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In almost every medical drama that has ever existed, at some point a patient's heart will stop (aka asystole), the monitor (ECG) will flatline and the doctors will reach for paddles to shock said flatline. Since according to long-standing Hollywood medical procedure a heart is like a car battery that can be jump-started, the usual sequence of events has a monitor going "beep ... beep … beep … beep … beep … beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" and then someone shouts "CLEAR!" There's a big KA-CHUNK!, where the patient's body jumps two feet off the table, and the monitor returns to a normal "beep." Of course, this is totally wrong, since shocking someone with a defibrillator can only help stop a dysfunctional rhythm. It can't start a normal sinus rhythm when there isn't one.

Just as similar things can be said for the lawyer shows that screw up legal procedure, and the various science-fiction franchises that play fast and loose with physics, those same medical dramas that can get so much wrong have also inspired countless people to pursue careers in medicine. Medical dramas over the past three decades have also been a place where the inadequacies and inequities of healthcare policy have been raised in popular culture and dramatized. Moreover, the genre is one that allows for not only prime-time soap opera relationships, but also stories that can examine the human condition in life-and-death circumstances.

So I thought for this week's post I would ask: Which medical dramas really stand out? Which were the best at exemplifying the themes of the genre? Jump below the fold for discussion.

"Where doctors save lives and make love, often simultaneously. Our stories, ripped from the headlines. Our passions, unbridled. Our cafeteria, eh… Make love to me, Ann. I know I’m just a surgeon and you’re a hotshot upstart administrator, but damn the rules, damn the system, damn our two foot height disparity, I want you."
—Jeff Winger from Community
In the grand scheme of television fiction, there are three professions that comprise the Holy Trinity of most TV series premises:
  • God the cop
  • God the lawyer
  • God the doctor

In each situation, it allows for high stakes drama and character development that comes through struggle and loss that becomes poetic, heroic and futile when looked at in the abstract. One way or another, all of us are going to cease to exist and be released from this mortal coil one day. In armor of green and blue, every day doctors and nurses try their best to fight away death and suffering just for a little while, in a battle they know they're doomed to lose. But if it means a child might live long enough to kiss his or her prom date, or that a mother can see her baby take its first steps, then you take the small victories of a losing battle and cherish them.

The medical drama takes all of those larger metaphysical questions about existence and uses it as the subtext of the setting, while telling a story. That story could be about the mysteries surrounding disease, or the broken characters trying to cure that disease, or the effect poverty and race have on healthcare access, or just the doctors and nurses who want to fuck each other like bunny rabbits and all the drama that causes.

So what are some of the premiere examples of the genre?

► ER (1994-2009)

During much of the 1990s, ER was the biggest show on television. Contrary to NBC's current somewhat dysfunctional state, ER was one of the anchors of a Thursday night lineup that had the powerhouses of Friends and Seinfeld to dominate all of the networks. Based on a screenplay written by author Michael Crichton that was based on his own experiences as a resident physician in a hospital emergency room, ER is centered around the goings-on at fictional County General Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, with actors like George Clooney, Julianna Margulies and Anthony Edwards standing out in the early years.

The series reinvigorated the medical drama and it also marked a point when television dramas started becoming more serialized, and more complicated with the characters and situations they exhibited. It's generally regarded as one of the show's that started a new "Golden Age of Television."

One of the episodes that cemented ER's popular and critical acclaim was the first season's Love's Labor Lost. Unlike the later seasons when helicopters were crashing and gunmen were taking hostages, the main story of the episode sounds mundane. It's just a group of doctors trying to deliver a baby. But everything that could go wrong does go wrong, and it is one of the most compelling hours of drama ever broadcast.

From Carrie Raisler at the A.V. Club:

The thing to know about Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards) going into this episode is that he’s a great doctor. He’s a little passive and insecure in his personal matters, sure, but on the emergency room floor? Dr. Greene is in his element. If your chips are down and you end up in the emergency room, he’s the guy you want saving your life. “Love’s Labor Lost” does a great job of weaving this narrative right into the first act, stressing Mark’s dedication to emergency medicine (he’s just been promoted) and showcasing his easy bedside manner and ability to make quick connections with his patients, in this case a very pregnant woman who comes in with what appears to be a bladder infection. They laugh, they smile, and he discharges her with instructions and a prescription.

Then everything goes to hell.

The setup feels like classic horror, with everyone having a carefree time—they even make time for random denture jokes!—right until the dread sets in, and Dr. Greene, his staff, and an expectant couple go through the worst day of their lives. The episode is even shot and scored like a horror movie at times, with cameras circling the action as Dr. Greene desperately tries anything he can think of to save this woman and her baby. Throughout the ordeal, even as the situation becomes a perfect storm of everything that could possibly go wrong with no positive outcome to be anticipated, there’s still one persistent thought in the back of your mind: “Mark Greene is a great doctor. Mark Greene can save them. He can save them both.”

But he can’t. He’s a great doctor, but even great doctors are just humans, and humans aren’t perfect. This episode has many virtues, but the thing that has always resonated with me from the very first viewing is how effectively it tells Mark Greene’s story without directly commenting on the man at all. By watching his decision-making throughout the case, seeing where things went right and went wrong, then subsequently showing his reaction to his patient’s death, ER took an awful tragedy and used it to crack a character wide open. Watching the episode again floored me in exactly the same way it did the first time, and it will floor me again the next time, and the time after that.

