In real life, when you need a doctor to treat you for a disease or an injury you’re suffering from, you want someone who can be your friend as well as your doctor. You want to be on good terms with this person. You want to be able to trust them. But also, you need to know that they know what they’re doing, that they are physically capable of helping you. That’s the most important thing, really, that they are able to treat you. Doctors in the real world can, sadly, be unreliable. Luckily, TV creators have been giving us doctors that we can trust for years. Here are 10 TV doctors we’d be happy to see.
There was a lot of expectation riding on Matt Groening’s second animated series. His first one had been pretty successful – not only was it one of the most consistently high rated shows on television, and not only was it the quintessential tale of the American family, but it was also a pitch perfect satire of every topic under the sun. So, how do you top that? Or where do you even go from there? For Groening, it was a thousand years into the future. His co-creator David X. Cohen had seen human doctors in science fiction like “Bones” McCoy treating aliens like Spock, so he wanted to see an alien doctor treat humans. And that’s where Zoidberg came from. His very conception was a brilliantly inspired comic idea and the execution is fantastic. Billy West’s decision to voice the character with a twinge of a Yiddish accent that was inspired by the actors George Jessel and Lou Jacobi was certainly an interesting and unusual one, and yet somehow it works perfectly. The voice fits the character like a glove. He’s one of the funniest characters on the show – even the incorrect way that he pronounces the word “robot” is hilarious!
Series creator Bill Lawrence took the name of his lead character J.D. from his college buddy Dr. Jonathan Doris, who served as the medical advisor for the show. J.D. actually stands for John Dorian, but you can see where that stems from. J.D. manages to be a compassionate doctor who cares about his patients and gets the job done to a terrific standard and also maintain a bromance with his colleague Turk and woo his romantic interest Elliot and be hysterically funny all at the same time. He’s a quirky guy and we get to explore his subconscious through the use of absurdist and surreal daydream sequences, which is of course interesting. J.D. anchored the whole show and made it a resounding, long running success. Actor Zach Braff has said that he would be interested in a reunion of the show. He was pretty coy about the whole thing, but he did mention that he wouldn’t be interested in doing a Roseanne Barr or a Candice Bergen and coming back for a full television season. However, he did say, “Maybe if it was a TV movie or something or I dunno. In some incarnation, I’d be interested.” Let’s keep our fingers crossed!
8. John Thackery
It was a shame that Steven Soderbergh’s cable period medical drama series got canned following its sophomore season. Clive Owen’s Dr. John W. Thackery led the sumptuously dark show for two brilliant seasons before poor ratings and a lack of mass appeal resulted in Cinemax’s decision to cancel the show. Owen’s character, whose name was often shortened to Thack, worked at the Knickerbocker Hospital in New York at the turn of the 20th century and a lot of the surgeries that he performed over the course of the show were gruesome and bloody and horrific (you have to remember, medical science was not what it is today back then – a lot of the medical procedures in those days were crude and undeveloped). IGN’s reviewer Matt Fowler summed up the show perfectly when he called it “impressive, intense television – with fascinating, oft-gruesome topics brought ferociously to the forefront by Soderbergh’s adept hand. It was hard to watch at times, both due to gore and pure depressing content, but it was always thought provoking and incredibly well rendered.” That’s exactly what the show was, and Owen did a hell of a job of anchoring the gory madness with his lead performance as Thack.
7. Mike Quinn
Dr. Michaela “Mike” Quinn is one of the strongest female characters in the history of television. She was the star of a self titled drama series that brought the western genre to the small screen with the story of a physician who leaves Boston to find adventure in the Old West. She ends up settling in Colorado Springs, where she treats injured people and finds the adventure that she went out looking for. Jane Seymour played Dr. Quinn for 149 episodes and a couple of made for TV movies, and in the process, she made them both legends of the screen. She’s not only a great doctor – she’s also a great person. She was very liberal minded and progressive for her time. Dr. Mike was always very friendly to the minorities that everyone else in town wanted to chastise and shun out. She made friends with the local Cheyenne family and the pair of freed slaves that came through town and the Jewish salesman who moved in and any Chinese immigrants who stopped by. She even crosses paths with President Ulysses S. Grant during her fight for the rights of the Native American people – and this is in a western!
6. Doug Ross
Dr. Doug Ross may have also been the name of the Gene Wilder character in Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask), but the character that the name will most widely be associated with will always been the TV medicine man played by George Clooney before he became one of the biggest movie stars in the world. The character is not shown to have the best judgment, and even in the pilot episode, we see that he has a drinking problem – but we can also tell throughout the series that he has a serious passion for helping people and that’s why he became a doctor in the first place, and he is also generally just a brilliant physician. When Clooney first read the script and became interested in taking the role, he said to himself, “I like the flaws in this guy. I can play him.” Arguably, the character’s biggest flaw is that he cares too much. He lets his own emotions get in the way of his ethics. If he sees some abusive parents mistreating their kids, then he will step in and beat up the parents. That’s Doug Ross for you.
