Over the years there have been numerous television shows about doctors, hospitals and the medical community as a whole. When looking into the history of medically themed TV shows, it looks like 1961 was the year that medical dramas really took off. In 1961 both Dr. Kildare and Ben Casey debuted. Dr. Kildare ran for 5 seasons and actor Richard Chamberlain had the role of Dr. Kildare. Ben Casey also ran for 5 seasons and actor Vince Edwards had the role of Dr. Ben Casey.
In 1969, Marcus Welby M.D. started airing on television and introduced us to the friendly family practitioner played by actor Robert Young. This series ran for 7 seasons. During the 1970-1971 season, this show became the first ABC show to make it to the number one spot in TV’s Nielsen ratings.
Those shows paved the way for the medical series that would fill the networks in the years to come. Some of those medical shows set records.
When the M*A*S*H finale aired in 1983, it became the most-watched and highest-rated single television episode in US television history, at the time. Grey’s Anatomy is TV’s longest-running primetime scripted medical drama series. Ever. In 2008, House became the world’s most watched fiction show on television at the time. When St. Elsewhere series ended, the finale caused quite the stir and opened the biggest can of worms ever. The list goes on.
So why are we so intrigued by medically themed television shows? A BBC article from 2012 offers some insight. Philippa Roxby, a health reporter for BBC News writes, “Without doubt, medical science is a rich source of stories and intrigue. The popularity of all forms of medical-based drama suggests that we love to watch and read about people dealing with pain and discomfort, facing problems we fear we might face too at some point in our lives. Prof George Ikkos, president of the Royal Society of Medicine’s psychiatry section, says it is more to do with learning about ourselves from other people.”
Whatever the case, people worldwide love medical shows and the popularity doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon.
In this week’s episode of Trivia Rewind, I give you ten trivia questions about various medically themed television shows. After I ask you the questions, I’ll give you the answers and some fun facts. In our fun facts segment, find out which actress from a medical drama was in the bathroom when her name was announced for an Emmy Award. And speaking of bathrooms, find out which television writer and producer came up with the idea for his medical drama while sitting on the toilet. Those are just two of the fun facts from this week’s episode.
Below, you will find the transcript for this episode. You can listen to Trivia Rewind on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Trivia Rewind – Episode 43 – TV Doctors
[00:00:00] Hi, this is Debi Jenkins, the host of Trivia Rewind. Over the years, there have been numerous television shows about hospitals and doctors. When looking into the history of medical TV shows, it looks like 1961 was the year that medical dramas really became popular. In 1961, both Dr. Kildare and Ben Casey debuted.
[00:00:36] Dr. Kildare ran for five seasons with a total of 191 episodes. Actor Richard Chamberlain had the role of Dr. Kildare. Ben Casey also ran for five seasons and actor Vince Edwards had the role of Dr. Ben Casey. In 1969, Marcus Welby MD started airing on television [00:01:00] and introduced us to the friendly family practitioner played by actor Robert Young. This series ran for seven seasons. During the 1970/71 season, this show became the first ABC series to make it to the number one spot in TV’s Nielsen ratings.
[00:01:21] Those shows paved the way for the medical series that would fill the networks in the years to come. In this week’s episode of Trivia Rewind, I will give you 10 questions about medically themed television shows. After the questions, I’ll give you the answers and some fun facts. In our fun facts segment, find out which actress from a medical drama was in the bathroom when her name was announced for an Emmy Award. And speaking of bathrooms, find out which television writer and producer came up with the idea for his medical [00:02:00] show while sitting on the toilet. Those are just two of the fun facts from this week’s episode. Let’s get started with this week’s trivia.
[00:02:11] Question one. This show first aired in 1994 and followed a group of doctors, one of which was head surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Geiger. What was the name of the show?
[00:02:28] Question two. This show first aired in 1990 and followed a doctor sent to a small Alaska town where he became their general practitioner. What was the name of the series?
[00:02:44] Question three. What is the name of the medical drama that features Dr. Doug Ross, a pediatrician?
[00:02:53] Question four. This physician grew up in her mother’s shadow and at one [00:03:00] point in her career committed insurance fraud in order to help a young girl’s father pay for his daughter’s surgery. What is the name of the doctor and what show is she on?
