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Most Bingeworthy Medical Shows Of All Time

Medical television is a staple of the modern entertainment landscape. While some shows are darker and more serious than others (and some less grounded in reality), all good medical shows have some things in common — compelling characters, interesting medical cases, and dramatic workplace dynamics, to name a few –- and all of them help paint a picture of the inner life of hospitals and clinics. 

Medical television shows have been around since at least 1951, when the 30-minute "City Hospital" aired on CBS, but it almost seems like the contemporary environment is peak hospital-show territory. And if you combine the hospital shows currently on the air with the plethora of medical fiction available on streaming, it's clear that there are hours upon hours of content. That's not to mention the long shelf life of many of the best medical shows, which tend to rack up vast episode libraries — meaning that some tough choices need to be made when it comes to choosing one to binge. If you were to start a "Grey's Anatomy" binge, for example, that's nearly 400 episodes of content (and counting). But don't let the fact that you're going to be at it for quite a while stop you from finding a new medical TV fix. Here are some of the most bingeworthy medical shows of all time.

Grey's Anatomy

No list of bingeworthy medical shows could be complete without the star of Shondaland, "Grey's Anatomy," the longest-running doctor show and one of TV's all-time longest-lasting dramas. Now in its 17th season of at least 18, "Grey's Anatomy" has featured countless characters and plots since it premiered in 2005, but the overall tone of the show, with its balance of high drama and playfulness, has never wavered.

For anyone living under a rock for the last two decades, "Grey's Anatomy" centers around Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and her coworkers at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital (a Seattle medical center that has changed names multiple times). Meredith begins as an intern — alongside a handful of others including ex-model Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl), competitive genius Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), jerk-turned-eventual-sweetheart Alex Karev (Justin Chambers), and kind-hearted, affable George O'Malley (T.R. Knight) — and the show follows her medical career.

Aside from Meredith, none of the interns remain, but there are a few original characters left, including Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), the tough-as-nails hospital chief, and Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.), former chief of surgery and father figure for Meredith. Many others have cycled in and out over the years, sometimes leaving in body bags (the show is notorious for its disaster episodes: crashes, shooters, fires, sinkholes, and more crashes). "Grey's" is also known for steamy hospital love affairs and rare, zany cases, like a man who swallows Judy doll heads or a woman suffering from spontaneous orgasms.


"ER" is another incredibly long-running medical drama: The show lasted for 15 seasons from 1994 to 2009 as a primetime NBC staple. So, if you're ready to commit to a longer binge, then clear your calendar for "ER" and its 331 episodes. Set at County General Hospital, the show follows staff and patients in a bustling Chicago emergency room.

"ER" was a juggernaut show while on the air, and its stars — especially George Clooney, who played Dr. Doug Ross — were everywhere in the 1990s. In addition to Clooney, original cast members included Julianna Margulies (as nurse Carol Hathaway), Anthony Edwards (as Dr. Mark Greene), and Noah Wyle (as Dr. John Carter). Many recognizable names appeared over the years, like John Stamos, Sally Field, and Angela Bassett, and the acting was always superb.

Big names were also involved behind the scenes. The show was created by popular novelist Michael Crichton — who himself trained as a doctor — and the legendary Steven Spielberg was a producer in Season 1. "ER" never fails to push storytelling into new arenas, but it's not just patients who bring the drama. The show's physicians and nurses deal with their own medical issues (everything from cancer to suicide to HIV), as well as difficult relationship and familial problems. "ER" is a show that loves to shock, be it with a stabbing attack on two popular doctors, or with prisoners being brought to — and then escaping from — the ER.


We don't have a lot of straight-up comedies on our list, but "Scrubs" is simply too good not to include. For nine seasons from 2001 to 2010 (first on NBC and then ABC), the show set a new standard for slapstick comedy. Try not to laugh at its ridiculous fantasy sequences, like one in which two main characters raise a pumpkin as a baby.

"Scrubs" is presented from the perspective of John Michael Dorian, known as J.D. and played by Zach Braff, who narrates the show (except for the final season) and serves as the main protagonist. J.D. is a doctor — beginning as an intern — at Sacred Heart Hospital in a nonspecific California location. All other contributions aside, "Scrubs" should receive praise for giving us one of the best bromances in TV history. Sure, there are actual romances on the show, but when you binge it, you will note that the relationship between best friends J.D. and Turk (another doctor, played by Donald Faison) leaves the strongest impression.

