The medical drama is one of the most narratively-rich genres on television. It’s no surprise, then, that series after series either get created or continually renewed each season. There’s certainly something to be said about medical professionals being everyday superheroes. Not to mention, of course, the plethora of storylines that can unfold in a hospital setting. From steamy romances to epic tragedies, the medical drama has been known to provide it all.
Indeed, doctors and surgeons are some of our favorite tv characters. That said, not every TV medical series is the same. Some are geared toward comedy, wihle others are more of the high-drama variety. What makes these shows truly compelling—and completely binge-worthy—is that they each bring something different to the table. Here are the best TV medical drama series.
10 The Resident
The Resident provides a look into the bureaucratic world of the medical field as seen through the staff of Atlanta, Georgia’s Chastain Park Memorial Hospital. The series follows titular resident Conrad Hawkins, an idealistic doctor who on his first day is handed off to a no-nonsense senior resident who reveals to him the truth of the hospital system’s inner workings. Through his eyes, we see the side of the medical field that rarely gets shown on television, the good and evil of medical ethics and malpractice.
9 Nurse Jackie
Nurse Jackie holds the title of having Showtime’s highest-rated premiere ever. On the air for seven award-winning seasons, Showtime’s hit dark comedy Nurse Jackie stars, Edie Falco, as a nurse working through day-to-day life at All Saints Hospital in New York City. She’s often at the center of many memorable dramatic moments, and often with the help of prescription drugs. With a predominantly women cast, Nurse Jackie can be seen as a feminist series that shows us just how much nurses are relied on by their better-paid superiors.
8 Grey’s Anatomy
The longest-running medical drama in history aired for the first time in the year 2005. Since then, Grey’s Anatomy has been going strong with no official signs of stopping yet. For almost 20 years, this hit series has captured hearts and awards as it follows Merridith Grey from her beginnings at Seattle Grey as a surgical intern all the way to the rank of Cheif of General Surgery at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. With a revolving cast, crazy storylines, breathtaking romance, and the strongest leading ladies in television, Grey’s Anatomy keeps viewers hooked each and every week, and will likely do so for many more years to come.
Developed by Michael Crichton, ER was the first contemporary medical drama to air on television. Taking place in the fictional County General Hospital in Chicago, the series has given viewers memorable characters, emotional stories, and plenty of tension, as well as plenty of blood. Many non-viewers know of this hit series as the launchpad for some of their favorite stars got their start. Stars like Noah Wyle, Anthony Edwards, the late Vanessa Marquez, and most notably, George Clooney. ER is the second-longest-running medical drama behind Grey’s Anatomy. Of all the other dramas on this list, many of them were likely inspired by this award-winning drama as it set the standard for all shows like it to come after.
6 The Good Doctor
Freddie Highmore of Bates Motel fame stars in yet another award-winning role in The Good Doctor as Shaun Murphy, a gifted autistic surgeon with incredible knowledge of medicine and methodology. Shaun’s stock rises as the newest surgeon at San Jose St. Bonaventure with his unique ability to diagnose patients based on his ability to visualize the human body. While lonely and unable to form personal connections with those around him, Shaun uses his medical prowess to save lives and challenge perceptions of autism and his skeptic colleagues.
This wildly popular sitcom from ABC focused on the lower-level hospital employees that rarely stand in the spotlight in most medical dramas. The featured characters mainly perform the grunt work for the higher-ups at Sacred Heart Hospital, which serves as a teaching facility for a medical university. Scrubs ran for nine seasons off the likeability of its rotating cast, which featured the likes of Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke, Donald Faison, and John C. McGinley. With a combination of slap-stick humor, relatable characters, heart, and, at the time, insight into a part of the medical field rarely seen on television, this series worked its way into the hearts of viewers and became a long-time favorite.
Inspired by the Robert Altman film of the same name, this legendary series was centered in the wars of the mid-century that forever altered the history of the world. M.A.S.H followed a mobile hospital unit throughout the Korean War. Both this series and its film adaptation ran during the height of the Vietnam war, with many critics viewing the show as an allegory for the conflict. Many medical dramas of today may have drawn inspiration from this series, Scrubs in particular for its humor and braveness when it’s time to get serious. This series ran for 11 years thanks in part to its character building and development, humor, and situational drama to keep viewers hooked until the very end.
3 Call The Midwife
Call The Midwife is a BBC original series set in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This period drama tells the story of London midwives working in a period of great upheaval. The leading ladies are ordained nuns part of a nursing order known as the Nonnatus House. Unlike most series on this list, this one unfolds without the use of melodrama and excess and approaches serious topics in a practical sense and an honest look at mid-century medical practices as they relate to birth and sexual health.
2 The Knick
Taking place after 1900, The Knick follows Clive Owen as Dr. John W. Thakery, a man balancing his addictions with his ambition for medical discover as he takes up the position of Cheif Surgeon at the Knickerbocker hospital. The troubled doctor dives into the unknown as he struggles with the limitations of medical understanding and practices while trying to minimize death rates. This Steven Soderbergh drama shows the dismal reality that was the dawn of modern medical practices. Depicting scenes with natural lighting and portraying graphic surgical procedures, The Knick is a medical drama set in a period rarely tackled and stands out amongst all other dramas on this list.
With a precise combination of mystery, methodology, and character studies, this multi-Emmy-winning series kept fans coming back to follow the genius doctor through all his highs and lows. To this day, it’s one of the most well-regarded medical dramas to ever hit television. Dr. Gregory House is an antisocial, but wildly smart doctor with a crippled leg and an opioid addiction. When not focusing on medical mysteries, the show also explores House’s personal life, from his addiction, to his relationships with his co-workers, and to his interesting, and oftentimes hilarious interactions with his patients of differing personalities. House is a drama that always keeps them guessing.
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