Best TV shows about doctors

Written by:
June 18, 2018

Best TV shows about doctors

Doctors have been a staple on televisions across America since the premiere of "City Hospital," the very first TV medical drama way back in 1951. Whether one's favorite TV doctor is House, Meredith Grey, or Doogie Howser, M.D., the medical world has always been a perfect subject for television because the stakes are literally life and death. Great drama—and comedy—can also be found in medical show episodes thanks to a heavy emphasis on the doctors' personal lives outside of their scrubs. With such high stakes and an inside peek behind the ER curtain, it's no wonder television fans get attached to TV doctors.

With over 65 years of medical-based programs in television history, Stacker was able to determine the 30 best shows by tracking the average IMDb user ratings and number of votes per show, only including shows with more than 5,000 votes. The higher the show's rating, the higher its ranking on this list. Follow along as Stacker goes from big city emergency rooms to pill-popping nurses, to ornery doctors with more trouble at home than with their patients.

RELATED: Ranking the best M*A*S*H episodes of all time

#30. A Gifted Man

IMDb rating: 7.0
IMDb votes: 6,959
Typical episode length: 45 min
Years active: 2011–2012

This hour-long drama only lasted one season on CBS with heartthrob Patrick Wilson (“Watchmen,” “Fargo”) playing the lead character. The “Gifted Man” is a self-absorbed surgeon who’s visited by the ghost of his ex-wife and decides to turn his attention to a free medical clinic helping those in need. Canceled after only 16 episodes, Wilson didn’t make many friends at the network after tweeting about his disappointment in the show.

#29. Crossing Jordan

IMDb rating: 7.0
IMDb votes: 8,948
Typical episode length: 60 min
Years active: 2001–2007

“Crossing Jordan” fans were treated to 117 episodes of the medical crime drama set in Boston. Instead of focusing on traditional doctors, the show followed a forensic pathologist (Jill Hennessy) in the Boston Medical Examiner’s Office as she solved crimes through her medical investigations. “Crossing Jordan” also launched the career of Kathryn Hahn (“Bad Moms,” “Transparent”) who played grief counselor Lily Lebowski.

#28. Body of Proof

IMDb rating: 7.1
IMDb votes: 13,178
Typical episode length: 60 min
Years active: 2011–2013

Another show that crosses medicine and crime in the medical examiner’s office, “Body of Proof” starred Dana Delany and Jeri Ryan as medical examiners in Philadelphia—although the show was actually shot in Rhode Island for its first season and Los Angeles for seasons two and three. After 42 episodes, ABC canceled the show in 2013.  

#27. The Night Shift

IMDb rating: 7.3
IMDb votes: 8,723
Typical episode length: 42 min
Years active: 2014–2017

Former army doctors worked the overnight shift at a San Antonio emergency room in “The Night Shift,” from creators Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah, who got their start on comedies like “Just Shoot Me!” and “Freaks and Geeks” before crossing over to drama. The show lasted four seasons with a mostly unknown cast—the exception being Scott Wolf—and aired mainly in the summertime when other networks were airing reruns.

#26. Becker

IMDb rating: 7.3
IMDb votes: 10,316
Typical episode length: 30 min
Years active: 1998–2004

Most medical shows are dramas due to the serious nature of most ailments, but "Becker" went a different route as a multi-camera sitcom about a surly doctor who runs a clinic in New York City. Starring Ted Danson of "Cheers" fame as the titular doc, "Becker" picked up Emmy and Golden Globe nominations en route to 129 episodes over six seasons.

#25. The Mindy Project

IMDb rating: 7.4
IMDb votes: 25,694
Typical episode length: 30 min
Years active: 2012–2017

Mindy Kaling got her start as a writer and cast member of NBC’s “The Office,” but made the transition to lead actress in this self-titled show about the very personal life of an obstetrician/gynecologist. The show ran for three seasons on Fox before moving to HuluKaling’s late mother was actually an OB/GYN in real life.

