For as long as I can remember, doctors have made house calls on our favorite television shows. From Granny Clampett, a mountain folk doctor whose family struck it rich and moved to the land of luxury in Beverly Hills, to Trapper John, M.D., a Chief of Surgery at San Francisco Memorial Hospital and a veteran MASH surgeon of the Korean War, television doctors have entertained us weekly, and sometimes daily, for many years.
Who can forget the loveable Doctor Huxtable, who we rarely saw at work, but we regularly saw his interaction with his family as a father, husband, and a son. Programs like ER, Grey’s Anatomy, and Private Practice strive to merge the personal with the professional lives of our favorite medical specialists. As a viewing public, we can’t seem to get enough of lab coats, scrubs, and emergency rooms.
And not all of the doctors were in the medical field. Some were psychotherapists, teachers, or not even doctors at all. Here are five of my favorite characters who can claim “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.”
Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelly, Star Trek)- Dr. “Bones” McCoy has been around a galactic block or two. Always reminding his long time friend, Captain James T. Kirk, that “I’m a doctor, not a(n) (engineer, bricklayer, magician, coal miner, etc.)!” before taking on a task that was outside his range of training. Famous for not sugar-coating bad news, “He’s dead, Jim.” and often at odds with the Vulcan Science Officer, he is the moral rock that Kirk relies on to balance his own emotional response with Spock’s logical scenarios.
“Jim… if you ask me, and you haven’t, I think this is a terrible idea. We’re bound to bump into the Klingons, and they don’t exactly like you.” – Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy
Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco, The Sopranos) – As the next-in-line mob boss Tony Soprano’s therapist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi is often both repelled and attracted to the power and mystery behind the scenes of organized crime. Like us, she lives vicariously through Tony’s stories and family issues and becomes sympathetic to his plight. She attempts, as his therapist, to advise him to make different choices, legal choices, but, also like us, hopes he doesn’t take her advice.
“Genetic predispositions are only that: predispositions. It’s not a destiny written in stone. People have choices.” – Dr. Jennifer Melfi
Dr. J (Julius Erving) – Long before Michael Jordan defied gravity with the Chicago Bulls, Dr. J was dunking from the free-throw line. The most popular player in the American Basketball Association (ABA) when it merged with the National Basketball Association (NBA), he helped innovate what would lead to slam dunk contests and the backboard shattering style of modern play. During his career, Dr. J won three championships, four MVP awards, and three scoring titles with several professional teams. He remains the fifth-highest scorer in professional basketball history with 30,026 points (ABA and NBA combined) and was a 1993 inductee in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The key to success is to keep growing in all areas of life – mental, emotional, spiritual, as well as physical. – Julius Erving
Dr. Perry Cox (John C. McGinley, Scrubs) – Cantankerous, arrogant, disgruntled, and drunk can describe the loveable Dr. Perry Cox as he belittles his subordinates, superiors, and patients. He often declares his hatred for Hugh Jackman in long running rants. A graduate of Hale University and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, this Chief of Medicine at Sacred Heart is an egotistical narcissist, but deep down, really cares for his patients and co-workers, though is never confident enough to show it.
“Look, Newbie, there are times a man wants to keep something to himself. Say he’s got a son or he’s 29 years old and keeps a journal with a unicorn drawn on the cover.” – Dr. Perry Cox
The Doctor (William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davidson, Richard Hurndall, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Doctor Who) – Eleven incarnations of everyone’s favorite Time Lord, this enigmatic Galifreyan travels through space and time, often with one or more companions, trying to help spread the word that we should all get along and celebrate our differences, no matter where or when we find ourselves. Always battling the pernicious Daleks, the Doctor can always find a way to win the day, no matter how dire the situation finds him and his companions.
“Time isn’t a straight line. It’s all… bumpy-wumpy. There’s loads of boring stuff. Like Sundays and Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons. But now and then there are Saturdays. Big temporal tipping points when anything’s impossible.” – The Eleventh Doctor
Who is you favorite television doctor?