5. Julius Hibbert
Dr. Hibbert first appeared in the second season episode “Bart the Daredevil,” and he was originally written by the episode’s writers Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky to be a woman named Julia Hibbert. It was only by sheer coincidence, when the Fox network executives decided to move The Simpsons’ time slot to compete with the top rated The Cosby Show, that they decided to make the character a man. The plan was to compete with Bill Cosby (who, you have to remember, was adored by millions of people at this time) by making the Simpson family’s doctor a blatant parody of his character Cliff Huxtable, who is also an African American doctor with an endearing chuckle. Have you ever noticed that when Dr. Hibbert is not at the hospital wearing a white lab coat, he’s wearing a colorful sweater? That’s because he’s a spoof of pre-scandal Bill Cosby. Of course, he would eventually go on to have more originality and dimension in his characterization, but this was the springboard that gave us this lovable character. Dr. Hibbert is shown to be the most competent doctor in Springfield, especially in contrast with the town’s other prominent medicine man, Dr. Nick Riviera.
4. Jack Shephard
Following his father’s footsteps into the field of medicine, Jack Shephard not only went to the prestigious Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, but he also graduated from medical school a whole year before all of his classmates. Jack’s troubled relationship with his dad actually ended up getting in his way a lot, both professionally and personally, and in fact, as it turns out, Jack’s dad jetting off to Australia and dying ended up being the whole reason that Jack ended up that fateful flight, Oceanic 815, in the first place. Throughout the series, his character was contrasted by critics and commentators with that of John Locke. Whereas Locke was called a “man of faith,” Jack was dubbed a “man of science.” Surely being a man of science makes you pretty qualified to be helping out with medical situations. Matthew Fox ended up playing the role perfectly for six seasons, but series co-creator J.J. Abrams had originally wanted Michael Keaton to play the role. He was supposed to be killed off in the middle of the pilot episode, but the producers ended up keeping him on as a regular and Keaton wasn’t interested in starring in a TV show, so Fox stepped up to the plate.
3. Meredith Grey
Ellen Pompeo’s lead performance as Meredith Grey in Shonda Rhimes’ long running medical drama is one of the most consistently acclaimed parts of the show. Pompeo’s house must just be teeming with all kinds of awards – where does she put them all? Rhimes explained where the conception of the character came from: “[I was] in my pyjamas at home, which is where I spent a lot of time writing. I kept asking myself, ‘What kind of woman should the heroine be?’ I thought she should be someone who had made some big mistakes. As it turns out, Meredith also has another problem: she is trying to live up to her mother’s renowned career in surgery. Meredith is the daughter of a mother who basically never spent any time with her – the daughter of a mother who now has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t even remember her.” Wow, chills. That’s some dimension on that character. Meredith is central to the success of the show and is partly responsible for the sheer longevity of the show. People love her and keep wanting to see more of her. She’s one of the few TV characters who can last for so many years and continue to interest audiences and not get boring.
2. Hawkeye Pierce
Alan Alda’s character Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce led the medical comedy series that dragged the Korean War out for over a decade and ended with the highest rated series finale episode of all time. Hawkeye was initially played by the great Donald Sutherland in the original movie directed by Robert Altman, but Alda took the torch for the TV show and just ran with it. He turned a memorable movie character into a legendary TV icon. The wisecracking, heavy drinking, womanizing prankster made life at an Army camp in the middle of nowhere somehow fun with his particular brand of humor. But when it really came down to it and he was called upon to save somebody’s life, then he would stop joking around and knuckle down to face his call to action. He’s a very decorated war hero, with his prestigious commendations from the U.S. Army including the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean War Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, a handful of Army commendation medals, and the Army Distinguished Unit Citation, four Purple Hearts, and the Combat Medical Badge. He has come a long way since his childhood in the fictional town of Crabapple Cove, Maine.
1. Gregory House
This guy is the guy. He is the one and only. If the only doctors available for an appointment were fictional characters from television shows and you needed to see somebody about something, then this is the guy that you would want to treat you. Gregory House, M.D. is a goddamn genius of the highest order. He has no specialty, because he’s the best of the best in every single field. Real doctors and scientists find this pretty frustrating, since it’s totally unrealistic, but it does make for captivating television and for a memorable character. He’s cynical and narcissistic and unorthodox and curmudgeonly and, really, a complete jerk – but he’s also a brilliant character. Fans would’ve kept watching this guy for years if he had stayed on the air. No wonder Hugh Laurie was nominated for six Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. He might walk around with his cane and pop a couple of Vicodin every time he gets the chance, but he is the best darn doctor on the small screen. He’s basically a modern day Sherlock Holmes, except for medicine instead of investigating (but still, it’s the same sort of thing – they’re both geniuses).