As the seasons progressed, new faces were shuffled in and out, and the series became more about disaster events, celebrity guest stars and ratings stunts. However, one thing I loved about the show, and I don't think many others have been able to capture, is the sort of engrossing, frantic feeling of chaos and that "all hell is breaking loose."

► M*A*S*H  (1972-1983)

Setting a comedy in a setting where people are sick and dying is one thing, but this was a series set during the Korean War, starring army doctors who deal with death every day, had a theme song about suicide and it's considered one of the best comedies/dramadies in television history. Adapted by writer Larry Gelbart from Robert Altman's 1970 film, which itself was based on Richard Hooker's novel, "MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors," the series follows the doctors and staff of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Uijeongbu, South Korea.

I always find it impressive whenever a story can shift from "ha ha" funny to being dead serious and make it work. One of the defining features of M*A*S*H was its ability to find a balance in tone, with some of the comedy and drama being allegory for the Vietnam War.

Probably the most memorable event in the history of the show is the season 3 finale, in which actor McLean Stevenson wanted out of the series and the writers killed off Colonel Henry Blake.

There are two bits of trivia always brought up when M*A*S*H is mentioned. One is the series lasted eight years longer than the actual Korean War. And the second is the series final episode—"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" (aired February 28, 1983)—is still the most-watched non-sports TV program in United States history, with a 60.2 rating (i.e., three out of every five TVs were tuned to M*A*S*H that night) and a total audience of over 125 million viewers. By comparison, President Clinton holds the record for most watched State of the Union address of the past five presidents, with his 1993 speech garnering almost 67 million viewers.

► House M.D. (2004-2012)

At its core, House was an updated take on the Sherlock Holmes story, with the disease of each episode being the "killer of the week" that must be caught to save a life, and Hugh Laurie's Doctor Gregory House being a brilliant but extremely flawed character tasked with solving the case. For House, medical ethics are merely suggestions instead of hard and fast rules. To that end, House will go to almost any ends to solve the puzzle of the case he's working on. And did I mention that House is high on Vicodin while doing it most of the time?

The early seasons of the series focus more on the medicine, with the character development coming from how House and his team do or don't react to the situation. Around Season Four, the show became more a character study of House and the cases are incidental to the "will they or won't they" love story of House and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein). To me, House was always interesting when it was a study of Greg House and the medical cases expounded on the character. His love of Cuddy, and his inability to express it because of his aversion to pain and being hurt, made for an interesting dynamic for whether the character could ever change, stop drowning himself in Vicodin and somehow be happy.

Alfred Hitchcock had a theory that if you make a character good at their job, no matter how much of a jerk he or she may be otherwise, the audience will love the character. It doesn't matter if the character is a nun, jewel thief or an acerbic doctor suffering from leg pain, if they're good at what they do, all will be forgiven.

► Grey's Anatomy (2005-)

Grey's Anatomy is for all intents and purposes a soap opera, with the medicine being secondary. But Shonda Rhimes' series is probably one of the best medical soap operas ever. Centered around the surgical residency of Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), the series follows the lives of Seattle surgeons, and their cases usually feature a hot-button issue in the news that somehow connects to what's happening in the characters' lives.

Every conceivable disaster has happened at some point or another at this frickin' hospital (e.g., plane crashes, ferry fires, superstorms, someone with a gun running through corridors, etc.), and the place is a death trap for its characters. There have also been at least three failed weddings. I know this is a staple of romantic comedies/dramas, and I should never believe what I see on TV, but has anyone ever seen someone stop a wedding? And more importantly, try to stop a wedding and have it work?

Almost every possible sexual pairing has happened over the 10 years of the show as well. If Seattle Grace/Mercy West/Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital actually existed in the real world, it would have probably been sued out of existence from sexual harassment lawsuits. The show is perfect for when I can't sleep at night, and I can binge watch four episodes till I collapse at three in the morning. And surprisingly, after being on the air for 10 years, the show still pulls in decent ratings for ABC.

► Chicago Hope (1994-2000)

Created by David E. Kelley, who's probably best know for L.A. Law, The Practice, Boston Legal and Ally McBeal, Chicago Hope is similar in that it's focused on a group of eccentric and quirky people. The initial seasons are notable for Mandy Patinkin's performance as Dr. Jeffrey Geiger and the quasi-legalistic tone of the series. Patinkin's Geiger is sort of Hugh Laurie's House without the limp, and in truth there are points where this is more of a legal series set in a hospital than a medical drama, especially in Season One. Many of the early episodes are centered around debates of medical ethics that end up in court.

For example, is it animal cruelty to use a baboon's heart as a temporary fix for a patient waiting on the transplant list? Should a doctor be fired and sued if he hesitates when told a patient is HIV positive?

When it premiered in 1994, CBS hoped Chicago Hope would be their big hit of the season. And scheduled it against NBC's and ABC's new shows on the Thursday night. ABC, trying to take advantage of the media circus surrounding the O.J. Simpson trial, premiered Steven Bochco's Murder One. Both Chicago Hope and Murder One would be crushed by NBC's ER. In the second season, both Patinkin and Kelley left Chicago Hope, and the series became more of a procedural medical show.