In addition to Braff and Faison, John C. McGinley was the only other actor to last the entire series. McGinley played J.D.'s mentor, attending physician Perry Cox (later the chief of medicine), who has a difficult personality and a penchant for mockery. Sarah Chalke was also integral in the cast dynamics (as Dr. Elliot Reid, J.D.'s love interest), as was Judy Reyes (as head nurse Carla Espinosa, Turk's love interest) and a host of other thespians.

St. Elsewhere

Before "ER," NBC had another successful medical drama on its roster: the realistic, provocative "St. Elsewhere," which ran from 1982 to 1988. The show is set in Boston, in a fictional teaching hospital named St. Eligius, a crumbling institution whose last-resort reputation earned it the nickname "St. Elsewhere." While medical shows had been on the air for decades, "St. Elsewhere" was the first to break out of the mold, offering both serialized and episodic plots with unvarnished, eccentric stories about complex and flawed medical professionals.

Aside from the fabulous, inventive writing, the actors on "St. Elsewhere" are another reason to give it a shot. Oscar-winning icon Denzel Washington stars in every episode as Dr. Philip Chandler, alongside Howie Mandel (Dr. Wayne Fiscus), Ed Begley Jr. (Dr. Victor Ehrlich), and Mark Harmon (Dr. Robert Caldwell). "St. Elsewhere" had a creative team that was never scared to take chances: For instance, Harmon's character was diagnosed with AIDS at a time when the disease was not commonly depicted on television, particularly in heterosexual characters.

The show has been off the air for over 30 years, but that hasn't stopped it from living on, both in legacy and in press coverage: There have been numerous think pieces about the show's finale and many calls for audiences to revisit the program. Clearly, we aren't the only ones who see this gritty drama as extremely bingeable TV.

Chicago Hope

A David E. Kelly creation, "Chicago Hope" ran for six seasons on CBS from 1994 to 2000, offering the network an alternative medical show to go up against NBC's ultra-hit "ER." The show performed strongly in the ratings (though not at "ER" level) and was an awards darling, particularly at the Emmys. "Chicago Hope" is set inside a private charitable hospital in, as the name suggests, Chicago, Illinois.

The drama features many interesting and multifaceted plotlines, with a good mixture of medical focus and layered personal dynamics. Furthermore, characters like neurosurgeon Aaron Shutt (Adam Arkin), hospital chief of staff Phillip Watters (Héctor Elizondo), cardiac surgeon Kate Austin (Christine Lahti), and surgeon Jeffrey Geiger are complex, yet relatable. They are always shown as real people dealing with real dramas — like one memorable episode where Aaron meets a sculptor only to find out he is his biological father, or another where Dr. Billy Kronk (Peter Berg) has a friend arrive at his home with a bullet wound.

Private Practice

"Private Practice" aired on ABC for six seasons, beginning in 2007 as a spin-off of "Grey's Anatomy." Given that "Grey's Anatomy" was (and still is) such a steamroller hit for ABC, it makes sense the network would want to capitalize on that. If anything, it's surprising that there have been so few "Grey's" offshoots, as both "Station 19" and "Private Practice" had success in their own rights.

"Private Practice" follows Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh), who first turns up on "Grey's Anatomy" to wreak havoc as Derek Shepherd's (Patrick Dempsey) ex-wife, as she moves to Los Angeles to join a private co-op practice, Oceanside Wellness Group. A brilliant neonatal surgeon and a standout character on "Grey's," Addison's somewhat cold, arrogant exterior softens during her two years on the show (pre-spinoff).

A fantastic group of actors helped to round out the "Private Practice" cast, and each supporting character was also written in a complex and nuanced way. This includes founding partner and Addison's best friend Naomi Bennett (Audra McDonald), a fertility doctor, and her ex-husband, internist Sam Bennett (Taye Diggs), also a founding partner and eventually Addison's love interest. The other doctors at Oceanside Wellness embrace and contribute to the quirky office dynamics, each bringing their own zaniness as well as a different medical specialty, such as psychiatrist Violet Turner (Amy Brenneman), naturopath Dr. Pete Wilder (Tim Daly), and pediatrician Cooper Freedman (Paul Adelstein).

The Resident

Fox's "The Resident," which began in 2018, is set at the fictional Chastain Park Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Originally developed as a dark, gritty medical show for Showtime, "The Resident" naturally went through some changes before arriving at Fox. Nonetheless, it has a serious, more social justice-focused vibe than many other medical dramas today.

