Top 5 Medical Shows of All Time?


Writing about The Knick for my last post had me thinking about other entertaining medical TV shows. Every new TV season brings a fresh crop of small screen physicians. Recently, a rash of doc shows have come and gone like transitory viral infections. In the past year, Do No Harm left after two episodes, Black Box eliminated after one season, as was Sanjay Gupta’s misplaced Monday Mornings. But some stay longer, and help us laugh, and perhaps mirror some of the joy and compassion in what we do every day.

I enjoy the ones that harbor the right mix of pathos and humor. The actual soap operas, General Hospital, and the ones that seem like soap operas, Grey’s Anatomy, I couldn’t bear to put on the list. Cinemax’s The Knick is too new to join the ranks. Last week was only the 5th episode. Yet, with every corpse for sale, every syphilitic storyline (aortic aneurysm, lost nose), it becomes a worthwhile infection as it nails turn of the 20th century medicine. The surgical gloves missing since the first episode may very well appear soon, as Algernon had a brief encounter with the head of a rubber tree farm, similar to Halsted’s actual meeting with Goodyear in the 1890s.

Shows from the classic comedy gem The Cosby Show to the modern comedy The Mindy Project, have physician leads, but medicine takes a backseat to the story lines. Can’t vote for them.

There’s a swath I watched minimally, so clearly a bias to this list. Quincy, M.E., Dr. Kildare (the launch pad for Richard Chamberlain), and Marcus Welby, M.D. are classics, but before my time. Chicago Hope, Nip/Tuck and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, though popular, are off my list. I did enjoy the first season of Royal Pains, but I can’t pull for a show about concierge medicine.

Okay, enough of a differential diagnosis. House may have more to add to the list, but he didn’t make this one.

Top 5 MEDICAL TV Shows of all time… according to Messler.
(Click the square in the bottom right hand corner of the box to expand the slideshow.)

Jordan Messler

Jordan is a hospitalist at Morton Plant Hospitalists in Clearwater, Florida. He currently chairs SHM’s Quality and Patient Safety Committee. In addition, he’s been active in several SHM mentoring programs, most recently with Project BOOST and Glycemic Control. He went to medical school at University of South Florida, in Tampa, and completed his residency at Emory University.

He recognizes the challenges of working in a hospital that lines the intracostal waterways of a spring break mecca. Requests that if you want to be selected as a mentored site, you will have a similar location with palm trees and coastline nearby. He tries to find time to sit on the beach with his family to escape the hospital’s miasma. While there, he looks forward to reading about the history of hospitals/medicine, and how it relates to quality (Anti-UpToDate reading material). But inevitably will get a five year old dumping sand on him, and then has to explain why she is buried up to her neck.


  1. Barry on September 24, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    You forgot the all-time favorite, MASH with Alan Alda. Having served in the Air Force Medical Corp for five years, it gave me an appreciation of how to make do with what you have. Medicine has not changed. Yes Docs have more knowledge and gadgets today, but you are forced to make do with what current information you have in order to make medical decisions as well as with applications and tools that are available at the time of need.

  2. JAMES O'CALLAGHAN on September 25, 2014 at 2:02 am

    Oh! I like #1 thru 4…but yes, I had no idea about #5

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