Our Favorite Fictional Hospital Teams
Through triumphs and troubles, medical shows definitely tug at our heartstrings. I don't know a single person who hasn't watched and loved one at some point. There's a lot of reason why these shows are so popular: medical miracles, heart-wrenching, split-second, life-or-death decisions, inter-hospital hanky-panky, strange exotic diseases, and heroic sacrifices.
Why do we love them? My personal theory is that it gives us an inside look into a world that we see very few parts of. Additionally, sickness is a strange pseudo-taboo in our culture. We're not normally allowed to be a fly on the wall in the private lives of patients sitting in hospital beds. Medical dramas enable us to get a very intimate look into the daily lives of health-care workers. The foundation of any good medical drama is always the medical team we follow every episode. Whether they're hooking up, falling out, teaming up, or just joking with each other, the true mark of a great medical show is the dynamic within the medical team. We like to see their relationships develop and their skills be challenged. We cheer them on, cry with them when they fail, and miss them when they move on.
Here's a list of the seven most-loved hospital teams ever to grace prime-time television:
What can I say about ER? It's the quintessential medical drama depicting daily life for a group of emergency room doctors in Chicago. In fact, it was so popular that you can't mention medical dramas without it. It ran for an incredible 15 seasons, from 1994 until 2009. Some of what made this show so popular was its realistic approach to the medical team. The original team, Dr. Mark Green, Dr. Susan Lewis, med student Noah Wyle, Dr. Peter Benton, and Dr. Doug Ross (played by a younger George Clooney), would all eventually take their final bow and be replaced by new faces, new personalities, and new experiences, making it feel like the audience was really experiencing the normal passage of time for one emergency room team. The team grappled with many current sociopolitical hot topics, like HIV/AIDS, organ transplants, mental illness, euthanasia, human trafficking, and racism, which made their struggles relatable.
Sometimes, the mark of a great medical team is when it's dysfunctional. In the history of medical drama, there will probably never be a character more dysfunctional than Dr. Gregory House. Rude, unsympathetic, and with positively no bedside manner, Dr. House's interactions with his initial team, Dr. Eric Foreman, Dr. Robert Chase, and Dr. Allison Cameron, completely transformed the way we loved medical dramas. Dr. House embodies everything a doctor shouldn't be, including an addict and a rule-breaker, but through his vices, not only did he challenge his team to become better doctors, but he solved some of the strangest and most interesting medical cases ever portrayed on a medical drama. Not only that, but House as a show challenged the perception that all patients are victims and showed that many people do, in fact, lie to their doctors because everyone has something to hide. All of the members of Dr. House's team were deeply human, layered with realistic problems and flaws (that Dr. House loved to remind them about). Each of them were pushed to the absolute breaking point and beyond, even as the team would change over the course of the show's eight-season run.
Scrubs is a medical comedy that approached the high-minded, ultra-intellectual medical drama and promptly raspberried in its face. Irreverent, zany, and downright hilarious, Scrubs' nine-season run followed the antics of Dr. John "J.D." Dorian, his best friend, Dr. Christopher Turk, overachieving Dr. Elliot Reid, and their superiors: the rude, loveable, and infinitely quotable Dr. Perry Cox and corrupt Dr. Bob Kelso. The show is funny and engaging because we often get J.D.'s perspective firsthand, including his antics with "The Janitor" and his repeated and awkward attempts at hooking up with his classmate and eventually co-worker Dr. Reid. The team is personable and fun, and as the show develops, we watch J.D. and his team go from being medical interns to becoming full-fledged doctors and finally becoming comfortable and successful members of the hospital staff. We share their worries, laugh with them, and watch their lives unfold before them, like when Dr. Turk asks out nurse Laverne Roberts for the first time. The show has a sense of completeness to it, a beginning and an end with memorable team members that make the whole journey fun.
Two words: McDreamy and McSteamy. There are a lot of things to love about Grey's Anatomy, a medical drama about five surgical interns and their supervisors. I guarantee that the majority of the female viewers (and maybe some of the fellas) tune in to look at Dr. Derek Shepherd and Dr. Mark Sloan. With two Golden Globe awards in 11 seasons and counting, Grey's Anatomy has garnered critical acclaim in both acting and show quality. The show is narrated by main character Dr. Meredith Grey, with her initial voice-over providing some insight into the theme of that episode. The members of this surgical team are all working toward completing their studies and becoming a resident at a higher level in the surgical field. Unlike most of the other medical shows, where the focus is exclusively on the medical environment, Grey's Anatomy is also equally if not more focused on the personal lives of the doctors, often highlighting the clash between the team's professional aspirations and their personal needs or desires. Poignant, deep, and well-acted, Grey's Anatomy remains one of the most popular shows airing currently.
Definitely a cult classic for any medical-drama-lover, M*A*S*H is a TV series that follows the exploits of three army doctors. Initially, the show aired as a spin-off of a feature length film of the same name. One of the best aspects of the show is that episodes in the early seasons of M*A*S*H are often based on true accounts of real MASH surgeons who were interviewed by the production team. The show follows Capt. Benjamin Franklin Pierce and the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. Despite the bleakness of wartime, the members of the medical team often resorted to practical jokes and light-hearted revenge to make the strains of being a wartime doctor bearable. Considered one of the best television shows of all time, M*A*S*H was an offbeat take on the medical show. Portraying a hospital and doctors outside of their usual element in a dramatic, highly controversial war, forced to deal with a variety of circumstances that are simply beyond their control, the show's 11-season run focused on showing the medical team's ability to come together during difficult times.
Another break from the traditional medical drama, Nurse Jackie forgoes focusing on doctors altogether and instead focuses on the life of a nurse struggling with an addiction to drugs, a stressful job at a bustling New York City hospital, and a whole host of personal dramas. Darkly satirical, with aspects of both comedy and drama, Jackie's struggle with prescription drugs like Vicodin, Adderal, Percoset, Xanax, and Oxycontin touches on a very sensitive and very real problem. Jackie's interactions with other members of the medical team (like best friend Dr. Eleanor O' Hara) and her difficulties with balancing her addiction and the pressures of a job also touch on the problem of burnout within the medical community and the nursing shortage by making Jackie's struggles very present and real to the show's viewers.
If ER, House, and Grey's Anatomy are the peaks of medical drama, then Children's Hospital is the trough of medical parody. Children's Hospital is a spot-on satire of the typical medical drama, complete with overly zealous deep-voiced narration and blatantly obvious similarities between the personal problems of the doctors and the issues afflicting their patients. The show centers around Dr. Blake Downs and his team of weirdoes and misfits. Case in point: Dr. Downs wears frightening clown makeup because he believes in the "healing power of laughter" in order to help cure sick children (Patch Adams parody, anyone?). Found in the sordid and often unbelievably funny personal lives of the other members of his medical team is medical show parody gold that keeps dishing out farce after hysterical farce.
Above all, medical dramas and all of the medical teams that we've come to know and love on TV over the years both entertain and enlighten us. They both show us tragedy and give us hope, revealing those dark things about ourselves that we're often too afraid to face. Each of these medical teams strike a chord with their viewers for no other reason than that they portray fallible, imperfect human beings desperately trying to make a difference in an often unfair, random, and hostile world. There is something of that struggle in every life, which is what I believe makes them deeply resonate with the average TV viewer.
Photo by Shahzada Hatim & Rob Boudon