#24. Chicago Med

IMDb rating: 7.5
IMDb votes: 8,349
Typical episode length: 43 min
Years active: 2015–Present

The third tent pole in Dick Wolf’s “Chicago” franchise—“Fire” and “P.D.” are the first two—“Chicago Med” explores familiar terrain at a fictional emergency room in Chicago, just like ‘90s mega-hits “ER” and “Chicago Hope.” The mostly ensemble cast features a few big names: Oliver Platt as the chief of the psychiatry department and S. Epatha Merkerson as the chief administrator of the hospital. Now heading into its fourth season, “Chicago Med” moves to Wednesdays on NBC’s fall schedule.

#23. Saving Hope

IMDb rating: 7.6
IMDb votes: 5,498
Typical episode length: 43 min
Years active: 2012–Present

Not to be confused with zany sitcom “Raising Hope,” this supernatural medical drama starring Erica Durance revolved around a surgeon hoping that her comatose fiance, who is also a doctor, will recover at the Toronto hospital where she works. It originally aired in Canada on CTV and in the U.S. on NBC, but the American network chose to only air the first season while Canadian audiences were able to tune in for the entire 85-episode run of the series.

#22. Emily Owens M.D.

IMDb rating: 7.6
IMDb votes: 6,052
Typical episode length: 43 min
Years active: 2012–2013

With only 13 episodes total, the CW’s “Emily Owens M.D.” was short-lived, but well-liked among its fans, as evidenced by the high audience score on IMDb. As a more dramatic version of “Scrubs,” the show chronicled an intern—not an internist—in a big hospital learning that the professional world isn’t all that different from high school. The lead was Mamie Gummer, a Northwestern University graduate who also happens to be Meryl Streep’s daughter.


#21. Grey's Anatomy

IMDb rating: 7.6
IMDb votes: 192,865
Typical episode length: 41 min
Years active: 2005–Present

One of the longest-running medical shows on television started during the George W. Bush years and continues into its 15th season this fall. Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, Sandra Oh, and Katherine Heigl were stars from the first seasons, but now only Pompeo remains in a revamped cast. The show is set in Seattle at the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital and details the private lives of the doctors who work there and their intersecting dramas. Originally hailed as a triumph of diversity, "Grey's Anatomy" has won Emmys, Golden Globes, and all kinds of other awards.

#20. Rush

IMDb rating: 7.7
IMDb votes: 5,021
Typical episode length: 44 min
Years active: 2014

Rush” aired on USA for just 10 episodes in 2014. The show was about a concierge doctor who conducts his business outside of the traditional medical world for clients that need absolute discretion and pay in cash. “Rush” starred Tom Ellis, a Welsh actor who developed an American accent to cover up his native tongue and went on to star in the show “Lucifer.”

#19. Nurse Jackie

IMDb rating: 7.7
IMDb votes: 21,808
Typical episode length: 27 min
Years active: 2009–2015

Edie Falco followed up her Emmy-winning performance in “The Sopranos” with this Emmy-winning performance in “Nurse Jackie.” The title character in the show is addicted to pain pills and trying to keep her life in balance as she works at a New York City hospital. Showtime aired the show for seven seasons and the premium cable home allowed for a much more R-rated experience than a traditional network medical drama would allow.

#18. ER

IMDb rating: 7.7
IMDb votes: 44,268
Typical episode length: 44 min
Years active: 1994–2009

As one of the most successful medical shows in TV history, “ER” had an incredible 331-episode run over 15 seasons. The show allowed George Clooney to transform from ensemble TV actor to major film star while other actors like Julianna Margulies and Maura Tierney used the show as a launchpad for their own starring roles in other television shows. Novelist Michael Crichton’s premise was simple: the inner workings of an emergency room in Chicago, along with the inner lives of all the staff who work there. The show was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series at the Emmys seven years in a row and won the award once.

#17. Nip/Tuck

IMDb rating: 7.7
IMDb votes: 49,512
Typical episode length: 44 min
Years active: 2003–2010

Another basic cable medical drama hit, FX’s “Nip/Tuck” shined a light on the salacious world of plastic surgery. Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon played the controversial plastic surgeons for 100 episodes. Creator Ryan Murphy went on to major success with other shows like “Glee” and “American Horror Story.”

