Who else cannot bypass a medical soap opera?
I’ve been obsessed with this genre since ER debuted September 19, 1994. In case you may also have healthcare-TVitis and not know it yet, here are my top three gurney forward shows in chronological order, with casting, outlandish plots and favourite things put under my microscope.
Stream at will (depending on your country) to consume massive amounts of medical jargon spouted by very good looking people. Their bad choices, both personally and professionally, are very enjoyable because they’re not happening to you. You become so attached to this alternate, disinfected universe! And by you, of course, I mean me.
ER is the most award worthy hospital drama with 124 Emmy nominations and 23 wins in its 15-season run. In Canada, it just appeared on Prime, and I texted all my friends! I did not care that no one texted me back!
Rewatching this has been really enjoyable. You get young(er) George Clooney as way too handsome Dr. Doug Ross with so much hair, and Julianna Marguiles!
It was pioneer TV because of the number of characters and the complicated dialogue, not to mention the tasteful gore. It had a multicultural cast, and you really get involved in the grittiness of Chicago’s County General, a publicly funded hospital… and the affairs. A lot of affairs.
Doug and Carol are the best, as well as the great writing for strong female characters, which was the norm on ER. Main characters come and go, having dated most of the other main characters, and the storylines get more inventive – helicopters come to mind – because 15 seasons is a lot of episodes for anyone to write.
This is the hospital drama with gravitas, meaning more medicine than fooling around. Ish. I definitely “learned” how to crashcart a patient from this show. Choose ER if you’re into a serious experience and want to watch George Clooney with his head down for 5 seasons, reading his lines off props. Go, George!
Going into season 19, Grey’s Anatomy is a full on soap opera in scrubs, which are constantly being shed, fyi. It’s a wonder patients ever get seen or treated.
It’s gotten more ridiculous every year, and it is not particularly well written. The plots are often convoluted, reminding me of Moira Rose on Schitt’s Creek and her many Sunrise Bay storylines: “How dare you make me kill my father twice!”
And yet, I am completely up to date because these people have become my dysfunctional family. As such, they don’t make any sense, but I am loyal until the inevitably absurd end.
Why should you care about Grey’s? Because Ellen Pompeo has been Meredith Grey, the lead character, this whole time and in late 2017, became TV’s 20 million dollar woman, the highest paid actress on a primetime drama. Before you think “who deserves THAT?”, this show is a BILLION-dollar franchise for Disney and is still going strong in the ratings. When one woman stands up for herself and salary equality, we all benefit…
My favourite relationship on Grey’s is between Mer and Cristina Yang, played by the incredible Sandra Oh. They’re both top surgeons and each other’s person through the first 10 seasons of, I’m telling you, a LOT. Death things, plane things, killer things… I’m not even exaggerating.
My favourite Cristina to Mer about Derek quote? “Don’t let what he wants eclipse what you need. He’s very dreamy, but he’s not the sun. You are.”
Please begin your residency at Grey’s Anatomy if you enjoy a more over the top experience with emotionally tortured and/or stunted characters who happen to be doctors. There is a good dose of medical intrigue via interesting diseases and surgeries gone awry but only in between on-call room hookups and heartbreak. #sosatisfying
This was my latest must watch when it premiered in 2018, and I loved that first season.
“After becoming the medical director of one of the United States’s oldest public hospitals, Dr. Max Goodwin sets out to reform the institution’s neglected and outdated facilities to treat the patients.”
Max is determined to repair a broken medical system from his top spot on the totem pole. It is a new twist and, taken with a teaspoon of “only on TV,” easy to watch. He makes a handsome, charming crusader in simplified circumstances.
The doctors on his watch have their own personal issues which impact their professional lives, and I got invested. As I do. Helen Sharpe is conflicted about her job and gorgeous. Floyd Reynolds is conflicted about dating outside his race… and gorgeous. You know. Same hospital show rules apply but everyone keeps their clothes on. Mostly.
Lately though, this progressive POV has become too basic, and Max becomes caricature-like. Spoiler alert: In season 4, his goals are global. No baby steps for him. It’s a whole new writers’ room when none was asked for.
While admirable in theory, every ep where he manages to “solve” something like systemic racism by the credits is wildly unrealistic. Hello. And not in a fun, campy Grey’s way. Shockingly, I may bail.
I know. WHAT.
Watch New Amsterdam if you like your doctors to be champions against a corrupt system. It will get more unbelievable though, fyi.
There you have it: my 3 top hospital dramas dissected for you. Since we’re all still on unsure pandemic footing, bingeworthy shows are not to be sneezed at. I hope I’ve helped you decide which one is the most appealing to you because who doesn’t look good in sickly green?
All right, who else loves ER? Grey’s Anatomy? New Amsterdam? All three? Who else has watched every single episode? And who is your favourite doc, couple, convoluted plot point? Are there other medical TV dramas that have captured your attention?