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The Top 10 Medical Television Shows
Our Top Ten Medical TV Shows
This is a list of the top ten medical television shows. It is co-authored by Mark, a fan of great television, and Jenny, a newly graduated nurse and television addict. We've evaluated these shows based on our own thoughts, taking into account the quality of the writing, acting and medical knowledge. Clicking on the pictures for most of the shows will take you to the network websites where you can watch the most recent episodes for free!
Together, we've watched all of these shows - some of them multiple times. We're in our 20s so most of these shows will come from the 90s on. We think they're all deserving of their place in our Top Ten and worth your time - let us know if you agree!
Trauma is a drama that aired on NBC for 1 season from 2009-2010. It focused on paramedics responding to emergency calls and was set in San Francisco, California.
Mark's Take: Honestly, this is one that I could have bumped off the list for something else. I'm not always a big fan of watching injuries happen - it makes me cringe! Still, there was some exciting moments in this series and I liked the focus on paramedics instead of doctors and nurses. It was something different. I would have been interested to see where it went in a second season as they had some good plot lines set up.
Jenny's Take: I enjoyed getting a glimpse into the life of a health care provider outside of the hospital or clinic setting. The explosive action and faster pace kept my attention despite the sometimes unrealistic nature of the traumatic events. The character development throughout the season was adequate to make me slightly disappointed when I couldn't find a second season online. I would give the medical content two out of five for its accuracy and plausibility.
Private Practice is a drama that airs on ABC. There are five seasons currently and the show has been renewed for a sixth season. It is a spin-off from Grey's Anatomy and follows Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) as she takes a leave of absence from Seattle Grace Hospital and starts her own practice at Seattle Wellness.
Jenny's Take: Being a longtime fan of Grey's Anatomy, I was initially excited to see the producers had created this spin-off. Unfortunately, I was never a big fan of Addison Montgomery in Grey's and those feelings transferred over to this show. The other characters are what kept me watching each season. Like Mark, I enjoyed seeing bits of the plot from Grey's resurface in PP. I would give this show 2 out of 5 for its medical accuracy and plausibility.
Mark's Take: I was somewhat surprised that we didn't end up putting Private Practice a bit lower on our list - but in the end it just wasn't a show that I truly loved watching. The tie-ins to Grey's Anatomy were fun at times and the reason that I stuck with the show. That's not really enough to carry a whole show. Some of the plot lines just got too contrived and overly dramatic for me to rank this show any higher.
Boston Med is a documentary series that aired on ABC in 2010. It tells the stories of patients, doctors, nurses and others at three different hospitals in Boston.
Mark's Take: I enjoyed this show because it is real. It was fun to get a glimpse into how a hospital runs and how the teaching process works at some of these famous hospitals. I'm not sure if someone who works in a hospital every day would enjoy it as much or learn from it as I did - or maybe they would enjoy it more!
Jenny's Take: The tagline for Boston Med says it perfectly. While they take genuine, realistic cases which could present at almost any hospital, they have sensationalized them to garner a wider television audience. This show attempts to draw in viewers who are already interested in medical dramas and portray a more realistic perspective on the experience of a patient and their health care team. I was able to picture myself working at these hospitals which was not the case with the other shows on our list. I would give Boston Med a 4.5 out of 5 for its medical accuracy and plausibility.
Mercy is a drama that aired on NBC for one season from 2009-2010. It makes it into our top ten medical TV shows at number 7! The show follows three nurses at Mercy Hospital in Jersey City with a primary focus on Veronica Callahan (Taylor Schilling) who has just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq.
Jenny's Take: This was one of the first shows I watched which truly focused on nurses instead of doctors which is part of the reason I was able to convince Mark to put it this high on the list. I would have appreciated a slightly larger focus on the actual medical and nursing care but did enjoy their depiction of life of a nurse outside the hospital. I related most with Chloe, a recently graduated nurse, and the shock factor she experienced in her first nursing job. I would give Mercy 2 out of 5 for its medical accuracy and plausibility.
Mark's Take: I enjoyed this show mostly because of the characters. I thought the dialogue was strong overall and the focus on a nurse returning from Iraq was interesting to me. The way the show treated issues of substance abuse and PTSD were worth following. This is another show that I think could have benefited from a second season and more time to develop.
Off the Map is a drama that aired on ABC for 13 episodes in 2011. It is set in a clinic in South America, with seven doctors working at the clinic and dealing with the unique challenges of their past and current situations.
Mark's Take: I didn't expect to like this show as much as I did. I really liked the idea of people starting over in a new place, which was a big part of the plots the show focused on. I also liked the ensemble cast and thought the acting was strong. It was fun to see Zach Gilford again after watching Friday Night Lights. I'm surprised this got canceled after such a short run of episodes.
Jenny's Take: What I liked most about this show was that it reminded me of my childhood dream of being a doctor or nurse and travelling to a remote area of the world to practice medicine. The scenery was breathtaking and the cases that presented to the small South American free clinic were exotic and different from your run-of-the-mill city hospital. I admired the characters' resourcefulness when they did not have the modern medicine or technology needed to treat a patient like we would in the U.S. Not knowing as much about medicine and cases in an exotic location, I would give Off the Map 3 out of 5 for its medical accuracy and plausibility.