Dr. Conrad Hawkins (Matt Czuchry) is the main character: a no-nonsense, principled internist with a military background and some serious daddy issues. His love interest is the skillful nurse Nic Nevin (Emily Van Camp), and together they take on many noble causes, often relating to corporate greed and corruption. Other crucial players include Dr. Randolph Bell (Bruce Greenwood), who starts off as chief of surgery and was once CEO of the hospital, and Conrad's protégé, Dr. Devon Pravesh (Manish Dayal).

In Season 2, the show added two important new characters, played by heavyweight television actors Jane Leeves (current hospital CEO Kit Voss) and Malcolm-Jamal Warner (brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. A.J. Austin). And while characters have come and gone — as they do on every large ensemble drama — "The Resident" does a solid job of maintaining ongoing storylines that affect everyone in the hospital, such as struggles with hospital ownership or a plague that requires widespread quarantining.

Masters of Sex

"Masters of Sex" is one of the lesser-known shows on our list, but also among the best. A period drama set in 1950s and 1960s St. Louis, the show depicts real-life sex researchers Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan). "Masters of Sex" lasted four seasons on Showtime from 2013 to 2016, and what the less-showy medical drama lacks in flashiness, it makes up for with stellar writing, interesting insights into human sexuality, wonderful costuming and set design, and truly terrific acting.

The show offers a captivating look inside the sexuality research the real Masters and Johnson are known for. It depicts how the scholars measured things like sexual arousal and orgasms with machinery and observation, tracing their work from inception through publication and beyond. The show doesn't stop with the duo's professional relationship, either. Though some characters and plots in "Masters of Sex" are fictionalized, Masters and Johnson were real-life lovers and eventually married.

At the beginning of the show, Bill is married to Libby Masters (Caitlin Fitzgerald), a central character who goes through a revolution of sorts as she moves from housewife to the workforce over the course of the series. Other key characters include Dr. Austin Langham (Teddy Sears), who works at the same hospital as Bill and Virginia (and who participates in Bill's research), and Betty DiMello (Annaleigh Ashford), a sex worker who helps the researchers find participants and eventually starts working for them in an official capacity.

Chicago Med

NBC must worship Dick Wolf, who first created the "Law and Order" franchise before striking gold once again with his "One Chicago" franchise. "Chicago Med" is the third installment — after "Chicago Fire" and "Chicago P.D." — and was renewed for Season 7 in 2021. The show takes place at the Gaffney Chicago Medical Center and focuses specifically on the emergency department.

"Chicago Med" has a number of compelling characters working in its fictional emergency room, some of whom have been with the show from the start. This includes Dr. Will Halstead (Nick Gehlfuss), a stubborn but capable and compassionate attending who was first introduced on "Chicago Fire." Will often butts heads with other doctors and staff, such as Chief of Services Sharon Goodwin (S. Epatha Merkerson) and Dr. Connor Rhodes (Colin Donnell), a surgeon. Other notable characters include pediatrician Dr. Natalie Manning (Torrey DeVitto), a military widow, and Lieutenant Commander Dr. Ethan Choi (Brian Tee), a Navy veteran who suffers from PTSD.

Like many contemporary medical dramas, love and lust play a large role in "Chicago Med," as do ethical dilemmas and workplace power struggles. At the heart of the show, however, is the medical content. Whether they deal with a flesh-eating bacterial infection or a patient who thinks he's a vampire, the stories on "Chicago Med" are never boring. Many episodes touch on larger societal issues as well, such as immigration, gun crime, and safe injection sites.

Nurse Jackie

A medical show with a cutting sense of humor, "Nurse Jackie" offers seven deliciously dark seasons for your viewing pleasure. The show, which aired from 2009 to 2015 on Showtime, is about Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco), a sarcastic, stubborn ER nurse at New York City's All Saints Hospital. In addition to being a nurse, Jackie is a wife, a mother, and a part owner of her husband's bar, all while dealing with drug addiction.

The intensity of her addiction ebbs and flows, but it is always a central factor. Despite the fact that it is a (dark) comedy, "Nurse Jackie" delves deep into the realities of addiction as Jackie lies, cheats, and steals in the name of pills. Through it all, Jackie's quick wit and even quicker temper make her a fun and endearing character, and Falco's performance is an all-time great (the actress won one Emmy for the role and was nominated every year she was eligible).