[00:03:14] Question five. What is the name of the medical series that features an autistic surgical resident named Dr. Shawn Murphy?
[00:03:24] Question six. What is the name of the medical drama that features a physician dependent on pain medication and is the head of the Department of Diagnostic Medicine?
[00:03:37] Question seven. What is the name of the medical television series that’s set during the Korean War?
[00:03:46] Question eight. What is the name of the medical series that takes part at Sacred Heart Hospital and focuses mainly on the hospital’s interns?
[00:03:58] Question [00:04:00] nine. What is the name of the medical series set at St. Eligius hospital located in Boston?
[00:04:10] And question 10. Which medical show features a doctor that graduated from Princeton University at the age of 10 and was a physician at age 14?
[00:04:23] Those were our 10 questions. Let’s go back and get the answers and fun facts.
[00:04:28] Question one. This show first aired in 1994 and followed a group of doctors, one of which was head surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Geiger. What was the name of the show? That show was Chicago Hope. This medical drama aired for six seasons. Actor Mandy Patinkin had the role of Dr. Jeffrey Geiger, a hot shot surgeon. In 1995 Patinkin won an Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Primetime Emmy Award [00:05:00] for his role as Dr. Geiger. Actor Christine Lahti played cardiac surgeon, Kate Austin. For this role, she won both a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award. Her 1998 Emmy Award win included a bit of potty humor. Literally. When her name was announced as the winner, she wasn’t there.
[00:05:24] She happened to be in the bathroom. A 2017 People Magazine article reminisces this moment with her and says, “The moment became one of the most memorable in pop culture history as the crowd waited for Lahti; Robin Williams even came up on stage to entertain for a few minutes. Lahti finally came on stage and jokingly finished wiping her hands with a towel before saying ‘I was in the bathroom, mom.’ The actress now explains that it was the first thing she could think of.” Do you want to see this humorous Emmy [00:06:00] moment? Visit triviarewind.com for a link.
[00:06:04] Question two. This show first aired in 1990 and followed a doctor sent to a small Alaska town where he became their general practitioner. What was the name of the series? That show was Northern Exposure. Northern Exposure ran for six seasons and starred Rob Morrow as Dr. Joel Fleishman. For his role on the show, he was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards and two Primetime Emmy Awards for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series. This series was created by the same duo that created another popular medical series, St. Elsewhere.
[00:06:45] In the fall of 2020, Deadline discuss the Vulture Festival where the cast of Northern Exposure appeared in a panel where they reminisced about their time on the show. Actor Barry Corbin said, “The casting fit, the [00:07:00] location fit, the music fit. Everything fit.” Well, a revival of the show has been in the works for several years and it’s still unknown if that will actually happen.
[00:07:12] Question three. What is the name of the medical drama that features Dr. Doug Ross, a pediatrician? Well, that show was ER and the actor that played Dr. Doug Ross was George Clooney. Before his role on ER, George Clooney had an extensive background in television. However, his big break came with ER .This role launched him into stardom.
[00:07:39] In the book titled Top of the Rock, Inside the Rise and Fall of Must-See TV, one of the producers, John Wells said, “George Clooney begged me for a part. George was the first person to audition.” He went on to say, “Our second day in the office, George showed up and wouldn’t leave until I let him [00:08:00] audition.”
[00:08:01] Well talk about persistence. I would say that his persistence paid off. Here’s a fun fact about George Clooney from Elle.com. The article says, “Ever noticed that Doug Ross spends a lot of time looking down at patients in their hospital beds, at clipboards or hanging his head? That’s because Clooney developed a technique for remembering all of his complex medical dialogue which involved writing his lines on props so that he could consult them during scenes. According to PBS’s Pioneers of Television, he started doing this while shooting ER and movies at the same time in order to deal with the workload.”
[00:08:42] ER first aired in September of 1994 and went on for 15 seasons. It’s the second longest running prime time medical drama in American television history. According to Nbc.com, “The highly acclaimed drama [00:09:00] series holds the distinction of being recognized as the most Emmy nominated series in the history of television with 124 nominations.” George Clooney left the series in 1999 but returned in 2009 for one last goodbye to the ER.
