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The List: Top 20 TV medical shows

Luke (Anthony Geary) and Laura (Genie Francis) from General Hospital. (Courtesy ABC Television) Luke (Anthony Geary) and Laura (Genie Francis) from General Hospital. (Courtesy ABC Television)

The final episode of "House" aired on Fox last week. The award-winning medical drama, which began in 2004 and stars Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House, is ending after eight seasons. The List this week looks at the Top 20 television medical drama series.

  • 20. Northern Exposure (1990-1995): When "Northern Exposure" showed up on the barren landscape that was CBS' prime-time schedule in 1991, it got a chorus of critical raves. The cleverly crafted series followed the ups and downs of New York doctor Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow), a fish out of water, stuck practicing medicine in remotest Alaska.
  • 19. Doctor Finlay (1993-1996): Starring David Rintoul and Annette Crosbie, this series was a follow-up to the BBC's successful "Dr. Finlay's Casebook," from the 1960s, based on characters created by physician-turned-novelist A.J. Cronin. Set in a small Scottish town just after World War II, the series was a big hit on PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre."
  •  18. Doogie Howser, MD (1989-1993): Neil Patrick Harris starred as a 16-year-old doctor with a genius intellect. The show aired on ABC. The first two seasons were successful and were in the top 30 shows in the ratings.
  • 17. Doctor in the House (1969-1970): We include this zany British comedy because the first episode "Why Do You Want to be a Doctor," was written by future Monty Python stars Graham Chapman and John Cleese. The show was seen in the United States in 1971.
  • 16. Bramwell (1995): This unique period drama starring Jemma Redgrave as Dr. Eleanor Bramwell, a headstrong doctor in Victorian London, built a strong following when it aired on PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre."
  • 15. Diagnosis: Murder (1993-2001): A charming and beguiling family show starring Dick Van Dyke as Dr. Mark Sloan, a doctor who also solves murders with a down-home manner. Mr. Van Dyke's son, Barry, played Detective Steve Sloan. Special guests included Shelley Long, Reba McEntire and Regis Philbin.
  • 14. Doc Martin (2004-present): Martin Clunes plays Martin Ellingham, a doctor who hates the sight of blood in this hilarious British drama series, which is currently seen on PBS. The show is set in the fictional seaside village of Portwenn and filmed on location in the village of Port Isaac, Cornwall.
  • 13. Scrubs (2001-2010): This medical sitcom, with Zach Braff as the central character, never became a network smash on NBC, but did develop a core following in the upscale demographics. The show later moved to ABC.
  • 12. China Beach (1988-1991): Dana Delany played the tough Army nurse in this show, which was set at an evacuation hospital during the Vietnam War. Ms. Delany, who radiated passion and grit, garnered two Emmy Awards for her role.
  • 11. Trapper John, M.D. (1979-1986): Trapper John was one of the lead characters in the early "M*A*S*H" episodes, but in this show he is the chief surgeon in a San Francisco hospital, nearly 30 years after the Korean War. This may be the first spinoff in TV history that brings nothing from the parent show except the name of a former character, Dr. "Trapper" John McIntyre, played by Pernell Roberts.
  • 10. Chicago Hope (1994-2000): Mandy Patinkin played the brilliant and overzealous surgeon on the CBS show, which also starred Christine Lahti. Mr. Patinkin won a Golden Globe and an Emmy for his role.
  • 9. Grey's Anatomy (2005-present): This ABC drama about young doctors at a Seattle hospital with very active social lives has won numerous awards and is a huge commercial success. It's most noted star is Patrick Dempsey, who plays neurosurgeon Dr. Derek Shepherd.
  • 8. General Hospital (1963-present): The ABC show is the longest-running American soap opera currently in production. The 1981 fairy-tale wedding between Luke (played by Anthony Geary) and Laura (Genie Francis) was watched by 30 million viewers and landed the couple on the cover of Newsweek magazine. In the episode, Elizabeth Taylor made a cameo as the malicious Helena Cassadine. Demi Moore started here career on the show.
  • 7. Dr. Kildare (1961-1966): Richard Chamberlain became an instant star and heartthrob in the early 1960s in the wildly popular NBC television series "Dr. Kildare." His bedside manner and sensitive smile seemed to cure all ills. Mr. Chamberlain next stunned Hollywood by going off to England and emerging anew as a classical actor.
  • 6. Marcus Welby, M.D. (1969-1976): This ABC series, starring Robert Young and James Brolin, was the top-rated weekly American television program in 1970-71. Both stars won Emmy Awards.
  • 5. M*A*S*H (1972-1983): Starring Alan Alda, the show followed the exploits of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Uijeongbu, South Korea. The show's finale was the most-watched television episode in U.S. television history at the time, with a record-breaking 125 million viewers. In 2002, the show was ranked No. 25 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.
  • 4. St. Elsewhere (1982-1988): It was the show where Denzel Washington got his big break as Dr. Phillip Chandler, a character he played during the show's entire six-year run from 1982 to 1988. The NBC show, set at a Boston teaching hospital, also starred Mark Harmon, Howie Mandel and Ed Begley Jr. The series never won huge ratings, but had a loyal following.
  • 3. Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-1998): This hugely popular CBS family-favorite starred the willowy Jane Seymour as a 19th-century frontier doctor. Notable guests stars were Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Jane Wyman and Trisha Yearwood.
  • 2. House (2004-2012): Hugh Laurie stars in the title role as the cantankerous but brilliant Dr. Gregory House with a questionable bedside manner. Mr. Laurie, who was raised in Oxford, England, and educated at Eton and Cambridge, was long known for his wry witty humor in Britain before he took on an excellent American accent in "House."
  •  1. ER (1994-2009): The largest audience "ER" ever attracted was 47.8 million viewers when it aired after the series finale of "Seinfeld" in 1998. The most famous cast member was George Clooney. "ER" won 10 Emmys, including one for outstanding drama series; three Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild of America awards; and one Golden Globe. NBC at one point was paying out a record $13 million per episode to keep the show.

Compiled by John Haydon
Sources: The Sunday Mail, The Washington Times, Associated Press, phillymag.com and Wikipedia

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