► St. Elsewhere (1982-1988)

Set at fictional St. Eligius, a teaching hospital in Boston's South End that practically no one wants to visit under any circumstances, St. Elsewhere is remembered for more than a few things. Usually in old TV series, there was very little continuity. If something happened in an episode, it would more than likely never be mentioned again and added no weight to the characters' development. St. Elsewhere had overlapping story lines spread across multiple episodes. And a lot of those story arcs dealt with topics that weren't usually covered in TV series at the time (e.g. breast cancer, AIDS and drug addiction). It's also one of the first medical series to show the practice of medicine at a hospital as not a pristine profession done under ideal circumstances, but as a tough job with long hours and shitty resources, where the patients may not like or thank you. The series had a huge cast of characters featuring many notable actors, including William Daniels, David Morse, Alfre Woodard, Bruce Greenwood, Ed Begley, Jr., Mark Harmon, Denzel Washington and Helen Hunt.

However, the series is infamous for its series finale, which revealed the entire show to have occurred within the mind of an autistic child (Chad Allen's Tommy Westphall) while he stared at a snow globe.

Someone with too much time on their hands figured out that any show that was directly or indirectly connected with St. Elsewhere would also be a product of Tommy Westphall's imagination, and decided to play six degrees of separation. At last count, there are over 250 television series, ranging from the The Simpsons to The X-Files, that are supposedly occurring within poor Tommy's mind.

From William Gallagher at BBC News:

Since St Elsewhere featured a crossover episode with Cheers and some characters later appeared in Homicide: Life on The Street, the boy imagined those shows and maybe more too.

"Someone did the math once," said producer Tom Fontana in 2002, "and something like 90 per cent of all television took place in Tommy Westphall's mind. God love him."

► Scrubs (2001-2010)

Even though Bill Lawrence's Scrubs could be a wacky and surreal comedy at times, many physicians will tell you it's the most realistic at capturing the range of emotions for someone attempting to be a doctor. When you or someone you care about is sick, you probably want a doctor who's confident, knows what the hell is going on and will assure you that everything is going to be okay. The reality of the situation for a young resident though is that you're thrust into a situation where someone's life is placed in your hands for the first time and there are many moments of self-doubt.

Scrubs follows J.D. (Zach Braff) as he trains in residency at Sacred Heart hospital. His mentor is Dr. Perry Cox (John C. McGinley), who's a jerk with ego. However, Cox believes in teaching through tough love. Along for the ride are nurse Carla Espinosa (Judy Reyes), who's the shoulder to cry on for the residents, Dr. Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke) J.D's on-again, off-again love interest and possibly the only doctor on staff more nerdy and psychologically messed-up than he is, Dr. Robert "Bob" Kelso (Ken Jenkins), the hospital's Chief of Medicine who's always thinking of the bottom line, the "Janitor" (Neil Flynn), who dislikes J.D. and torments him every change he gets, and Dr. Christopher Turk (Donald Faison), who's J.D.'s best friend and an amazing dancer.

From Joanna Weiss at Slate:
If you look past the cartoonishness, you find a series that's quite in tune with the real lives of doctors—and unlike your typical medical drama, one that's not required to end each episode with a climactic surgical procedure or whiz-bang diagnosis ... Doctors say they recognize in J.D.'s internal monologue the real thought processes of a young doctor at work.

"He says exactly what a resident feels, day in or day out. 'Am I hurting the patient? Am I learning what I should? Am I kissing up too much to the attending?' " says Jonathan Samuels, an attending rheumatologist at the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases. "I always thought Scrubs was right on."

If the show feels like somebody's real-life experience, that's probably because it is. Creator Bill Lawrence, the man behind Spin City, Clone High, and the upcoming Cougar Town, built Scrubs around stories from his college friend Jonathan Doris, now a cardiologist in Los Angeles and a medical adviser to the show. He found humor in Doris' experiences, he says, and also a truth about human nature that's not often seen in medical shows. "In television, we like our doctors to be very heroic and very dramatic, and they kick doors open, and they say the word stat a lot," Lawrence says. But: "If your buddy was a funny kind of goofball that made jokes out of everything in college, then as a doctor, he's the same guy."

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Comment Preferences

    •  Once upon a time (13+ / 0-)

      For those of us of a certain age, there was god the cowboy.

      That god died.

      [Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security] do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

      by MoDem on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 07:07:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ayup! (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nirbama, cowdab, ColoTim

        And I wonder why it is that the western has gone away so long. Like Joe DiMaggio, gone never to return?

        What is it about the simple stories of good and evil that no longer resonate with the American public. Personally, I think it may have been the loss of innocence during the war in Vietnam (mimicked so well by M.A.S.H. even though that was Korea, many never knew it).

        House is the only one of the series, I've watched - not much of a series guy, I guess. I love it, loved it until it had the intellectual honesty to actually end. Period. End of sentiment.

        Loved its sarcasm and loved its ensemble cast - who wouldn't love 9? Or at least love to try?

        Westerns were for a simpler time, I guess. Standing up against the Tea Party and ISIL with their black flags, the western seems so utterly, hopelessly naive. And they were, but a lot of fun if you were 14.

        Every human being has paid the earth to grow up. Most people don’t grow up. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth.—Maya Angelou

        by TerryDarc on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 11:07:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Firefly was at heart a Western (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TerryDarc, FloridaSNMOM

          and it was an excellent show. Thanks a bunch, Fox, for not even letting it go for one whole season.

          "The will must be stronger than the skill." M. Ali

          by awhitestl on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 11:49:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not just "Firefly". (3+ / 0-)

            God the Cowboy has a big problem: gods require belief to continue existing. And we know too much to worship him now. At present God the Cowboy can only be kept alive in his native habitat through regular injections of irony, like a needle stab of adrenaline to the heart (in a medical TV show).

