What is it that draws us to medical dramas? Is it the sense of urgency whenever we’re hooked to watching doctors frantically try and save someone’s life? Are the smokey romances that spark up between co-workers?
Whatever the case is, medical dramas have been a reliable staple on television for decades, and if you need to have your fix on hospital drama, here are some of the best medical dramas that will surely keep you talking for days to come.
Updated on September 15, 2023, by Jessie Nguyen:
The trend of medical dramas continues to be strong among viewers. These shows offer a captivating blend of drama, suspense, and human emotion, making them a perennial favorite. Moreover, shows like Grey’s Anatomy, New Amsterdam, and Transplant not only provide an exciting look into the world of healthcare but also explore personal and societal issues, adding depth to the genre.
16 ‘St. Elsewhere’ (1982 – 1988)
There are many contenders for the title “Best Drama of the 80s,” and St. Elsewhere should be included in the chat. This medical drama, set in a rundown Boston hospital featuring a team of teaching doctors working miracles, was a tear-jerker every single week.
St. Elsewhere is one of the first shows to explore the personal and professional lives of healthcare workers in a realistic and nuanced way. The show is also unafraid to address controversial topics and explore issues of race, gender, and sexuality. St. Elsewhere was a groundbreaking medical show that paved the way for many of the medical dramas that followed.
Watch on Hulu
15 ‘Doogie Howser, M.D.’ (1989 – 1993)
Imagine walking into a hospital, and the doctor treating you has to also study for a math test at his high school the next morning. That was the universe in which Doogie Howser, M.D. operated, which made a star out of Neil Patrick Harris as a gifted 14-year-old who became the youngest licensed doctor in America.
As unrealistic as that is, folks didn’t tune into Doogie Howser, M.D. week after week to experience the relatable; they wanted to see a kid who was far away from legally buying beer, prescribing drugs to patients. Moreover, the show’s use of a teenage doctor added a fresh perspective to the medical drama genre, and its blend of humor and drama made it a fan favorite. The show undeniably remains a classic.
Watch on Disney+
14 ‘Chicago Hope’ (1994 – 2000)
The grumblings can be heard from the masses; “Why isn’t Chicago Med listed here?” Well, because, as good as that medical drama is, once you’ve seen Chicago Hope, its exclusion will be better understood.
This medical drama focused on doctors in a private hospital, who worked daily miracles to save and protect the patients that were in their care. Overshadowed by the NBC juggernaut that was ER, Chicago Hope, nevertheless, carved out its audience, and its spot in medical drama lore.
13 ‘Saving Hope’ (2012 – 2019)
Set in Hope Zion Hospital, Saving Hope follows Dr. Alex Reid, Chief of Surgery (Erica Durance), and her colleagues as they navigate the challenging world of medicine.
Unlike other typical medical dramas, Saving Hope is beloved because of its perfect blend of medicine and the supernatural. Dr. Reid’s fiancé, Dr. Charlie Harris (Michael Shanks), ends up in a coma and roams the hospital as a spirit, providing a unique and compelling twist. Moreover, the show skillfully combines complex medical cases with touching human stories and a sprinkle of the supernatural.
Watch on Hulu
12 ‘New Amsterdam’ (2018 – 2023)
New Amsterdam follows the charismatic Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) as he takes over as medical director at New Amsterdam Hospital. The doctors and employees are unsure of his plans to eliminate the red tape in order to give top-notch care, despite his intransigence.
What makes New Amsterdam an exceptional medical show is its relentless commitment to addressing real-world healthcare issues. It tackles the bureaucratic red tape and challenges of providing quality healthcare head-on. Moreover, the characters are brilliantly portrayed, and the show’s upbeat spirit never wavers, even when tackling tough topics.
Watch on Fubo
11 ‘The Resident’ (2018 – 2023)
The Resident follows the titular character, Conrad Hawkins (Matt Czuchry), and the lives of doctors and nurses at Chastain Park Memorial Hospital, a fictional hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. The show explores the personal and professional lives of its characters, as they navigate the complex and often corrupt world of modern medicine.
The Resident has received accolades for its realistic portrayal of the healthcare sector and for not being afraid to address contentious subjects. It also received appreciation for its strong female leads and willingness to tackle racial and social justice concerns. Moreover, the combination of strong acting, melodramatic writing, and hospital horror in this show might appeal to that sizable audience. However, it was canceled after 6 six seasons by Fox.
Watch on Hulu
10 ‘Transplant’ (2020)
Transplant revolves around Dr. Bashir “Bash” Hamed (Hamza Haq), a talented Syrian doctor who flees his homeland and starts anew in Canada, working at the fictional York Memorial Hospital in Toronto.
The show is well-received due to its unique perspective on the medical profession. Transplant also showcases the resilience of immigrants, bringing diverse backgrounds and experiences into the hospital setting. Additionally, the show combines pulse-pounding medical emergencies with heartwarming human connections, all wrapped up in a thrilling narrative. It’s a medical miracle that’ll have viewers on the edge of their seats, and that’s why it’s a must-watch for any medical drama enthusiast!
