It’s Been A Rough Year For Female Doctors On Television

In the beginning of the fall we wrote about how this was the season of the young female doctor with three new shows centered around physicians. We even posed that female TV doctors were the new female TV lawyers. But it is now November and only one of those three shows has not been canceled.

Both Mob Doctor and Emily Owens, M.D. have been cancelled in the last few weeks. Both of these shows featured brilliant young doctors who are baffoons in their personal lives. Well on Mob Doctor it is more the fact that she is working for the mob that makes her personal life a mess. And on Emily Owens, she literally crumbles into a cookie in between life-saving surgeries when she sees her crush and high school enemy. The Mindy Project, which has survived, is also about a talented young Ob/Gyn who is a mess in her personal life.

As Meghan Lewit of The Atlantic wrote that “the single, professionally competent/personally messy woman is a long-running television archetype.” Think of Ally McBeal, Liz Lemon and even Carrie Bradshaw but  for some reason this isn’t working for doctors. Maybe we want our doctors to be more competent in all aspects of their lives. it is nice to know doctors are human but we’d prefer them to not act like 13 year old girls, even on TV.

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    • Lastango

      Shows about technical competence would be quasi-documentaries, and I doubt anyone would watch. It would be like going to Youtube and pulling up instructional videos on how to read an Xray or set a bone.


      One inference from the cancellations is that this is a market like any other, and there’s only room for a certain amount of any one product.

      Also, perhaps one reason for all the tortured love-lives is that’s the device for getting all those hunky young men into extended scenes. Without that, the female target-audience won’t get their crush-fix.

    • Melissa Yuan-Innes

      Maybe it’s also a quality issue. I watched the trailer for Emily Owens and didn’t like the medicine (was that patient really supposed to have a spontaneous pericardial effusion?) and thought the “mean girls” stuff was kind of predictable. Fingers crossed that Mindy Kaling will get it right.
      P.S. I’m biased. I’m an emergency doctor with a book series that somewhat fits the above mold of good doctor/messy personal life, but at least I know the medicine is realistic, my heroine has two hot men fighting over her, and she gets to solve murders to boot. So I’m not going to mourn a show that ain’t done right.

    • snowing_roses

      Having watched Emily Owens, MD–I had really high hopes for it, but I think the problem wasn’t necessarily that we don’t want to see female doctors as incompetent. It wasn’t even that the medicine was inaccurate or unbelievable. It’s that it was irritating watching a fully grown adult act like a high school student. It has nothing to do with being a doctor, just that a 27 year old woman was still bringing up old HS drama every. single. minute. It’s understandable if it happens every so often–everyone has fallen victim to that–but that this character was so unbelievable as a mature, competent, responsible, adult, let alone a doctor. I feel the same way with the Mindy project–all I ever see her do is hang out on the floor of her office. Does she ever WORK? As a female medical student I know all too well that most OBs don’t have time to eat, let alone hang out with their best friends in their office.