            But since 1977's STAR WARS we've learned to worship him in space. The sacramental violence God the Cowboy can't do on the Indians any more is OK on aliens. A writer can make an alien fair game and nobody can prove him wrong.

            This is why people got so mad over the "Han shot first" controversy: Lucas was replacing the altar wine with grape juice.

            I've lost my faith in nihilism

            by grumpynerd on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 06:31:02 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yep. Gone but not forgotten (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              cowdab, FloridaSNMOM

              'Western' series...and movies. As a kid I loved them, and as an adult I was hopeful that the success of the 1993 movie Tombstone ["I'm your huckleberry....(cough, cough)"] portended a rebirth of the genre. But, nope.

              And war series. What was it about WWII that made it so telegenic, whereas every war since has been a TV flop (with the exception of Vietnam's China Beach)? Maybe the fact that WWII was our last 'just war.'

              As far as medical and cop series are concerned, a notable trend is ever more hot sex...on the job, off the job, instead of the job, you name it. It's amazing to me that anybody manages to get treated or arrested anymore. I suppose Grey's Anatomy really opened that door, though it now seems pretty tame. The low water mark here has to be ABC's current Rookie Blue, which I have renamed "Sex and Badges." Tedious beyond belief.

              No person is free except in the freedom of other persons, and that man's only real freedom is to know and faithfully occupy his place -- a much humbler place than we have been taught to think -- in the order of creation. (Wendell Berry)

              by DocDawg on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 08:47:33 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  War as tragedy ought to play (0+ / 0-)

                Shakespeare made great use of villainous people and villainous situations including war to write great drama. M.A.S.H. at its heart was about a tragic war and the comedy that could be spun off that - brilliantly.

                War as a drama, single-shot, is fine. War as an episode, is much more difficult to sustain. (In fact, this is the reason I can't stand most teevee series, no shape, no dramatic arc leads to bad, character driven stuff that tends toward adolescent romance...).

                Coming to terms with a particular war, tragic war like Iraq or Vietnam, takes a long, long time. I think the 1st Vietnam movies (decent one anyway) was Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979) fully 5 years after the bitter end in Saigon.

                The above analysis of westerns moving to outer space is probably correct, as close as we can get to why they don't fly anymore. City Slickers (Billy Crystal 1991) was the last western flick I've seen. Set in present day and a comedy of sorts, it worked well. Probably a formula for making the next great western. Hope so.

                Every human being has paid the earth to grow up. Most people don’t grow up. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth.—Maya Angelou

                by TerryDarc on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 09:38:01 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  Longmire is a good show (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DocDawg, cowdab, TerryDarc

          Granted, the sheriff isn't an actual cowboy, but "small town sheriff out west" plays into/with those tropes.

          Show has a really good ensemble cast and the plots have  interesting socioeconomic and historical overtones.

          •  You betcha. [nt] (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            TerryDarc

            No person is free except in the freedom of other persons, and that man's only real freedom is to know and faithfully occupy his place -- a much humbler place than we have been taught to think -- in the order of creation. (Wendell Berry)

            by DocDawg on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 08:48:16 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Not seen it... (0+ / 0-)

              Again the disinclination to watch any series (including the Sopranos or The Wire)... Maybe when it's on Netflix. Thanks for the tip.

              Every human being has paid the earth to grow up. Most people don’t grow up. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth.—Maya Angelou

              by TerryDarc on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 09:39:06 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  the books by craig johnson are terrific. (0+ / 0-)

            the show sucks.
            unless you view it as totally unrelated to the books.
            lou diamond phillips as "the cheyenne nation"???
            seriously?  
            or what's-her-name as vic moretti?
            seriously?
            read the books.

            If you don't know that evolution is a fact, we have nothing else to talk about.

            by oysterwitch on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 09:48:52 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I may try the books (0+ / 0-)

              but as I came to the show first, I don't have issues with liberties taken with the source material. ;-)

              •  apology (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                renska

                i'm so sorry.  my comments are always too abrupt.
                i just hate it, when characters in my head, from the books, always seem wrong on the screen.
                but lou diamond phillips is too small and scrawny and non-indian to be henry standing bear.
                enough, 'tho.
                the only movie which ever seemed true to the book for me has been "no country for old men".
                anyway, apologies.
                :)

                If you don't know that evolution is a fact, we have nothing else to talk about.

                by oysterwitch on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 10:25:37 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  No worries! (0+ / 0-)

                  I have seen adaptations that improve on the source (first season or two of True Blood, for example) others that bear almost no relationship (both good tho' most bad), and others that remain true (also both good and bad).

                  It's hardest to watch an adaptation that doesn't fit with what you envision when you have a real emotional connection with the characters.

                  But I also am an Austen fan, which means many successive adaptations, especially of Pride & Prejudice. For me, how good or bad the adaptations are is part of the fun of watching the seemingly endless permutations ;-)

      •  Deadwood (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MoDem, cowdab, bryduck

        That was a pretty good show.  

        I especially liked the mix of structured Victorian language and cussing.  But there was a lot else to like about that show.

        It even sort of had a cowboy-movie style sherriff and most of the characters were based on real individuals.

