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A medical drama is a television drama in which events center upon a hospital, an ambulance staff, or any medical environment.

In the United States, most medical dramas are one hour long and, more often than not, are set in a hospital. Most current medical dramas go beyond the events pertaining to the characters' jobs and portray some aspects of their personal lives. For example, a typical medical drama might have a storyline in which two doctors fall in love.

Communications theorist Marshall McLuhan, in his 1964 work on the nature of media, predicted a big success of this particular genre on TV, because such medium "creates an obsession with bodily welfare".[1]



Dr. Kildare, which first aired in 1961, is generally considered to be the first medical drama. The show was a success, and soon medical dramas were a common phenomenon. The BBC series Dr. Finlay's Casebook (1962-1971) is an early example of another common variant of the genre in which a medical practice is used as a focus for stories detailing the life of a (usually small) community. The long running Australian series A Country Practice (1981-1993) is a later example of this sub-genre. From 1969 to 1976, the series Marcus Welby, M.D. and Medical Center were extremely popular for their both orthodox and unorthodox way of presenting medical cases. In 1972, the first episode of M*A*S*H aired; the show's tone was generally comedic, but dark, poignant moments emanating from the death caused by war were not uncommon. This trend of comedy with undercurrents of darkness in medical TV shows can also be seen in Doogie Howser, M.D. and Scrubs, a current-day medical sitcom on NBC/ABC.

List of TV medical dramas


United States/Canada

United Kingdom

Australia/New Zealand

The Netherlands/Belgium

  • Memorandum van een dokter (1963-1965)
  • Medisch Centrum West (1988-1994)
  • Spoed (2000-present)
  • Trauma 24/7 (2002-2003)
  • IC (2002-2006)
  • De co-assistent (2007-present)

Czech Republic/Slovakia




  • Clave Uno (2008-present)







  • The Hospital

South Korea


  • Doctors



  1. ^ Marshall McLuhan >(1964) Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, chap. 31: "One of the most vivid examples of the tactile quality of the TV image occurs in medical experience. In closed-circuit instruction in surgery, medical students from the first reported a strange effect-that they seemed not to be watching an operation, but performing it. They felt that they were holding the scalpel. Thus the TV image, in fostering a passion for depth involvement in every aspect of experience, creates an obsession with bodily welfare. The sudden emergence of the TV medico and the hospital ward as a program to rival the western is perfectly natural. It would be possible to list a dozen untried kinds of programs that would prove immediately popular for the same reasons. Tom Dooley and his epic of Medicare for the backward society was a natural outgrowth of the first TV decade."

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