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Modern Hospital Television: 3 TV Shows Since 1980 That Shaped the Genre

By    |   Tuesday, 01 Dec 2015 06:40 PM

Life and death intersect each day in hospitals around the world. Watching doctors and nurses deal with those circumstances has been a formula for compelling television shows for many decades. Modern hospital TV shows have used the setting to push the boundaries between comedy and drama and between reality and fantasy.

Here are three shows that helped shape the genre.

1. “Scrubs” (2001-2010)
“Scrubs” did not offer a completely novel concept, but still made a lasting impression. It examined hospital life through the viewpoint of J.D. as he progresses through his medical career. J.D. serves as the show’s narrator for most episodes and viewers get to hear his thoughts and are pulled into outlandish fantasies.

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Like “M*A*S*H*” before it, “Scrubs” uses a hospital setting to mix absurd comedy and heartfelt drama in equal doses. “Scrubs” showed that it was possible for a TV show to deal with the full range of real-life human emotions and still make audiences laugh. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette praised it, declaring that “Scrubs has heart. Not the forced, icky sentimentality so often found in sitcoms, but earned moments that feel genuinely poignant.”

2. “ER” (1994-2009)
George Clooney rose to fame with his breakout role in this medical drama. But it had a greater impact than simply introducing Clooney to a wider audience. “ER” focused on the doctors and nurses who worked shifts in an emergency room at an urban hospital. It followed them as they dealt with medical issues and how their job affected their lives and vice-versa.

“ER” offered a stark look into how people tasked with saving lives dealt with challenges in their own lives. It was praised for its realistic portrayal of life and death situations and the organized chaos of hospital life over 15 seasons.

3. “St. Elsewhere” (1982-88)
On the surface, "St. Elsewhere" seems like a typical medical drama. It chronicled the struggles of the staff at St. Eligius, a Boston hospital, to save lives and deal with their own lives along the way. "St. Elsewhere" gained a reputation for pushing the boundaries during six seasons on the air.

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It seemed fitting that the series would sign off with a finale still talked about decades later when a twist ending revealed the entire show had been the fantasy of an autistic boy looking at a snow globe, Entertainment Weekly noted. This ending affects other shows related to "St. Elsewhere," causing audiences to wonder how many series sprang from the same boy’s mind.

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Life and death intersect each day in hospitals around the world. Modern hospital TV shows have used the setting to push the boundaries between comedy and drama and between reality and fantasy.
modern, hospital, television, genre
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2015-40-01
Tuesday, 01 Dec 2015 06:40 PM
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