9 ‘Good Sam’ (2022)
Good Sam follows the life of the titular character, Dr. Sam Griffith (Sophia Bush), who, after her renowned boss enters a coma, succeeds in her new leadership position as chief of surgery. However, Sam is tasked with managing the pompous physician who never recognized her exceptional talent when her former boss demands to resume his job months later.
The show directly tackles a wide range of medical issues, from rare diseases to ethical dilemmas, and highlights the importance of empathy and human connection in healthcare. In addition to delving into the inner lives of its protagonists, Good Sam offers viewers a look into the difficulties experienced by medical workers both within and outside of hospitals. This is why it’s disappointing that Good Sam was canceled after just one season.
8 ‘The Good Doctor’ (2017 – )
The Good Doctor follows Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore), a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome, as he navigates his personal and professional life at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital. It also examines the difficulties Dr. Murphy encounters as he tries to navigate the challenging path of a surgeon alongside his coworkers and patients, while also coping with his own issues.
The show beautifully combines compelling storytelling with accurate medical information and a diverse cast of characters. Additionally, The Good Doctor depicts nuanced takes on difficult medical problems and moral conundrums while also delving into the private lives and relationships of its protagonists.
Watch on Hulu
7 ‘Private Practice’ (2007 – 2013)
What happens when you leave a popular hospital in Seattle to set up your medical practice in Los Angeles? You get Private Practice, which continued showrunner Shonda Rhimes’ winning streak of producing compelling medical dramas.
The spin-off of Grey’s Anatomy, this series follows Dr. Addison Montgomery’s (Kate Walsh) journey to Hollywood, where a whole different set of challenges awaited her. Running for six seasons, Private Practice may seem like a lesser-known series in Shondaland’s empire, but it still holds as one of the best as it also brings the perfect blend of drama and romance that once made Grey’s Anatomy‘s name.
Watch on Hulu
6 ‘Scrubs’ (2001 – 2010)
Before it jumped the shark toward the end of its run, Scrubs was NBC’s preeminent medical dramedy in the early 2000s. Starring Zach Braff and Donald Faison, who now have a Scrubs podcast., the series follows a group of medical interns at Sacred Heart Hospital, and in its early days, threaded the needle perfectly between comedy and drama.
The formula grew stale by the end of its run, but watching Scrubs is the perfect time capsule to what medical dramas were like at the turn of the century. The show is a unique and innovative show that blends comedy and drama to create a one-of-a-kind viewing experience. Its use of humor also adds a fresh perspective to the medical genre and serious life-and-death issues.
Watch on Hulu
5 ‘Nurse Jackie’ (2009 – 2015)
Do you remember Nurse Jackie? Odds are, younger viewers who grew up in the streaming universe probably wouldn’t know what we’re talking about. However, during its seven-season run on Showtime, Nurse Jackie was a must-watch for medical drama lovers.
There was nothing out of the ordinary for the series; just a show that focused on an emergency department nurse juggling the day-to-day expectations and grind of the ER. Well-received by critics and fans alike, Nurse Jackie is a series that deserves a revival.
4 ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ (2005 – )
Some will look at Grey’s Anatomy and see a “Simpsons Problem.” It’s valid to say that this legacy medical drama has gone on a bit past its shelf life; but in its prime, Grey’s Anatomy was one of, if not the premiere medical series on TV.
The cast was terrific, the writing was great, and there wasn’t a single week when you didn’t hear one person talk about how great this show was. The series launched showrunner Shonda Rhimes’ career, and while it’s jumped the shark, Grey’s Anatomy has some of the most anxiety-inducing episodes and is still one of the best medical dramas ever produced.
Watch on Hulu
3 ‘ER’ (1994 – 2009)
While Grey’s Anatomy has anointed itself as one of the longest-running medical dramas in television history, it wouldn’t have largely been possible if it wasn’t for the booming success of ER in the 90s. Sure, St. Elsewhere was one of the better dramas of the 80s, but ER made the medical drama a blockbuster sub-genre.
The cast was impeccable, and the drama was top-notch. ER did get stale toward its end (especially compared to the then-fresh Grey’s Anatomy), but doesn’t, by any means, tarnish the drama that paved the way for the Dr. McDreamys and Houses of the medical drama universe.
Watch on Hulu
2 ‘M*A*S*H’ (1972 – 1983)
There are no other words to say other than the fact that M*A*S*H was a phenomenon during its 11-season run on CBS. One of the rare TV shows at the time to be adapted from a movie, M*A*S*H followed a medical unit during the Korean War.
While the movie was a lot darker in its comedic tone than its television predecessor, the show was still seen as a cultural flashpoint during its run and a classic show that revolutionized the genre. Also, the series finale is one of the more heartbreaking episodes ever produced.
Watch on Hulu
1 ‘House’ (2004 – 2012)
Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) was full of himself, but he earned it with the medical gifts that he possessed. When House, which explores the life of the brilliant but troubled titular doctor, premiered on Fox in 2004, it seemed like a medical drama for folks who were tired of the overwrought plotlines that were starting to plague ER.
Over its seven seasons on the air, House emerged as a great drama on its own, with narcissistic comedic flair from Dr. House thrown into the mix. House‘s unconventional methods and abrasive personality add a unique perspective to the medical drama genre, and its complex characters make fans cannot help but root for them.
Watch on Prime Video
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