Hospitals are fantastic settings for television, as they are somewhere that drama and tension can easily unfold. Doctors are also terrific characters, as they must be skilled, intelligent and heroic, but the stress of the profession means that often we get to see another side of them in the many TV shows that are centered on the medical profession. There have been dozens of memorable TV doctors to grace our screens over the years, many of them making you laugh, cry or a little of both, all in the process of providing healing. With that in mind, here are the very best fictional TV doctors.
10. Dr. Nick – The Simpsons
While he may be the least qualified on this list (by a very large margin), there is no denying Dr. Nick’s brilliance. Not only does he have one of the greatest catchphrases on The Simpsons (“Hi, everybody!” “Hi, Dr. Nick!”), but his astonishing incompetence and shady operations make for some great viewing. Nick is a quack physician and the polar opposite to trusted family doctor Dr. Hibbert, but often the Simpson family and the other residents of Springfield will turn to him, since he offers a much more affordable service. Perhaps his most notable appearance was when he performed a heart bypass on Homer, only to be guided through the operation by Lisa, since he is clueless. Although completely hopeless as a doctor, his positive attitude and complete ineptness ensures that he is a fan favorite on the show, and occasionally a key character in plotlines.
9. Dr. Miranda Bailey – Grey’s Anatomy
Often referred to as “The Nazi” by her colleagues for her blunt attitude and tough personality, Dr. Miranda Bailey from Grey’s Anatomy may be tough with a big ego, but she is also a fantastic doctor. Portrayed by Chandra Wilson, Dr. Bailey begins the show as a resident in general surgery, but gradually climbs the ladder to eventually be named the Chief of Surgery. Her relationships with the interns she was in charge of are a focal point of the show, as she is shown to be harsh but also provides valuable support and advice. Additionally, we gain a deeper insight into her character with the marital difficulties that she endues by trying to juggle a marriage, a child and a demanding career. While she may not be as friendly or likable as the other doctors on this list, there is no denying her professionalism and drive to succeed.
8. Dr. Michaela Quinn – Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
Now we go back to the Old West, and the titular Dr. Michaela Quinn from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Played by former Bond girl Jane Seymour, the show saw Dr. Quinn leave Boston in search of adventure in the Old West, which sees her settle in Colorado Springs. Once there, she becomes the town doctor and constantly tries to change their attitude to modern medicine, to varying degrees of success, doing everything in her power to help them even though it often results in arguments. These arguments were usually over social issues which remain important today, which included discrimination, bigotry, adoption and eco-terrorism. Dr. Quinn is independent but fiercely passionate about her job like all good doctors, and is shown to be one slightly ahead of her time, as she regularly is forced to challenge the townspeople on their narrow views.
7. Dr. Frasier Crane – Frasier
He may not patrol hospital hallways with a dramatic swoop of a doctor’s coat, but Dr. Frasier Crane certainly has healing powers in his fantastic voice alone. Brilliantly portrayed by Kelsey Grammer, Dr. Crane first appeared in Cheers but eventually landed a spin-off, which went on to become one of the best-loved comedies on TV. Frasier revolves around Dr. Crane, a highly intelligent psychiatrist who returns to his hometown of Seattle as a bachelor. There, he hosts a call-in psychiatry show on the radio and helps residents of Seattle, but struggles deeply with aspects of his own life. He and his brother Niles are both men of fine tastes and intellectual interests, but they also quibble endlessly and their rivalry often lands them in trouble. They are both frequently brought down to earth by their blue-collar father, Martin (a retired policeman), or Daphne, Martin’s live-in nurse who Niles not-so-secretly has a crush on.
6. Dr. Leonard H. McCoy – Star Trek
Replacing hospital hallways with a spaceship, Dr. Leonard H. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), or “Bones” as he is better known, is the chief medical officer on the Starship Enterprise. Serving under Captain James T. Kirk, Bones is close with Kirk and is frequently shown to play the role of his conscience. He also offers a counterpoint to Spock’s emotionally detached logic and they often end up arguing, which essentially gives Kirk a view from every angle. As well as providing moral standing, McCoy is also an excellent doctor and ensures that the entire crew is always well looked after. Many of his catchphrases have permeated popular culture, including “He’s dead, Jim” and “I’m a doctor, not a (statement)”, but Bones was also integral to the plot and a central figure in the overarching theme of the show.