[00:09:19] The screenplay for ER was written in 1974 by author Michael Crichton. He based it on his personal experiences as a medical student. Before ER became a TV series, Steven Spielberg and Michael Crichton considered making ER into a two hour movie. However, nobody picked it up so the script was shelved for 20 years. Eventually they decided to make a two hour pilot for television. And the rest is history. They pretty much used that 1974 script word for word, but they did make a few changes to characters by adding a black doctor and a [00:10:00] female doctor, instead of all white male doctors.
[00:10:05] Question four. This physician grew up in her mother’s shadow and at one point in her career committed insurance fraud in order to help a young girl’s father pay for his daughter’s surgery. What is the name of the doctor and what show is she on? Well, the character is Dr. Meredith Grey and the show is Grey’s Anatomy. Talk about a successful series. Currently Grey’s Anatomy holds the record for the longest running American primetime medical drama series. The show has been going strong for 18 seasons and even today, new episodes are airing.
[00:10:48] The series was created by Shonda Rhimes. In 2007 Rhimes was named on the list of Time Magazine’s 100 People Who Helped Shape the World. [00:11:00] Shonda Rhimes is also the creator and producer of Private Practice, a spinoff from Grey’s Anatomy.
[00:11:07] According to an article in the Hollywood Reporter, “In its 17th season, Grey’s Anatomy remains a massive asset for ABC and Disney. The series ranks as ABC’s number one drama series among total viewers and the all-important advertiser-coveted adults 18 to 49 demographic. The series is a global phenomenon and broadcast all over the world. It’s also become a cash cow with a rich streaming deal at Netflix where it ranks as one of the company’s most watched acquired shows.”
[00:11:44] Question five. What is the name of the medical series that features an autistic surgical resident named Dr. Shawn Murphy? That series is The Good Doctor and actor Freddie Highmore plays Dr. [00:12:00] Sean Murphy. This series first aired in September of 2017 and is currently in its fourth season. The show is actually based on a South Korean series by the same name.
[00:12:13] Actor Freddie Highmore was born in London and has roles in numerous films and television shows. Before The Good Doctor he had a riveting role as serial killer Norman Bates in the psychological horror drama television series, Bates Motel. In a USA Today article from 2017, he is asked about his new role on The Good Doctor and he’s quoted as saying, “It’s nice to save people after years of killing them.”
[00:12:42] Freddie Highmore does such a good job playing a character with autism that some have asked if he really is autistic in real life. Well, he isn’t. The show has an autism consultant that helps them make sure they get his character just right. [00:13:00] In a 2019 article with Digital Spy, Freddie Highmore says, “Aside from continual research or working with the consultant that we have, I’m also talking to people who feel that they have a personal connection to the show through autism and are pleased or thankful that the show is seeking to raise awareness in that way.” Highmore was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his role on The Good Doctor. The series is currently airing on ABC where you can watch new episodes.
[00:13:32] Question six. What is the name of the medical drama that features a physician dependent on pain medication and is the head of the Department of Diagnostic Medicine? That show is House and the doctor’s name is Dr. Gregory House. English actor Hugh Laurie plays Dr. House. The series ran for eight seasons and premiered in November of 2004. According [00:14:00] to an AFT article in 2008, House was the world’s most watched fictional program on TV. By the time the series was done airing, it had been nominated for over 160 awards. Hugh Laurie won two Best Actor Golden Globe Awards for his role.
[00:14:18] In a USA today article from 2004, Hugh Laurie discussed one reservation about playing his doctor character. He says, “One of the things that makes me feel guilty about playing this role is that my dad was a doctor. He was a very gentle soul and I think a very good doctor. And I’m probably being paid more to become a fake version of my own father.” In 2011, Hugh Laurie made it into the record books. The Guinness World’s Records listed him as The Most Watched Leading Man on Television as well as one of the highest paid actors in a television drama.
[00:14:59] Question [00:15:00] seven. What is the name of the medical television series that’s set during the Korean War? That show was M*A*S*H and in case you didn’t know, M*A*S*H is an acronym for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. M*A*S*H first aired in 1972 and ran for 11 seasons. When the series ended, its finale was the most watched television program in history. It took a Superbowl to take that record away from the series.
[00:15:32] During the show, they had to come up with a lot of names for the patients that would come through their unit. For the seventh season, they used a names from the 1978 Los Angeles Dodgers roster. And talk about stretching the war out. In real life the Korean War lasted just over three years. However, the series stretched out that war for 11 years. Thank goodness the real thing [00:16:00] wasn’t 11 years long.
