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Best Television Medical Dramas

By Ken Foote, Director of Programming for CBS 11
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(credit:  Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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The last couple of months I have had some close loved ones in and out of the hospital and doctor appointments. But now that everyone is doing better, it reminded me of the great medical dramas on TV. Below is a short list of what comes to mind:

1. Dr. Kildare (NBC, 1961-1966): Starred Richard Chamberlain and Raymond Massey. Based on the popular movies in the 1940’s by the same name, the show centered around a handsome young intern, Dr. James Kildare, and his mentor, Dr. Leonard Gillespie at Blair Hospital.

The show  portrayed hospitals and the life and death aspects very realistically. During the show, Dr. Kildare was promoted to resident.   Chamberlain was only 27 when the show started and was a heartthrob for American females with his handsome looks and charm. He later went to star in The Thorn Birds and Shogun

2. Ben Casey (ABC, 1961-1966): this was a very popular show for the ABC Television Network which was constantly mired  in third place behind CBS and NBC. Vince Edwards , 33 years old at the time and very handsome, played Dr. Ben Casey who not only battled diseases but hospital politics.

Legendary actor Sam Jaffe played Casey’s mentor, Dr. David Zorba. Edwards was discovered by Bing Crosby whose production company produced the show (and later Hogan’s Heroes for CBS).

3. Medical Center (CBS, 1969-1976): located in the LA area, Medical Center was an unnamed hospital complex that was part of a university campus. James Daley (Dr. Paul Lochner) and Chad Everett (Dr. Joe Gannon) Lochner was the mentor with Gannon the younger doctor. Jayne Meadows, the sister of The Honeymooners’ Alice Kramden (Audrey Meadows), played the part of Nurse Chambers for three seasons.

4. General Hospital (ABC, 1963-Present); Enough said. Always was in love with Dr. Monica
Quartermaine (Lesley Charleson). Used to watch this show when I was working at WGHP-TV in Greensboro NC between production shifts!

5. E.R. (NBC 1994-2009): probably the most successful medical drama ever to air.  George Clooney made this show and it won countless awards

6. Diagnosis: Murder (CBS, 1993-2001): starred Dick Van Dyke as Dr. Mark Sloan who solved as many cases as he did illnesses. Van Dyke’s real life son, Barry, played Detective Steve Sloan. Airs on Hallmark Movie Channel.

7. Trapper John M.D. (CBS, 1979-1986): Pernell Roberts (who had starred as Adam Cartwright in Bonanza) was Dr. John McIntye or “Trapper John”, chief of surgery for San Francisco Memorial Hospital.  Show was a spin off (of sorts) from the successful CBS comedy, “M*A*S*H”.
 
8. St. Elsewhere (NBC, 1982-1988): High emotion medical drama. Here the storylines reflected more real life. Sometimes the patient made it, sometimes not.  The hospital, St. Eligius, was one of the more seedier hospitals on TV with patients who went there who were not welcome elsewhere, yet had a first rate staff.

Starred Ed Flanders, William Daniels, Ed Begley, Jr., Denzel Washington (which helped launch his career), and Mark Harmon.

9. Marcus Welby, M.D. (ABC, 1969-1976): Veteran actor Robert Young (Father Knows Best) played the role of a general practitioner in Santa Monica CA who treated all kinds of patients. James Brolin played his associate, Dr. Steve Kiley.  Show was a big hit for ABC.

10. House (FOX, 2004-2012): starring Hugh Laure as Dr. Gregory House, a little cantankerous but brilliant doctor.

There were more excellent medical TV shows, some in the comedy genre such as M*A*S*H, Doogie Howser MD, and Scrubs.  And let’s not forget Doc Marten on PBS!

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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