Doctors can be found across all dimensions of television from cartoons to gritty westerns, comedies to sci-fi. A genre-bending archetype, audiences are divided on the topic of doctor-centric shows; some viewers shudder at the name Shonda Rhimes while others religiously attend their weekly checkups with Dr. Meredith Grey.
Plenty of doctors have graced the small screen, many of them lovable, some of them not. For the purposes of putting together a streamlined list, the following criteria were put in place: these doctors must have obtained a degree in the field of medicine and the characters must be very, very lovable.
Having said that, there were a few characters who just couldn’t be ignored, so there are some honorable mentions at the end of the list. With that in mind, check out Screen Rant’s list of the 10 Most Lovable TV Doctors.
Dr. Chris Turk – Scrubs
There are a lot of things that can crush a man’s spirit: diabetes, hugging, not getting to be the top half of the world’s most giant doctor, testicular loss, but Dr. Turk (Donald Faison) refuses to let those things keep him down!
The audience watches him go from surgical intern to chief of surgery over the show’s nine seasons. Turk is occasionally super competitive, despite being a pretty easygoing guy. But, holding himself to a high standard, Dr. Turk does his best to be at the top of his game at work, home, and with his super BFF, JD (Zach Braff). Singing, dancing and slow-motion running are the duo’s specialties, with shenanigans often punctuated by Turk’s “Bye, Bye, Bye” (of *NSYNC fame) ringtone.
Dr. Amos “Doc” Cochran – Deadwood
Described as “a man who is in nobody’s pocket” Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif) doesn’t take crap from anyone, a spectacular trait in the camp of Deadwood. As the only doctor, he is viewed as an asset and is generally treated with respect from the good folks and the crooks alike. One of the few to stand up against camp baddie Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), Cochran takes an almost antagonistic approach to their relationship, but honors his word to take care of Swearengen’s courtesans.
As a veteran of the Civil War, he’s seen carnage and he doesn’t spook easily. His approach is ethical and, due to the time period in which the show is set, he is no stranger to creative medical solutions. Surrounded by violence, Doc is always busy, but he’s okay with that.
Dr. Douglas “Doogie” Howser – Doogie Howser
A kid genius with a photographic memory inspired to pursue a career in medicine after surviving two battles with leukemia, Dr. Douglas “Doogie” Howser (Neil Patrick Harris) is a teenage physician struggling to maintain both labels simultaneously. In the show of the same name, he maintains composure as both adult and teenage problems come his way. AIDS, sex, friendship and death are just a sampling of the topics up for discussion in Doogie Howser.
Though the show’s executives initially opposed Neil Patrick Harris’ casting, the test audiences enjoyed his performance so much that they offered him the role anyway. Credited with jump-starting his career, Harris will gladly entertain any Howser references thrown his way (particularly in the Harold & Kumar movies, where he plays a hard-partying, womanizing version of himself). From Old Spice commercials to Saturday Night Live, NPH has good-naturedly poked fun at his teen-doc roots since the show ended in 1993.
Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy – Star Trek
My God, man! Dr. McCoy (Deforest Kelley) is one of the most animated and steadfast physicians in television history. As the Chief Medical Officer of the Enterprise, Bones peppers Star Trek with human emotion and marks a clear boundary between himself and Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) inexhaustible rationality.
McCoy is a little crusty but he’s had a pretty hard life; living with the guilt of assisting in his fathers suicide shortly before a cure was found. Passionate and selfless, he’s as good a friend as he is a doctor, frequently supporting Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and ensuring that the entire crew is cared for. The character’s influence can be found throughout pop culture, his catchphrases permeating television and film alike. Dammit, Jim!
Dr. Michaela Quinn – Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman
Mistaken for “Mike” Quinn, Dr. Michaela Quinn (Jane Seymour) is hired, sight-unseen, to be a doctor in a small town. Female physicians were a rarity at the time and upon Dr. Quinn’s arrival, the residents become concerned about her competence as a medical professional… because ovaries. Class of 1860, y’all! Like a medical Mulan, she throws herself into the middle of the action, and slowly becomes accepted by the townsfolk.
Bending over backwards attending to the needs of her community, she’s someone they come to rely on. Her unflinching dedication to healing radiates throughout the show’s six seasons. Touching on some heavy topics, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman didn’t shy away from storylines centred around adoption, eco-terrorism, or discrimination. Actress Jane Seymour has said Dr. Quinn is the role she is most proud of, despite her original motivation for accepting the role: to get out of crazy debt.