Merritt Wever is another highlight of "Nurse Jackie," appearing in her Emmy-winning role as young nurse Zoey Barkow, who worships Jackie and is largely blind to her flaws. The show also stars Dr. Peter Facinelli as Fitch Cooper, an emergency room doctor with whom Jackie has conflict, Paul Schulze as Eddie Walzer, a pharmacist that Jackie sleeps with for access to pills, and Eve Best as Jackie's close friend and occasional enabler, Dr. Eleanor O'Hara.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).


An 11-season smash hit, "M.A.S.H." still holds the record for having the most-watched scripted TV episode in history (for its finale). But the magic of the wartime medical comedy started long before its final episode — it started even prior to the show, itself a spin-off of the 1970 "M.A.S.H." movie. The series began in 1972, and more than 250 episodes aired on CBS, which means there is plenty for you to binge.

"M.A.S.H." stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, where a team of medical professionals are stationed during the Korean War. This includes Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce (Alan Alda), a chief surgeon who is often called "Hawkeye," and Major Margaret Houlihan (Loretta Swit), a head nurse also known as "Hot Lips," the only two main characters to last the show's entire run.

With its dark subject matter (you know, war) and heavy dramatic moments, "M.A.S.H." was unlike the typical 1970s half-hour comedy — a dramedy before the word "dramedy" was a thing. There are too many classic episodes to name, but a few of them can't hurt — like "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," where Hawkeye is blinded by an exploded gas heater; "The Interview," in which a war reporter visits to interview the team; and "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet," a highly acclaimed Season 1 episode where Hawkeye loses a friend on the operating table.


Ryan Murphy's "Nip/Tuck" ran on FX for six seasons, beginning in 2003, and with all due love and respect, we'll be the first to admit that it's absolutely bananas. As an outlandish, flamboyant, deliciously fun show that's borderline satirical in its zaniness, it's also incredibly engaging and dramatic. The show requires a bit of a distancing from reality to buy into its plot points, but if you can accept silliness in your medical shows, you will certainly end up bingeing the entire program.

"Nip/Tuck" focuses on a plastic surgery practice run by two handsome doctors: vain bachelor Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) and agreeable family man Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh). The two have very different approaches to life and medicine, but their bromance is iconic. Other main characters include Sean's wife Julia (Joely Richardson) and son Matt (John Hensley), the doctors' anesthesiologist Liz Cruz (Roma Maffia), and Christian's sometimes-girlfriend Kimber (Kelly Carlson).

"Nip/Tuck" features a lot of sex and obscenity, so it may not be to everyone's taste. Nonetheless, one big draw is the unconventional cases, such as a woman who wants her nipples removed so she can better resemble Barbie, or a man who wants his penis shortened because — well, we'll let you find that one out yourself. In addition to the surgical cases, "Nip/Tuck" will rope you in with larger stories that span episodes and even seasons, such as that of the Carver (a serial rapist who disfigures people) or an organ-stealing crime ring.

Hart of Dixie

"Hart of Dixie" – which aired on the CW from 2011 to 2015 — is a delightful little show that often flies under the radar. But what it lacks in darker drama, it makes up for in poignancy and charm. The show is set in the fictional town of Bluebell, Alabama, where Dr. Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson) moves from NYC after inheriting a practice from her biological father. Since Zoe never knew her father's identity while he was alive, the practice becomes a way for her to learn about him.

Big-city Zoe doesn't fit well in Alabama, which immediately becomes clear in her interactions with the townspeople, many of whom are reluctant to accept a bougie, young, female doctor. Her new partner, Dr. Brick Breeland (Tim Matheson), wants Zoe gone, as does his debutante daughter, Lemon (Jamie King). Lemon is particularly wary of Zoe, whom she suspects has feelings for her attorney fiancé, George Tucker (Scott Porter). Other key characters include Zoe's landlord Lavon Hayes (Cress Williams), a former professional football player turned mayor, and Wade (Wilson Bethel), who also lives with Lavon and has a simmering love-hate relationship with Zoe.

Much like in "Gilmore Girls" and other small-town series, "Hart of Dixie" allows Bluebell, and its many Southern traditions and local idiosyncrasies, to become a character unto itself, and its quirky ensemble of residents color each episode. It's part medical drama, part small-town dramedy, part fish-out-of-water comedy, and a whole lot more.