5. Dr. John Carter – ER
This list could have been littered with characters from the hit drama ER, which was one of the most popular medical dramas in the world. Dr. Doug Ross, Dr. Mark Greene and Dr. Benton all could have featured, but the real star of the show is Dr. John Carter. Unlike most of the cast on the show (which ran for 15 seasons), Carter was present for the majority of its run but he was also a particularly likable character. Starting out as a kindhearted but ill-prepared medical student, he quickly grows in confidence, while showing greater compassion and dedication to his patients. He consequently becomes the most liked and respected doctor, and this made it that much more shocking when he was stabbed in Season 6, leading to a heartbreaking case of survivor’s guilt and narcotic addiction. Overall, his huge character arc was the most important on the show.
4. Dr. John Dorian – Scrubs
It was a tough call between Turk, J.D. and Dr. Cox, but as the star of the show it is hard to not include the lovable Dr. John Dorian. Both the narrator and main character, the audience is given an insight into his internal thoughts, making him the driving force of Scrubs. It also allows his character to be explored in depth, and makes it easier to sympathize with him. He is very immature, playful and a daydreamer. While this is often taken to the extreme, it is also shown that he is also a skilled doctor with great compassion, which sets him apart from the rest. He may have his flaws, which are explored in great depth and brought to life through his relationships with the other staff, but at the end of the day he is a great doctor and also one of the funniest and most likable characters on TV.
3. Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce – MASH
Not only does Captain “Hawkeye” Pierce have perhaps the coolest name in all of television, but he was also a fantastic character and brilliant doctor. The protagonist of MASH, Hawkeye would often be performing life saving surgery one minute, and then making wisecracks and partying the next. He is hard working and does what he believes is right amidst the death and destruction of the Korean War, but he is also a prankster who drinks heavily and enjoys flirting with the nurses. He has a problem with authority and feels that the military are getting in the way of him completing his job, which saw him show little respect and never wear rank insignia or carry a gun. Due to his popularity, Hawkeye quickly become the center of the series and the driving force of the show. His rogue attitude and compassion ensure that he is still a fan favorite to this day.
2. Dr. Doogie Howser – Doogie Howser, MD
A character that any young doctor no doubt despises in real life, due to constant comparisons, Dr. Doogie Howser (Neil Patrick Harris) is a child prodigy who is also a doctor. Having graduated from Princeton at 10 and finished his medical degree four years later (he “can’t buy beer… [but] can prescribe drugs”), Doogie Howser, MD follows the titular doctor as he faces the problems of being a physician, but also a teenager. The show starts with Howser is a second year resident surgeon, and sees the show explore themes that include AIDS, sex, friendship and death. Although the comedy-drama lasted just four years (1989 – 1994), it is deemed a classic and one which had an enormous cultural influence. It also helped to launch Neil Patrick Harris’ career, and it is also a role that has been satirized countless times (including by Harris himself on multiple occasions).
1. Dr. Gregory House – House MD
A medical genius, Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) will get to the bottom of any diagnosis and is nothing short of brilliant. However, his need to be right and constant narcissism give him an unpleasant personality, which sees him frequently clash with his team of diagnosticians. The word “curmudgeon” is often used to describe him, with it even being named one of the “Top TV Words of 2005” in honor of his character. House takes an unorthodox approach, radical therapeutic moves, shows little compassion for patients and habitually uses Vicodin to manage pain, yet he is an utterly electrifying and sensational character who is one of the greatest seen on modern TV. He is frequently compared to Sherlock Holmes, but House is unique in his own right, which is largely down to the sensational acting of Hugh Laurie (who to our British readers, was best remembered as a comedy actor before hitting it big with this show).