        •  That show was art (0+ / 0-)

          The subject from intro through the end was a weave of cultural colors, history and what a composite of all that was good and all that was wrong with the old west.  Much of what was portrayed in the lives of individuals did happen somewhere as we moved west.  Deadwood was a wild, wide open frontier.

          I could still watch the intro scenes every day forever. Those characters, like the cast of MASH, came alive and had serious depth.  Those qualities are rare in today's superficial melodramas for teevee.  

          Yep, cursing and all, I am in love with that series.

          "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

          by cowdab on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 09:12:47 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Someone did a Canadian "Breaking Bad" (6+ / 0-)

      "I have bad news: the tests came back positive. We'll need to start treatment right away. Is Tuesday good for you?"

      THE END.

  •  About the only thing to ring true in any of them.. (10+ / 0-)

    ... was that House taught people to wonder whether their doctor might be on Vicodin.

    The states must be abolished.

    by gtomkins on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 07:11:37 PM PDT

  •  Breaking News (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SueDe

       IRS Commissioner Koskinen is being grilled in front of Issa's IRS witch hunt. Live on CSPAN now.

  •  Ahhh St. Elsewhere. I laughed. I cried. I loved it (12+ / 0-)

    but my gateway shows were really Adam-12 and Emergency!
        OMG! Start an IV drip of Ringer's lactate + D5W, 'cause I'm still hot for Randolph Mantooth!
        Then the Thursday night line-up of Cheers, Taxi, and Hill Street Blues was worth staying home for.
        When they decided to get really gritty with NYPD Blues I lost interest.

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 07:15:41 PM PDT

  •  Good list of reviews, but ... (4+ / 0-)

    ... what about Nurse Jackie?

    "This whole's thing's a business plan for arms dealers! ........ Son ... of ... a ... bitch!"

    by Powell on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 07:18:54 PM PDT

  •  EMERGENCY (10+ / 0-)

    ok I was 5, but that show was the first medical drama for me and still is.

    "start an IV with d5w and transport as soon as possible"

    You are a living mockery of your own ideals. If not, you have set your ideals too low-Charles Ludlam

    by PatRiots on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 07:20:18 PM PDT

  •  Since I am a nurse..... (26+ / 0-)

    We rarely if ever get portrayed accurately. I like Nurse Jackie's mouth but her ass would have been fired a loooooong time ago. There also would have been restrictions in her practice for using drugs and colleagues would not have been excited about covering up for her.

    Nurses are in medical shows often remarkably absent, complete and utter bitches, or they are hot model types types gossiping, doing no work and chasing doctors. ER occasionally got it right in terms of the work they did and how they interacted with one another. The average age of a nurse in the US is late 40's. I do know a few who dated doctors but by and large I would rather chew my own head off than date one, I work with many I respect and admire but my goal in my career was not to study my ass off to marry a doctor.

    It makes me crazy when patients get taken for scans by doctors, that only ever happens in an emergency( at least at my place of work ), or they are given some whoopee do experimental medication by the doctors. I have given some very rare chemos and other meds that got approved for single use by the FDA or a compassionate use protocol and the nurses not the doctors gave it. In those cases the doctors did in fact hang around. Anyway, sorry a bit of a pet peeve how we are given very little humanity and with little understanding by writers of what we actually do in TV and movie land.

    •  hospital nurses are heroes (14+ / 0-)

      They make the place RUN.

      I've also encountered some very compassionate ones who gave me some time when I'm sure they had a long list of duties to attend to.

    •  I can imagine how that makes you cringe. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ellefarr, cowdab, ColoTim

      I'm a scientist, and the universally appalling lab technique (and lab decor) in 'scientist'-related shows (Bones, CSI, NCIS, and many more) just makes me cringe. For God's sake, somebody teach them how to pipet! And throw out all those test tubes...I don't even know where you can buy test tubes any more! And stop eating and drinking in the lab!!!!

      No person is free except in the freedom of other persons, and that man's only real freedom is to know and faithfully occupy his place -- a much humbler place than we have been taught to think -- in the order of creation. (Wendell Berry)

      by DocDawg on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 08:56:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  and... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cowdab

        stop digging around in nasty stuff with gloved hands and then answer the phone or pick up your pen with the same NASTY gloves!

        If you don't know that evolution is a fact, we have nothing else to talk about.

        by oysterwitch on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 09:58:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Second that! (0+ / 0-)

          If hospitals cross contaminated at the rate they are portrayed on TV and in movies, we would all be dead in and out of them!  Cop shows and crime scenes are the same.  They pick up filth and then answer their cell with the gloved hand.  YUCK

          "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

          by cowdab on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 10:32:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  This, at least, is realistic. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            anon004, cowdab

            Back in the bad old days when I was an academic, it used to give me the heebie-jeebies to watch so many people in the lab don gloves to keep bad stuff off their hands...and then proceed to smear that bad stuff all over the whole freaking lab by failing to discard their gloves at appropriate times.

            I would occasionally administer an object lesson to one of my more egregiously careless students by liberally painting his pipet handles with a fluorescein + glycerin solution just before he came in in the morning. After he'd been working at the bench for a while, I'd ask him to wait a moment, then would turn out all the lights and fire up a UV lamp before his eyes. Seeing all the nasty glowing paw prints all over the place...including his lab notebook, pen, benches, keyboards, outerwear, doorknobs, his own face, you name it...would usually give 'em religion right quick. I recommend this practice to all lab directors.

