‘City of Angels’ becomes something fresh, a statement about the broader scope of urban America.”
“The Good Doctor” is a drama with an autistic doctor at its center.
“The Good Doctor” is a more recent medical show now in its second season on ABC. The show is lead by Freddie Highmore, who plays a young and brilliant doctor who has autism. The show raked in an average of 15.61 million viewers in its first season and impressed television critics, particularly when it came to Highmore’s layered performance.
IndieWire’s Hanh Nguyen wrote, “Freshman drama ‘The Good Doctor’ is taking its time addressing some of the misconceptions about the autism spectrum and in doing so has made headway in trying to foster greater understanding of how autistic people may not process the world the same way as neurotypical people.”
“Grey’s Anatomy” is a medical drama now in its 15th season.
“Grey’s Anatomy” is a long-running medical drama that premiered on ABC in 2005 and is still going strong. Created by Shonda Rhimes (“How to Get Away with Murder,” “Scandal”) the show follows the lives of hospital staff as they handle patient cases and interpersonal work relationships.
In 2017, NPR’s Eric Deggans made a case for the show in honour of its 300th episode. “12 years since its March 2005 debut, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ remains TV’s third-most-watched broadcast drama among viewers ages 18 to 49,” Deggans wrote. “ABC’s ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ might be the best show on television that TV critics rarely talk about.”
“ER” was a long-running drama with George Clooney as its star.
“ER” is a medical drama that ran for 15 seasons on NBC from 1994 until 2009. The show starred an array of talented actors including George Clooney, Anthony Edwards, Noah Wyle, and Julianna Margulies. It was initially developed from a screenplay that novelist Michael Crichton wrote based on his experiences as a medical student and blossomed into a ratings titan and critical favourite.
“While there was no way to know just how enduring the show would prove to be over time, in 1994 there was no more exciting and brilliantly-executed show on television than ‘ER,'” IndieWire critic Danny Bowes wrote in a 2013 retrospective. “Long may it reign.”
“The Knick” was a period drama set in the 1900s.
A medical drama set in 1900s New York City, “The Knick” ran on Cinemax from 2014 until 2015. Directed by acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh, the cinematic television show starred Clive Owen, Andre Holland, and Juliet Rylance. Although it wasn’t on TV for long, the show was praised highly while it was still on the air.
“‘The Knick’ may be the best thing Cinemax has ever done, which is not remotely an overstatement, by the way, just blunt fact,” wrote Newsday critic Verne Gay. “[It] isn’t merely good – but clinically, historically (even sociologically) interesting.”
“Scrubs” was a show with a good balance of comedy and drama.
A medical show with a heavy dose of comedy, “Scrubs” ran on NBC and ABC over the course of nine years. It starred Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke, Donald Faison, and Judy Reyes. The show was praised by critics for how deftly it balanced emotional episodes with silly, light-hearted jokes.
“‘Scrubs’ has been a phenomenal show over its eight seasons,” Seth Freilich wrote for Pajiba in 2009. “Not always perfect in the later years, it was still ahead of its time in many ways, particularly in terms of its excellent use of music and its rich blend of comedy and drama.”
“House” focused on a brilliant but crass doctor.
With Hugh Laurie in the lead role, “House” is a medical drama that ran on FOX from 2004 until 2012. The titular Dr. House (Laurie) was a genius without an ounce of bedside manner or compassion for his patients.
In each episode, House was confronted by medical mysteries and curiosities that he would solve with his fellow doctors (Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard, Jennifer Morrison.) With an impressive eight-season run, House had a loyal fan base and received positive reviews throughout its run.
In 2004, Boston Globe writer Matthew Gilbert shared his first impressions of the show. “Television viewers often reject nasty heroes,” Gilbert wrote. “But Laurie gives House a kind of negative charisma that is fascinating to watch, and likable in its way. And it’s hard not to notice that despite his fits and spats, House does save lives.”
“M*A*S*H” was a medical drama that took place during wartime.
A comedy-drama set during the Korean War, “M*A*S*H” followed the lives of military medical staff stationed in South Korea. The show ran on CBS from 1972 until 1983 and was beloved by many during its 11 season run, consistently winning awards during the decade it was on air. At the time, the finale of the show broke records as the most-watched single television episode in US history with 125 million viewers tuning in.
“In the end, the characters finally get to go home, but that also means they won’t be together anymore,” Carrie Wittmer wrote about the finale for Business Insider. “It’s a bittersweet ending that forever changed what a series finale for a TV show can be because it doesn’t always have to be the happiest ending possible.”
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