#16. Sirens

IMDb rating: 7.8
IMDb votes: 5,172
Typical episode length: 22 min
Years active: 2014–2015

"Sirens" on the USA Network was actually an adaptation of a BBC show of the same name. It eschews the traditional focus on doctors in medical shows and instead pays attention to the ambulance drivers who get patients to the hospital. As a half-hour show, "Sirens" is the rare medical show that qualifies as a comedy.

#15. Childrens Hospital

IMDb rating: 7.8
IMDb votes: 6,161
Typical episode length: 11 min
Years active: 2008–2016

Another medical comedy, “Childrens Hospital” exists in a world all its own, thanks to its off-kilter 11-minute episodes on Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” sub-network. The show is a parody of most of the other shows on this list and stars former “Daily Show” correspondent Rob Corddry as a clown-faced doctor in a hospital where the doctors’ sex drives get more attention than the patient’s maladies.

#14. Hart of Dixie

IMDb rating: 7.8
IMDb votes: 38,958
Typical episode length: 60 min
Years active: 2011–2015

Rachel Bilson followed up her success in “The O.C.” with this fish-out-of-water medical comedy-drama on the CW. She plays Dr. Zoe Hart, a New York doctor who moves down to small-town Alabama to take over a medical practice. Over the course of four seasons, the trials and tribulations of small-town life were on full display along with Dr. Hart’s love life.

#13. A Young Doctor's Notebook & Other Stories

IMDb rating: 7.9
IMDb votes: 12,277
Typical episode length: 23 min
Years active: 2012–2013

Only eight episodes exist of this British limited series, but fans went wild for the leading men. Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”) and Daniel Radcliffe (“Harry Potter”) play Dr. Vladimir “Nika” Bomgard at different ages of his career in the small hospital of a remote village during the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War of the early 20th century.

#12. Frasier

IMDb rating: 8.0
IMDb votes: 62,632
Typical episode length: 22 min
Years active: 1993–2004

One of the longest-running spin-offs of all time, Kelsey Grammer’s “Frasier” character originated on “Cheers” and then moved back to Seattle on this sitcom to become the psychiatrist host of a call-in radio show. David Hyde Pierce played Frasier’s sniveling little brother and John Mahoney played their ornery father. The show lasted for a whopping 263 episodes and earned a multitude of major awards

#11. Code Black

IMDb rating: 8.1
IMDb votes: 8,342
Typical episode length: 42 min
Years active: 2015–Present

"Code Black" is named after a documentary of the same name that followed doctors at Los Angeles County Hospital, the busiest emergency room in America. The CBS television version stars Marcia Gay Harden and Luis Guzman at a majorly underfunded ER where the doctors and nurses do the best they can to save the lives of their patients with limited resources. Lasting only three seasons, "Code Black" was sent to the morgue after the 2017–2018 television season.

#10. Doc Martin

IMDb rating: 8.3
IMDb votes: 9,094
Typical episode length: 46 min
Years active: 2004–Present

This British show has been on the air since 2004, but with much shorter seasons than its American counterparts, “Doc Martin” only recently passed 60 episodes. “Doc Martin” is about a big city doctor who moves to a small village in Cornwall after developing a fear of blood. British actor Martin Clunes stars as Doc Martin and recently revealed that Series 9, airing next fall, will be the show’s last run.

#9. Northern Exposure

IMDb rating: 8.3
IMDb votes: 13,150
Typical episode length: 60 min
Years active: 1990–1995

Another tale of a big city drama relocated to a small town, “Northern Exposure” took the serious medical drama genre and added a major dose of quirkiness. Set in fictional Cicely, Alaska, “Northern Exposure” takes a recent graduate of Manhattan’s Columbia University Medical School and sends him to Alaska to work off the tuition assistance he received from the state while in school. Once there, he discovers a small town of wacky people and lots of moose. Rob Morrow starred as Dr. Joel Fleischman for all six seasons as the show amassed Emmys and Golden Globes galore.