            No person is free except in the freedom of other persons, and that man's only real freedom is to know and faithfully occupy his place -- a much humbler place than we have been taught to think -- in the order of creation. (Wendell Berry)

            by DocDawg on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 11:03:14 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Technically speaking, the Korean War never stopped (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gffish, Doctor RJ, bartcopfan, cowdab, ColoTim

    There's just been a cease fire for the last 60 years or so ...

    Help us to save free conscience from the paw Of hireling wolves whose gospel is their maw. ~John Donne

    by ohiolibrarian on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 07:20:35 PM PDT

  •  The obvious choice is (6+ / 0-)

    Mash.  The spinoff with Trapper John is also quite good, though more formulaic.

    Isn't it interesting that we have war and spy shows that go into the deep jungle and 'help people', but most doctor shows portray them running around the hospital having affairs.  Where are the shows that, at least, show the small local medical centers in local neighborhoods.

    I think what makes MASH great was that it was not only a doctors-having-affairs show.  It put doctors in a place we would not normally see them doing things we would not normally see.  We say this when  David Ogden Stiers enetered the show and the other doctors were explaining to his character that you couldn't do one thing right, and then go onto the other thing.  Introducing his character made it even more a fish out of water, even more than Blake and his fishing hats.

    So in that vein let me suggest my other favorite medical drama, Northern Exposure.

    She was a fool, and so am I, and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is doing. -Kurt Vonnegut Life is serious but we don't have to be - me

    by lowt on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 07:22:53 PM PDT

  •  I'll add one that was missed, Emergency. (12+ / 0-)

    While the show was not a full on medical show it can be shown that the paramedic field grew after the show. The golden hour no longer starts at the hospital, it starts where ever a person needs help.

  •  I always loved ER (10+ / 0-)

    for it's almost complete medical correctness. Whoever the writers consultants were, they were good- the actors ran codes better than many of the 1st year residents I tried to teach ACLS to.

    Anyone who scoffs at happiness needs to take their soul back to the factory and demand a better one. -driftglass

    by postmodernista on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 07:23:58 PM PDT

    •  I was in medical school when E.R. was on. (13+ / 0-)

      I actually got a question right during rounds because it was on E.R. the night before!

      I saw the 100th episode and I was then working in an E.R. my self, teaching residents. They showed Carter working in the E.R. and teaching how to place a chest tube, then juxtaposed it with his first day in the E.R. as a student.

      I cried watching it because during the same period of time I had gone through the same change from student to teaching attending.

      It was moving to see that on screen, since it reflected my own growth.

      Great show.

      "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill (Before the internet.)

      by New Jersey Boy on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 07:46:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'll go one better- I got an answer right (6+ / 0-)

        on my medical boards from something I saw on ER. It had to do with a patient with severe burns needing an escharotomy. Not something I had run across in Med School. Glad I spent those hours "studying" by watching ER.

        I agree the medical care in ER was done really well, as long as you can get past the parts where ER docs treat cancer, do brain surgery, etc.

        These are all great shows- at least the ones I watched, as never got into Grey's Anatomy or Chicago Hope. I think MASH is part of the reason I went into medicine, at least subconsciously. Hawkeye Pierce is still the best doc out there.

    •  good medicine (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cowdab, ColoTim, postmodernista

      My spouse (a doctor) and I always watched ER. She confirmed time and again that the medicine was accurate -- really good. She frequently got the differential diagnosis right based on the history, and predicted what they'd do next.

      Her only observation about verisimilitude was that the outcomes were good more often on the show than in the real life ER.

      This was quite an accomplishment given the bad medical shows typical of the times....

  •  Loved Scrubs. (5+ / 0-)

    Always amazed me how the show could be so hysterically, surreally funny, and then turn incredibly poignant in the blink of an eye.

    Hey GOP! You'll get my Obamacare when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. And thanks to Obamacare, that just may be awhile.

    by jazzmaniac on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 07:24:04 PM PDT

    •  There is a book, "The House of God." (8+ / 0-)

      Most medical students read it. It's a satire of the medical system.

      It was made into a movie, but was never distributed - people didn't want to see their medical care satirized. It was too dark and too true.

      "Scrubs," borrows many characters from that satire: the jerk administrator, the heroic jerky attending who doesn't follow the rules, the sexy and earnest nurses.

      The show works in a way "The House of God" doesn't, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps the God-like doctor myth has been debunked enough that their foibles can be seen as comedic without being macabre, or perhaps the writers had a lighter touch.

      Anyway, it's an interesting book to read on this topic in an academic way.

      Scrubs nails some stuff and also takes the genre and bends it to some funny places that reality never goes.

      "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill (Before the internet.)

      by New Jersey Boy on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 07:53:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We paramedics passed that book around (3+ / 0-)

        til the pages fell out, and then somebody would find another copy and circulation would begin again. A lot of the terms made it into everyday EMS language, is there even now. It is dark, but soooo true sometimes.

        Anyone who scoffs at happiness needs to take their soul back to the factory and demand a better one. -driftglass

        by postmodernista on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 08:16:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Ive had my heart stopped (7+ / 0-)

    (reset) three times, each time they did it with a syringe into my IV.
    First time was eerie, felt like I sank into the pillow, and I remember hoping that the dusty AC grate in the ceiling would not be the last thing I see.
    My heart restarted after 7-9 sec's
    The next two times were pretty routine, I guess I got used to it.

