Over the years, the television landscape has seen plenty of medical series come and go, many of which have enjoyed huge success. Hospital-based stories seem to work in a range of formats, from sit-com-esque style webisodes to longer, more dramatic and intense episodes. In this article, The Bubble Television prescribes five very different medical dramas that you’d be mad to miss.
This medical comedy-drama lasted eight fantastic, and one disappointing, seasons which pushed the format of medical dramas in its combination of bittersweet tales of patients, surreal vignettes and slapstick humour. Narrated by the central ‘scrub’, JD Dorian, the series detailed its protagonist’s adapting and moving relationships with his co-workers and patients in a way that was moving and always felt fresh. A real BROTP, alongside one of the most complex and hilarious mentor-mentee relationships on television, moves the series away from comedic tropes into a territory that has enduring comedic value whilst retaining a real sense of human empathy and managed to elicit a few tears from this reviewer on the way. Never boring, never predictable, and never taking itself too seriously, the series remains an endearing treat to this day.
The cornerstone in television powerhouse Shonda Rhimes’ career, Grey’s is a multi-Emmy award winning drama that is currently in its twelfth season, with no signs of stopping any time soon. The series initially followed five surgical interns as they struggled to balance work and life in a brutally demanding specialism, but now has a varied and diverse main cast of doctors at all levels of their careers. Based at ‘Seattle-Grace-Mercy-Death’ hospital (you’ll get it once you’ve watched it), Grey’s has a penchant for dramatic monologues, elevator love scenes, and a particularly ruthless attitude to killing off its beloved characters. Relationships between characters are utterly believable and relatable, whilst the main character, Meredith Grey, is one of the most realistic portrayals of a professional woman on TV. A stellar soundtrack that has now changed certain songs forever – see: Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars for one – helps the show pack an emotional punch that has ensured its long-running success with viewers, a success than even spawned a spin-off, LA-based Private Practice (which you should also watch). Plus, if you haven’t heard of McDreamy, go and look him up.
If you ever wanted to experience the stress, despair and everyday sweetness of an underfunded, overpacked emergency room in Chicago, you should watch E.R.. Even if you didn’t, you should watch E.R., as the television stalwart is an exciting, clever and deeply human look into the lives of doctors as they deal with life and death in a fast-paced and relentless emergency room. Also, it launched the career of George Clooney. And it’s the most nominated drama program ever, which should give you an idea of just how good it is. The series explores the chaos and trauma in the lives of its constantly evolving characters, who are carefully and emotively drawn, with viewers responding to their romances, their medical successes, and their own deeply personal struggles: at its heyday, E.R.’s seminal season two episode ‘Hell and High Water’ was watched by 48 million viewers. Committed to realism (despite one too many helicopter crashes as the show went on), the series was received as a startlingly frank and urgent depiction of what it is to hold a life in your hands. Consistently placed on ‘Best TV Show Ever’ lists, E.R. is practically a television institution that still resonates nearly twenty five years after its pilot episode.
Centred on potentially the most dislikeable and difficult protagonists of all shows on this list, House is an intriguing and refreshing take on the medical drama. Hugh Laurie stars as Doctor Gregory House, the ingenious Head of Diagnostic Medicine at a New Jersey hospital whose old leg injury has induced an addiction to narcotics. Whilst the show has a cast of fascinating characters, it is the titular doctor who really separates the show from other medical procedurals, as his lack of sympathy and narcissism creates a complex and anti-heroic figure who is utterly captivating to watch. Laurie, quite rightly, received multiple awards for his performance, including two Golden Globes and six Emmy nominations. Volatile and boundary-pushing, the series is a master class in creating a flawed and entirely electric character.
The Mindy Project
Created by The Office’s Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Project is a hilarious, rom-com-esque style sitcom that follows the romantic and professional escapades of its protagonist, Mindy. Kaling’s gift for comedy that is also deeply touching (she was the writer of the best Pam-Jim episodes in The Office) is demonstrated in full effect as she paints the picture of an OBGYN clinic in New York with humour and humanity. The central relationship is straight out of a Nora Ephron film, with Mindy’s obsession with rom-coms, specifically When Harry Met Sally hindering her ability to sustain a real relationship. Nonetheless, the show is another strong depiction of a female professional who stands her own against her male co-workers. The show boasts affecting performances from its leads, as Mindy and her no-nonsense, romantically inept co-worker Danny (Chris Messina) create a story that is at once nonsense and moving. Meanwhile, the cast is littered with comedy gems in Ike Barinholtz as the hapless male nurse and Adam Pally of Happy Endings fame, whilst guest stars from the world of comedy show up time and time again: Seth Meyers, Ed Helms, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anna Gunn have all starred. The Mindy Project cleverly combines professional and romantic lives with remarkable ease, and is a charming watch.