#8. Green Wing

IMDb rating: 8.4
IMDb votes: 9,645
Typical episode length: 65 min
Years active: 2004–2007

It only took 18 episodes to turn “Green Wing” into one of the most-loved British comedies of all time. While this BBC Channel 4 hit was technically a TV show about doctors, it didn’t feature any medical issues. Instead, it turned its zany, outlandish tone towards the personal lives of the doctors of East Hampton Hospital whose choices regularly verged on soap opera. The show cleaned up at all the major British TV award shows.

#7. Call the Midwife

IMDb rating: 8.4
IMDb votes: 15,389
Typical episode length: 60 min
Years active: 2012–Present

The BBC has found great success in the medical genre, as evidenced by yet another BBC production landing in the top 10. “Call the Midwife” is a period drama about a group of midwives living in London’s East End in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Legendary British actress Vanessa Redgrave is part of the ensemble cast that has carried the show to 78 episodes and counting.

#6. The Good Doctor

IMDb rating: 8.4
IMDb votes: 28,081
Typical episode length: 41 min
Years active: 2017–Present

British actor Freddie Highmore first caught attention as a child actor in films like "Finding Neverland" and the remake of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," but he's all grown up now and playing an autistic medical savant in "The Good Doctor." Based on a South Korean drama of the same name, this ABC hit follows a traditional medical drama narrative as Highmore's character Dr. Shaun Murphy treats unique cases while traversing the ups and downs of living with autism. "The Good Doctor" starts its second season in the fall.

#5. M*A*S*H

IMDb rating: 8.4
IMDb votes: 43,983
Typical episode length: 25 min
Years active: 1972–1983

M*A*S*H” falls just behind “Frasier” as one of the longest-running sitcoms about doctors with 251 episodes. The show premiered in 1972 as an adaptation of the popular movie about a ragtag U.S. Army medical unit in the Korean War—M*A*S*H stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Repeatedly nominated for Golden Globes and Emmys, M*A*S*H elicited masterful performances from Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, and Jamie Farr and did something no other show was able to accomplish: it made war funny.

#4. Scrubs

IMDb rating: 8.4
IMDb votes: 214,952
Typical episode length: 22 min
Years active: 2001–2010

While most medical shows depict doctors as competent professionals, “Scrubs” humanized the profession with both silly and poignant stories of young doctors learning on the job and growing into the kind of professional confidence that only comes from experience. Main cast members Zach Braff, Donald Faison, and Sarah Chalke started the series as medical interns under the tutelage of John C. McGinley’s Dr. Perry Cox before climbing the hospital hierarchy. A regular contender at the Emmys, Scrubs lasted for nine seasons and 182 episodes, but the last season was essentially a spin-off when the show moved from NBC to ABC and featured the main cast as teachers at a medical school.

#3. The Knick

IMDb rating: 8.5
IMDb votes: 36,643
Typical episode length: 58 min
Years active: 2014–2015

Movie star Clive Owen crossed over to the small screen in this period drama about the burgeoning medical field in New York in 1900 where modern medicine has not yet advanced far enough to save lives on a regular basis. Owen plays Dr. Jack Thackery, a drug addict and surgeon at the fictional Knickerbocker Hospital. Directed by popular film director Steven Soderbergh, “The Knick” only lasted for two seasons despite having such an impressive IMDb audience rating.

#2. Hannibal

IMDb rating: 8.6
IMDb votes: 189,951
Typical episode length: 44 min
Years active: 2013–2015

While “Hannibal” is technically a TV show about a doctor, it’s most certainly not a medical drama. Instead, it’s a show about an FBI profiler who forms a relationship with a forensic psychiatrist who’s secretly a serial killer and a cannibal. The character of Hannibal Lecter actually originated in novels by Thomas Harris and found more popular acclaim in movies like the Oscar-winning “The Silence of the Lambs.” This television adaptation starred Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy and ran for 39 episodes over three seasons.

#1. House

IMDb rating: 8.8
IMDb votes: 353,183
Typical episode length: 44 min
Years active: 2004–2012

Hugh Laurie had a long career in England before crossing the Atlantic to become the iconic Dr. Gregory House on "House." The title character of the show is both antisocial and anti-normal in his methods as he diagnoses rare diseases by any means possible. Laurie was nominated for six Golden Globes and six Emmys for his work as House over the eight-season duration of the series.

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