    •  No paddles? ;-) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      simple serf

      Jeez! I'm really disappointed but it makes sense.

      Every human being has paid the earth to grow up. Most people don’t grow up. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth.—Maya Angelou

      by TerryDarc on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 11:09:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  That kindly doc that everyone loves (8+ / 0-)

    is not Doc Martin, but the show is entertaining.

  •  I agree on ER. It was really good the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DSC on the Plateau

    first season, maybe two, and then became another soap.

    House as well.

    I watched Grey's Anatomy for about two minutes.

    Retrospectives on 25th anniversary of Tiananmen at Chinafile.com

    by Inland on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 07:31:20 PM PDT

  •  MASH, House & Grey's Anatomy. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    simple serf, madcitysailor

    Bending reality for the he sake of Art, is... Well  ...Art. No?

    "So, am I right or what?"

    by itzik shpitzik on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 07:33:40 PM PDT

  •  St. Elsewhere and Grey's Anatomy (0+ / 0-)

    St. Elsewhere was so different. Some episodes were just great - others just good. The acting was top notch. I'm a late convert to Grey's Anatomy - missed the first three seasons. Our children are grown but two daughters join us to watch Grey's so it's become a wonderful weekly event.

    Canada - where a pack of smokes is ten bucks and a heart transplant is free.

    by dpc on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 07:39:19 PM PDT

  •  I loved St. Elsewhere. (0+ / 0-)

    But, I had a crush on Richard Chamberlain as Dr. Kildare in my early teens, and before that, Vince Edwards as Dr. Ben Casey.  And who wouldn't have wanted to have Marcus Welby as their M.D.  Come to think of it, I kinda crushed on James Brolin as his young associate, Dr. Steven Kiley.

    Hmmm.  I'm sensing a theme here.

    And apparently I suffer from a near terminal case of bad taste and concomitant disinterest in realism in Medical drama.

    So, I guess I'll just shut up.

  •  I was scanning through the channels last week (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    postmodernista

    and happened upon a medical drama. I have no idea what the show was called, but when I the actor auscultated for heart sounds and exclaimed with great urgency, "He's got S-T elevations!!!" I turned the channel. Oy. Freaking. Vey.

  •  What about Doctor Phil? Or is that radio? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ebohlman

    (Or is that Dr Oz?)

    Piss on it - how about we replace them all with Doc Gonzo?

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 08:29:13 PM PDT

  •  Thank you! n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Doctor RJ

    the future begins

    by zozie on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 08:35:00 PM PDT

  •  I hated the ending of St. Elsewhere. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Doctor RJ

    I will always remember being cheated of a good ending to an awesome series.

    ...morals elevated to the status of ethics, prejudices elevated to the status of morals, whims elevated to the status of prejudices -- 'Mickey Finn' in Spider Robinson's The Guy with the Eyes

    by rfall on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 08:35:55 PM PDT

  •  St. Elsewhere (6+ / 0-)

    Dr. Morrison's (David Morse) wife dies from a fall in the bathroom; she is an organ donor and Dr. Craig has a transplant patient waiting.  After the transplant Morrison goes into the patient's room and uses his stethoscope to listen to his wife's heart beating.

    I sobbed for 10 minutes.

  •  I know it's not medical, but . . . (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ColoTim, antirove

    any time a computer shows up on screen, I do one of two things.

    Either I am amazed that they got things right (and I do mean amazed),

    or I groan out loud at a computer doing something real computers either can't or shouldn't do.

    The former category involves seeing obscure software I'm familiar with used properly. I've seen Xywrite (an older word processor I really liked), OS/2 and Linux used to establish that someone is an office environment doing office-type things.The reason why I'm amazed when computers are used properly is that it happens so seldom.

    The latter involves two-inch high letters on the screen, being able to retrieve any fact published within the last fifty years on the internet, using totally bogus IP addresses, and – I kid you not – being able to open a tumbler lock on a safe by moving the dial via standard TCP/IP.

    Help the long-term unemployed. Call Congress and urge the House to pass HR 3979. Follow @PhonePAC_RenewU on Twitter

    by Omir the Storyteller on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 10:05:23 PM PDT

    •  Well using a totally bogus IP address (0+ / 0-)

      is pretty much required (most likely by their legal department), no different than using a 555 phone number.  As for the viewer friendly interface with the huge text, there are a few cases where it is plausible (such as in NCIS where it is plausible that Abby made it that way for Gibbs) but most of the time I agree with you.  Though that may be changing thanks to Microsoft's new Metro interface (and eventually desktop mode will go away completely, desktop apps will run in the Metro mode by translating GDI/DirectX graphics functions into Metro ones).  In fact, they already have a prototype of a touch based table that is almost exactly like the one on CSI:NY (without the holographic capability, of course).

      You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 12:21:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No reason for them not to use private IP's (0+ / 0-)

        like the 192.168.x.x or 10.x.x.x domains.  For them to use ones like 354.10.237.523 is an insult to intelligence.

        •  Maybe they are such genius geeks they have (0+ / 0-)

          a surprising solution to the shortage of valid IP4 addresses?

          When life gives you wingnuts, make wingnut butter!

          by antirove on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 01:09:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's hard to have a shortage when you can use (0+ / 0-)

            private IP's.  It's only when companies insist on having routable IP's, especially when they break up the blocks to waste four for every one public usable one with the 255.255.255.252 netmask, that they run into trouble.  Or should.  I work for one of the largest companies in the world and we use private IP's rather than use up public IP's.  I used to work for one of the large backbone ISP's and while there were lots of public IP's those were jealously guarded and private IP's used for damn near everything.  Early on, my home DSL had a full class C license of public IP's because we had so many, but I surrendered them back just because I wanted to be private after all.