Off the Map
House is a drama series that aired on Fox for 8 seasons. It stars Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) who is a disabled diagnostician with a host of demons in his past. He routinely tackles medical cases that require a combination of unique diagnoses and his own medical genius.
Jenny's Take: Mark and I just didn't get as into this show as we expected to because of its great ratings. I did not appreciate his sarcastic and gruff nature and had a difficult time empathizing with his experiences. This might be a show where if we had stuck with it a little longer, I would have ended up liking it. Still we felt it belonged on our list because its strong reputation and recommendation from others. I would give it 3 out of 5 for its medical accuracy and plausibility.
Mark's Take: A lot of people would probably put this higher on the list - maybe even number 1. But for whatever reason I struggled to truly get into it. The acting and writing is consistently great but the show is ultimately too formulaic and episodic for me. I enjoy plot lines that stretch over multiple episodes rather than neat stories wrapped up in one episode. Some of the diagnoses also were too obscure for me. A great show but just not for me I have to say in the end!
Hawthorne is a drama series that aired on TNT for three seasons from 2009-2011. It follows Christina Hawthorne (Jada Pinkett Smith) the Chief Nursing Officer at Richmond Trinity Hospital. She is a feisty and passionate nurse who stands up for her patients and herself as the hospital around her fluctuates and changes.
Mark's Take: I really liked the acting in this show. Pinkett Smith and Michael Vartan (who we liked in Alias) do a great job individually, though I think their chemistry onscreen together isn't perfect at times. I thought this show had some really good story lines and did a great job featuring a strong and independent female lead.
Jenny's Take: Again, what really drew me to HawthoRNe was the fact that it focused primarily on the nurses, especially the strong, successful leader in Christina Hawthorne. I appreciated the development of her character as a widow and mother and the way the other characters supported that role but also shared solid story lines of their own. There was some definite dramatization of occasional patient story lines, but overall it felt fairly realistic. I would give HawthoRNe a 3 out of 5 for its medical accuracy and plausibility.
Scrubs is a comedy series that aired on NBC and ABC for nine seasons from from 2001-2010. The series follows a group of interns at Sacred Heart Hospital, including Dr. John "J.D" Dorian (Zach Braff), Dr. Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke) and Dr. Christopher Turk (Donald Faison). The show is often filled with J.D.'s daydreams and is a lighter hearted take on a hospital setting.
Jenny's Take: I really like this show, probably more than Mark! It's funny and really relaxing to watch a quick episode or two (or three). It takes a little getting used to if you aren't a big comedy fan. The characters and the way the plots move took awhile to grow on me, then they were hilarious! The medical knowledge is not the greatest - I would rate it a 2 out of 5. That doesn't mean it isn't a show worth watching!
Mark's Take: This is one of my favorite medical shows, even though it's very different from most of the other shows on this list. For one thing, it's shorter so you can take in an episode for a shorter break and it's consistently hilarious. At the same time, it deals with a number of serious issues over the course of the series and the medical knowledge can be quite realistic (or so I'm told). Overall, well worth watching!
Our second favorite medical TV show of all time! Grey's Anatomy is a drama series airing on ABC for 8 seasons since 2005. The show tells the stories of residents and interns at Seattle Grace Hospital, following them as they grow as doctors. The show is framed with introductions and conclusions from Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo).
Mark's Take: I might move this down one or two spots if this was only my list but Jenny won this argument! Overall, this is a really fun show. I especially appreciate some of the quick and witty dialogue. I also respect the show for portraying strong women and minorities. I don't get as sucked into all of the drama as Jenny does - but it is still a fun show and very easy to get sucked into.
Our top medical TV show - ER! ER is a drama series that aired on CBS for 15 seasons from 1994-2009. The show told the story of a bustling hospital emergency room at County General Hospital. It was conceived and originally written by Michael Crichton and director Steven Spielberg was involved.
Jenny's Take: This is my favorite show! I started watching it when I was young with my parents but I love to go back and watch it on DVD these days! It has great characters and drama that I get caught up in every time. For medical knowledge I give it 4/5. Crichton actually went to medical school and you can tell from his writing, especially in the early seasons that he wrote.
Mark's Take: As far as quality stories, acting, dialogue and medical content this is the undisputed king for me. The first few seasons are really top-notch, with engaging plots that twist just enough to keep you glued to the screen without straying into the ridiculous diagnoses and shock value that medical dramas sometimes find necessary. I also liked the portrayal of the city of Chicago. The show's success and ratings over time more than speak for themselves. If you're going to watch any of the shows on the list - pick this one!
They didn't quite make our list, but some of the shows we considered are listed below. A few of them are shows we want to watch but just haven't found the time to do so, while others didn't quite fit as purely medical shows.
Jenny really likes this show - set in a morgue and features doctors as a main part of the plot, but often strays into the crime-solving realm.
This was a big show and started as the same time as ER. It was expected to beat out ER easily but lost that battle, then and now. We've never really been as into it as the other shows on this list.
This is definitely before our time - but it's a classic that we've both enjoyed when we catch an episode or two. And it's got the hospital setting!
I think if we watched this one it would make the list - we just haven't watched it yet! Let us know if we should make sure to give it a try.
Do you agree or disagree? What did we miss that we should have included? What would you put as number one? Thanks for visiting and we look forward to your feedback.