[00:16:02] Question eight. What is the name of the medical series that takes part at Sacred Heart Hospital and focuses mainly on the hospital’s interns? That show is Scrubs. Scrubs first aired in 2001 and ran for nine seasons. The first eight seasons of the series were narrated by the character, Dr. John Michael “JD” Dorian portrayed by actor Zach Braff. The show had 17 Emmy nominations. Since you’re listening to this episode of Trivia Rewind, I know you’re a fan of podcasts in general. So in case you didn’t know, Scrubs co-stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison started their own podcast in 2020 called Fake Doctors, Real Friends, where each week they take one episode from Scrubs and discuss it.
[00:16:56] Braff tells Entertainment Weekly, “It’s almost like DVD [00:17:00] commentary. We’ll sit around and talk about funny stories and things we remember behind the scenes.” You can find that podcast wherever you listen to podcasts.
[00:17:11] Question nine. What is the name of the medical series set at St. Eligius hospital located in Boston? That is St. Elsewhere. Do you know why the hospital was nicknamed St. Elsewhere? It got that nickname for housing the rejects of the more prestigious hospitals in town. St. Elsewhere first aired in October of 1982 and ran for six seasons. St. Elsewhere was ranked number 20 on TV Guides 2002 list of The 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.
[00:17:47] In a 1983 issue of TV Guide, they ranked it the best drama series of the 1980s. Many people thought that the series finale was mind boggling, weird, [00:18:00] strange, you name it. A BBC News article titled TV’s Strangest Endings says, “The show was over except for a spooky last scene in which the entire six years of the drama were revealed to have been imagined by Dr. Westphall’s autistic son.” Watch the last minute of the finale and decide for yourself. I’ll post the link to it on triviarewind.com. The series was nominated for 62 Emmy Awards and won 13. It was also nominated for and won multiple other awards.
[00:18:35] And question 10. Which medical show features a doctor that graduated from Princeton University at the age of 10 and was a physician at age 14? That show was Doogie Howser, MD. Doogie Howser MD first aired in September of 1989 and aired for four seasons. Actor Neil Patrick Harris [00:19:00] had the role of Doogie Howser. Steven Bochco created the series. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, he tells how he came up with the idea for the show.
[00:19:11] He said he was sitting on the toilet reading an issue of New York Magazine and the article was about gifted kids and that gave him an idea. He said by the time he was finished with his shower, he had the whole idea for Doogie Howser thought out. He said it only took 30 minutes for him to have it all laid out in his head.
[00:19:34] He wrote the first script with David E. Kelley. Bochco said the network was very reluctant after they saw the pilot. However, after it went on the air it was an instant hit and he said the network was stunned. Thanks to the show, the name Doogie Howser went on to be used many times in the news whenever someone young excelled at something.
[00:19:57] In an Orlando Sentinel article, [00:20:00] a reader wrote in and asked, “The kid on Doogie Howser MD seems to have grown a lot over the season. Has he gotten taller in real life?” The newspaper’s answer was, “Indeed he has. Neil Patrick Harris, the 17 year old star of the show grew so much that his shoe size changed five times and they went through several wardrobes during the eight month course of filming the ABC show.”
[00:20:27] And here’s another fun fact, an Entertainment Weekly interview with Neil Patrick Harris tells what they used in the suture scenes. Harris says, “They gave us suture packs and told us to go to Ralph’s and get a chicken breast. And actually, we would use raw chicken on set. They’d cover all the edges of it with gauze and such so it looked essentially like skin.”
[00:20:51] Fans of the show will be glad to hear that supposedly Disney+ is working on a reboot of the show that’s set to be released in [00:21:00] 2021. The reboot will feature a female Doogie that 16 years old and it will be set in Hawaii. The show is called Doogie Kamealoha MD. So be watching for that sometime this year.
[00:21:16] Well, that’s it for this week’s episode all about television’s medical shows. Please subscribe and leave a positive review wherever you listen to podcasts. You can visit Trivia Rewind on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and all the links mentioned in this episode can be found at triviarewind.com, where I will also post a transcript from the show.
[00:21:39] Thank you so much for listening and I will be back next time for another episode of Trivia Rewind. [00:22:00]