            All these movie geniuses would need to do is to use an address from a real, private network and there'd be no arguing (unless they really wanted to start showing lots of addresses and brought on more inconsistencies).  Yet they seem to insist upon using false addresses instead, as if it's a badge of anti-intellectual honor.

            As a slight non-sequitur, my favorite example of the use of the 555-xxxx prefix for phone numbers came from the movie Greatest American Hero with Schwarzenegger where the kid is trying to prove that it's really a fake world so he gets three implausibly hot women to give out their phone numbers, which all are of the 555-xxxx exchange.  Using fake IP's is obviously the same thing, though there's no reason to do it other than to prove they can get networking wrong.

        •  Except for the issue of public wifi which also (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ColoTim

          uses those private IP addresses.  Don't want any of the kiddies trying to duplicate what they saw in the movie and end up messing up someone else's system.

          You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

          by Throw The Bums Out on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 03:55:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Oh I know why they do it (0+ / 0-)

      but it still amuses me. Actually it might be fun sometime to throw out a real IP address and if anyone types it into a browser, have it display an ad for the show or a link to a downloadable music track or something. Sort of an Easter egg, if you will.

      Help the long-term unemployed. Call Congress and urge the House to pass HR 3979. Follow @PhonePAC_RenewU on Twitter

      by Omir the Storyteller on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 11:54:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Frankly, my dear... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    avsp, Nova Land

    Medical Center was ground-breaking in that (because the show came on at 10 p.m.) CBS allowed Chad Everett to say "damn" once per episode.  Back then, of course, the discourse was censored to the point of blandness, and an occasional "damn" was somewhat shocking.  Still, the word would have seemed natural in the show's conversation had Chad not always seemed so defiant when uttering it, exactly once per show.  Thus, the drama became unintentionally comical at times, as the viewer counted the minutes before the outburst came along.  

    In the few other contemporary shows that dared to use a four-letter word, the one that slipped it in most unexpectedly yet naturally was The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which once had meek-mannered Georgette, when pressured, announce that she was "damn good."  The line was funny and, amazingly, in good taste.  
    Now, unfortunately, anything goes, and all too many shows pursue the vulgar in an ever-more-desperate attempt to shock viewers.  

  •  You missed Gideon's Crossing, a great show! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bryduck

    It was one of Andre Braugher's one-season shows.

    Realistic non-melodrama - doctors resolving medical problems, including amongst themselves.

    2014 is HERE. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

    by TRPChicago on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 05:03:17 AM PDT

  •  STO--"He's DEAD, Jim." :-) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ColoTim

    "Push the button, Max!" Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, The Great Race

    by bartcopfan on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 06:34:59 AM PDT

    •  a co-resident who said that when he pronounced (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bartcopfan

      death...more nuanced than another friend who jerked a thumb & said , 'you're out"

      as for medical nonsense, there's always the backwards or upside down xrays that television/movie doctors look at before shaking their heads meaningfully.   I'm thinking of an early scene in the original Sinatra/Martin/Dickenson Ocean's Eleven

  •  I loved M*A*S*H (0+ / 0-)

    and I was, well, I have to admit, obsessed with both ER and House.

    My ER obsession happened when my son was young.  One evening, I had gotten home from work and I was getting dinner ready and my son, who was two, I think, was playing in the living room near the TV, which was turned to an ER rerun.  At the top of the show, one of the doctors lost a patient and started cussing, "Shit, shit, shit!"  My son repeated it, of course, and I did my best to ignore it so he wouldn't think any more about it.  A half-hour later, my husband walked through the door after work and my son ran up to greet him and shouted, "Shit, shit, shit!"  My husband gave me a look that could have melted glass.

    My House obsession occurred when my daughter was little.  Once, when she was in the process of potty training, we were walking around a local department store.  I noticed she had a strange gait.  I asked her, "Do you have to go potty?"  "No," she replied.  I then asked "Did you go potty?" (Accidents happen, after all.)  "No," she replied.  I made a quick check -- no accidents.  Phew.  But, I still  couldn't figure out why she was walking like that, so I asked her.  She responded, "I'm pretending I'm Dr. House."

    I haven't watched any TV since House went off the air.  You can understand why.

  •  action flicks are far worse (0+ / 0-)

    Every plot is exactly the same.  Good guy kicks 100s of asses for 2 hours nonstop, gets to bang the tough girl.  

    Yeah, that's realistic. I've often spent 2 hours (3 weeks in the movies) kicking asses nonstop because chicks dig extremely violent people.

    I might almost buy it if they didn't shoot 50 people and crash 90 cars without piquing the intrest of the police. Now me on the other hand attract cops just for driving with a cracked taillight cover.

    I'm obviously doing it wrong.

    Jesus only performs miracles for people with enough time on their hands to make that crap up.

    by KneecapBuster on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 03:30:57 PM PDT

  •  A Chicago Hope episode used Tom Lehrer's (0+ / 0-)

    "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" (sung by Pantinkin).  ROFLMAO.   I wondered how many viewers understood that reference.
      Was scenes like that which separated CH from the maudlin "ER".  

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 03:46:24 PM PDT

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