TV

Ranking the Current Crop of Medical Dramas

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I love a good medical drama. And to be quite honest, I love a bad medical drama — because it’s still a medical drama. Which means it still deals with a wide and colorful cast of medical professionals dealing with life and death situations, and also their complicated personal lives. Every episode is basically required to be steeped in dramatics and catharsis and I love it.

ER (NBC)

This morning I watched the most recent episode of Fox’s The Resident and when it ended, Hulu suggested I watch ER next. Now, I already (re)watched all fifteen seasons of ER when it first appeared on Hulu — I’d been begging for ER to show up on a streaming site for literal years — but if I hadn’t had to go to work I may well be six episodes into ER‘s (brilliant!) first season right now. And I found myself comparing The Resident to ER. And then, because it’s not really a fair comparison given my longstanding allegiance to ER, I also found myself wondering how it compares to Chicago Med.

And I decided to share my thoughts.

The Resident (Fox)

The Resident (2018-)

Why watch this show?

The Resident is elevated by its cast. I love them all, including last year’s villain, Dr. Lane Hunter played by Melina Kanakaredes – she was THE WORST but her relationship with almost-as-terrible Dr. Bell (Bruce Greenwood) was so disarmingly charming I loved it – and this year’s OTP Spoiler Dr. Shaw (the excellently named Miles Gaston Villanueva) – he’s a do-gooder cutie and let’s be real, OTPs don’t get together forever in season two. Michael-Jamal Warner’s Dr. AJ “The Raptor” Austin and Shaunette Renée Wilson as his mentee/crush Dr. Mina Okafor are the stand outs in character and relationship but I heart basically everybody. Also: Jane Leeves as Dr. Bell’s new, Not Evil and Even More Adorable love interest/awesome doc!

How does it match up with ER?

Chastain Park Memorial is located in Atlanta, Georgia, which has way better weather than Chicago. So much more sun than snow in the exterior shots. Chastain is also a private hospital with a CEO and a VIP floor. But the characters line right up with the core cast of ER: Conrad (Matt Czuchry) and Nic (Emily Van Camp) are the new Doug and Carol, Devon (Manish Dayal) is Carter, Austin is Peter, Mina is Pratt and Chen’s daughter, and Bell is Morganstern-from-the-Mirror-Universe. And the plots are all but identical (Nic just opened a free clinic! Devon didn’t marry the perfect girl at the last minute! Quarantine!) but there are only so many Big City Medical Drama plots and that formula of risk versus comfort is why I watch and love them.

Chicago Med (NBC)

Chicago Med (2015-)

Why watch this show?

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a love-hate relationship with ‘One Chicago’. Med is definitely my favorite of the three series now that Erin Lindsay is off PD and Peter Stone is on SVU. And like The Resident that’s mostly due to the cast. They are not as engaging as on The Resident or ER but but both Nurse April Sexton (Yaya Dacosta) and Dr. Ava Bekker (Norma Kuhling) are my favorite character archetype ‘overlooked and poorly written hot mess with the courage of a hungry lion’. And I very much appreciate the inclusion of a psychiatrist in the main cast, Dr. Charles (Oliver Platt). Plus, the crossovers are fun.

How does it match up with ER?

It’s a county hospital in Chicago. Half the cast are ER physicians and the other half surgeons (this is true across the board actually). Everybody is sleeping with everybody. There has already been a helicopter crash.

New Amsterdam (NBC)

New Amsterdam (2018-)

Why watch this show?

Freema Agyeman as Dr. Helen Sharpe, the world famous chief of oncology. Other than that… well, this is the newest of the genre on TV and it shows. They are still getting their feet wet and I don’t expect any of these series to break new ground anyway. But they too have a psychiatrist in the main cast and they recently cast Sendhil Ramamurthy, who I love, as a love interest for Dr. Sharpe. I am all the way here for that pairing.

How does it match up with ER?

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)

Another overworked public hospital in a big city (New York, of course). While it does spend a lot of time in the ER, only one of the main cast actually works there. Here we get a lot of department heads instead, and the main character is the director of the whole thing. Plus he has cancer. And he’s married to a pregnant ballerina. Which has nothing to do with ER but I think it’s cool to have a reoccurring ballerina. So far, this is the least like ER but that’s not necessarily a knock against it. I rank it below the other two for me personally, though.

The Good Doctor (ABC)

Grey’s Anatomy (2005-) and The Good Doctor (2017-)

Why watch this show?

You tell me because I don’t!

I know it’s strange, since I started this saying I love medical dramas, but Grey’s intimidates me because it started airing when ER was still on so I have a billion episodes to catch up on and the premise of Good Doctor concerned me (but I have not watched so I do not know).

Final Thoughts

  • I am not as dedicated to the current crop of medical dramaz as I was/am to ER, but I’ll keep watching these three.
  • My favorite of the three is The Resident.
  • Med is the best of the Chicagos.
  • New Amsterdam is improving as it goes.

What about you?

Anika Dane works at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. She is a writer of words. A dancer of dreams. A pop culture blogger. A feminist and a fashionista. A Social Justice Klingon Warrior Princess who fell in love with the Skywalker family when she was seven years old. Mother of girls. Secretly a dragon.

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