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Jada Pinkett Smith
The no-nonsense, straight-ahead earthiness that Miss Jada brings to her starring role as a registered nurse in this TNT drama earns her a spot on this list of the best television caregivers. —Marc Bernardin
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Nurse Jackie (2009-present)
Here's how EW TV critic Ken Tucker describes Jackie: ''A veteran ER nurse who's deeply cynical about the doctors she works with and openheartedly kind to the patients in her care. 'Doctors don't heal, they diagnose — we heal,' she says of nurses. From anyone else, that might seem like hubris; from the woman who embodied Carmela Soprano, it just seems like common sense.'' —Marc Bernardin
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6. ''Employee of the Month''
Season 3, episode 4
The esplanade scam. Meadow and Jackie Jr. Johnny Sack's rotund wife. ''EOTM'' was ground zero for so many arcs. But it's Dr. Melfi's rape for which it's best remembered, and the way Melfi is tempted to ditch her principles for a shot at vengeance. Bracco is almost unbearably brilliant; she makes you feel every painful inch of her physical, emotional, and ethical ordeal. Her haunting final line — ''No'' — is crushingly heroic. —Jeff Jensen
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Sometimes, caregivers can be just as in need of help as their patients. Case in point: Nurse Hathaway, who'd coped with suicidal tendencies and rocky relationships since day one. But her struggles made her triumphs that much more amazing to watch. —Marc Bernardin
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Dr. Kildare (1961-1966)
Meredith Grey wasn't the first intern to steam up a soapy medical drama. In the 1960s, Blair General Hospital intern James Kildare healed patients and meddled in their personal lives, much to the chagrin of benevolent mentor Leonard Gillespie.
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Is there a doctor on the plane? Thank goodness there was on Oceanic Flight 815. The survivors would definitely be lost (sorry, couldn't resist) without Dr. De Facto Leader.
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The Cosby Show (1984-1992)
Best known for his trove of garish sweaters and penchant for hoagies, we sometimes forget bumbling Cliff Huxtable is actually a skilled ob-gyn. But how can you go wrong with a physician who probably has his own lifetime supply of Jell-O?
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MICHAELA ''MIKE'' QUINN
Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-1998)
We'll admit it: We spent many a Saturday night on the sofa rooting for Dr. Mike as she strove to earn the trust and respect of her skeptical Colorado Springs neighbors. With a successful medical practice, a hot mountain-man husband, and adoring children, this determined doc proved pioneer women could have it all — if only they were allowed.
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According to this NBC-then-ABC sitcom, the staffs of most hospitals are like scout troops. Which would make Carla the den mother of Scrubs' misfit band of doctors, surgeons, patients, and, yes, janitors. —Marc Bernardin
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Eleven years in the South Korean wilderness would have been much more deplorable without the antics of wisecracking surgeon Hawkeye Pierce. Yet for all the levity he supplied, his helicopter exit from the 4077th still leaves us misty.
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FRASIER AND NILES CRANE
Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce
Neurotic psychiatrist brothers Frasier and Niles Crane seem to have more issues than the patients they purport to help. Daddy complex? Check. Messy divorces? You bet. Unrequited love? Of course. Physicians, heal thyselves!
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MIRANDA ''THE NAZI'' BAILEY
Grey's Anatomy (2005-)
We like strong-willed Miranda Bailey when she's kicking intern butt, but we love the Seattle Grace chief resident when she shows us her vulnerable side (like when she let intern George help deliver her son). Her struggle to balance work and family life is something any woman can relate to, which makes her much less of a ''Nazi.''
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Marcus Welby, M.D. (1969-1976)
Much like its predecessor, Dr. Kildare, Marcus Welby, M.D. focused on the relationship between an older mentor and his younger charge. This time around, it was the more-seasoned physician's unusual holistic approach that raised the eyebrow of younger assistant Steven Kiley (played by James Brolin). Who says you can't teach an old doc new tricks?
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Star Trek (1966-1969)
A doctor as irascible as Leonard ''Bones'' McCoy needed a nurse with her head on straight and her phaser set to ''calm.'' Nurse Chapel fit the bill. (And eventually married the boss — Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.) —Marc Bernardin
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Voiced by Hank Azaria
The Simpsons (1989-)
If by ''best'' you mean ''worst,'' then yes, hack-quack Dr. Nick fits right in on our list of TV's top docs. But if you're not looking for a leg as an arm or an un-anaesthetized surgery, you might want to save your shillings for a visit to Dr. Hibbert.
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Chicago Hope (1994-2000)
We like our female surgeons rough-and-ready (see: Miranda Bailey), which is why we'd appoint cardiac surgeon Kathryn Austin chief of surgery any day. We just hope she isn't in the bathroom when the announcement is made.
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MARK GREENE AND ELIZABETH CORDAY
Anthony Edwards and Alex Kingston
Steadfast Mark Greene was always the voice of reason in County General's frenetic emergency room, which may explain why he and frenzied British surgeon Elizabeth Corday made such a good pair. After Mark's death from cancer, Corday suffered a few career missteps — including a harrowing return to Britain — but ultimately redeemed herself, becoming chief of surgery.
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DR. DRAKE RAMORAY (JOEY TRIBBIANI)
The role of Dr. Drake Ramoray on Friends' faux-soap opera was the only big-time acting gig lovable goof Joey ever landed. All the more reason to talk about it over, and over, and over.... At least we picked up that useful ''smell the fart'' acting technique.
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LEONARD ''BONES'' McCOY
Star Trek (1966-1969)
Sure, he's prejudiced against Vulcans, but he'll treat anyone who comes into his Sick Bay on the U.S.S. Enterprise, no matter what shape their ears are. Dr. McCoy gets a gold star in our book for routinely offering Captain Kirk some good old-fashioned final-frontier wisdom.
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SEAN McNAMARA AND CHRISTIAN TROY
Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon
Illegitimate children, face-disfiguring serial rapists, and tummy tucks. Is there anything these Miami-cum-L.A. plastic surgeons can't handle? Maybe a week without an eyebrow wax...
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''TRAPPER JOHN'' McINTYRE
Trapper John, M.D. (1979-1986)
Twenty-eight years after the Korean War, M*A*S*H's Trapper John emerges at a different locale (San Francisco Memorial Hospital) and played by a different person (Pernell Roberts). He initially locks horns with Vietnam vet Gonzo (i.e., the embodiment of Trapper's younger self), but eventually he warms up. Because that's what TV doctors do, the ones who aren't House, anyway.