Dr. Tobias Fünke – Arrested Development
A walking, “cat-like,” disaster of a man, Dr. Tobias Fünke (David Cross) married into one of the most awkward television families, and fits right in. Tobias was a chief resident of psychiatry before losing his license in an embarrassing CPR snafu, and turned his efforts toward acting after the revocation of his medical privileges. As a “never-nude”, Fünke is so overwhelmed at the thought of people (including himself) seeing his crotch, that he cannot bring himself to ever be without his trusty and tattered denim cut-offs, which he wears under all pants.
A Carl Weathers-worshipping scatterbrain who gets in his own way, Fünke is really just on a mission to spend more quality time with his family, wife Lindsay Bluth (Portia DeRossi) and daughter Maeby (Alia Shawkat). Frequently speaking in “sexual undertones”, Tobias often makes a fool of himself and is genuinely unaware of it, making his character a fan favorite.
Dr. Sherman Cottle – Battlestar Galactica
Chain smoking in an enclosed space is not very considerate (or healthy), but Galactica’s chief medical officer makes up for it with a heart of gold and a strong moral compass. One of the only characters to treat both humans and cylons with respect, Dr. Cottle (Donnelly Rhodes) considers himself a healer, helping anyone who asks.
Cottle prides himself on his ethical approach, and makes every decision with the best interest of his patients in mind. He’s no pushover, frequently coming into conflict with the rule-breakers in the crew, he stands his ground time and time again. Battlestar Galactica is a series steeped in moral ambiguity, and Cottle is one of the only consistently noble characters within it. Volunteering for the final assignment (touted as a suicide mission), he is ultimately deemed by Adama as “too valuable for the fleet to lose,” as things frequently fall apart when the doc isn’t around.
Dr. Truman Carter III – E.R.
For the eleven seasons in which he appeared, viewers saw Dr. John Truman Carter III (Noah Wyle) grow into his role as a doctor. Introduced as a medical student, Carter advances through various career stages over the course of his story arc. Carter cares deeply about his patients and will sometimes put himself in a bad situation for their benefit, and occasionally works for free.
Losing his brother to leukemia, Carter is inspired to become a doctor to help those going through medical traumas. The character goes through his fair share of trauma, too; rehab, quarantine, getting stabbed, in addition to the grim sights of his day job. Despite being a fan favorite, Carter doesn’t appear in every season. In real life, Wyle took time away from the show so that he could spend time with his wife and newborn son, but came back for a few episodes to check on us too. Aww.
Dr. Dana Scully – The X-Files
A surgeon who completed her residency in forensic medicine, Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) finds her true calling as an agent for the FBI as part of a team investigating paranormal crime. Acting as both a forensic pathologist and special agent, Scully believes everything can be explained using hard science, a sharp contrast to her partner Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), who favors supernatural interpretations.
Because multiple writers were involved over the course of its nine season run, The X-Files had versions of her character that differed slightly throughout, each writer having their own vision for the character. Nevertheless, Scully remains lovable throughout, giving a voice to the skeptics in the audience and pulling Mulder back down to earth. Performing all the autopsies herself, she becomes immersed in her work, and isn’t above occasionally using her credentials as an M.D. to gain access to restricted areas.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce – M*A*S*H
One of the most successful and beloved television shows of all time, M*A*S*H is set during the Korean War and centers on the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Praised for exposing the audience to wartime realities, M*A*S*H did so with an air of humor, garnering much praise for the duration of its eleven season run.
As chief surgeon, Hawkeye (Alan Alda) is the man. A wisecracking prankster, the good doctor is a cool-headed hard worker who does what he believes is right. He’s got a quick tongue and a problem with authority, delivering angelic-voiced insults to everyone equally, regardless of rank.
Sadly, not every doctor on TV has a medical degree, and some of the ones who do aren’t very lovable, but there are some characters who absolutely deserve a spot in the honorable mentions.
Quite possibly the most popular doctor in the history of television, The Doctor (played by numerous actors) from Doctor Who is positively adored by audiences worldwide. Unfortunately, The Doctor isn’t technically a doctor doctor, and the lack of medical degree disqualifies the character, despite being intensely lovable.
The leader of The Muppets house band, The Electric Mayhem, doesn’t have a medical license either, but the impeccable oral hygiene of Dr. Teeth (Jim Henson) scores him a pretty cool nickname – and his aura secures the puppet a spot in our hearts.
The wacky staff physician of Futurama’s Planet Express, Dr. Zoidberg (Billy West), flip-flops between being utterly inept and completely reliable. If his doctorate was in medicine and not art history, perhaps he would have made the cut.
Finally, an “actual” doctor, but a terrible human, Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) is actually one hell of a physician. Yes, his prickly disposition is a key aspect to the show (and some viewers definitely love it) but ultimately his bad qualities outweigh his good and isn’t often associated with the word “lovable”.
Which television doctors do you love? Hit us up in the comments below.
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