How your favorite TV doctor would respond to a pandemic like coronavirus
There's no denying it: The real-life healthcare workers on the front lines during the current coronavirus pandemic are bigger heroes than any fictional TV doctor could ever be.
Still, there are moments when the scary times we're living in feel strange enough that they could, in fact, be the story line of any network medical drama. That got us thinking... If this outbreak was just a week-long story arc on Grey's Anatomy or The Resident, how would our favorite onscreen docs deal with it? Read on for some imagined scenarios. (Shonda Rhimes, we're available for follow-up questions.)
Dr. Meredith Grey, Grey's Anatomy
When Chief Bailey (Chandra Wilson) develops (mild) flu-like symptoms and the staff at Grey Sloan Memorial can't pinpoint the cause, the entire hospital goes into overdrive on a mission to save their beloved boss. All other non-essential surgeries are canceled as the staff frantically scans medical journals and their parents' diaries, hoping that these symptoms have presented themselves somewhere before and are curable. As the virus starts to spread around the hospital and even across the street to Joe's Bar, everyone ignores DeLuca's (Giacomo Gianniotti) claims that he's previously seen something similar back home in Italy. Of course, in the end, it's the Harper Avery award-winning Dr. Grey (Ellen Pompeo) who has a brainwave mid-casual-conversation with a dying patient and rushes off to solve the pandemic, yelling, "We must all wash our hands!" for the entire hospital to hear. She then dons medical gloves and a surgical mask and ducks into the nearest on-call room for a celebratory romp with the most promising intern. —Ruth Kinane
Dr. Gregory House, House
As the man himself, Hugh Laurie, tweeted, Dr. House is a diagnostician so he wouldn’t be involved in trying to solve.
If anything, Dr. House would be called on to help with the influx of COVID-19 patients flooding the ER and clinic and inevitably stumble upon the one person who appeared to have coronavirus but actually had some other rare disease that only presented like the virus. —Chancellor Agard
Dr. Jack Shephard, Lost
One of the only TV docs to practice entirely on a beach, Lost’s plane-wreck-surviving Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) comes with on-the-job experience in crisis medicine. Proven to be a natural leader in dire times, he undoubtedly would have looked at this whole outbreak as “just another day on the island!” Plus, if the show’s more violent scenes demonstrate anything, he’d have taken pretty drastic measures to #StopTheSpread — though his “live together or die alone” mantra seems…a little less useful in socially-distant times. —Vignesh Raguraman
J.D. (Zach Braff) gets the bat signal from Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) that Sacred Heart is in desperate need of help, so he asks Turk (Donald Faison) for a small favor: Can he sub for the Zoom classes he’s supposed to teach so he could go help? At the hospital, J.D. runs into Dr. Aaronson (Dave Franco), who immediately puts him on a mission to drive around to find more ventilators. J.D. quickly realizes the only local manufacturer that still has equipment is now run by Janitor, and wanting to avoid the awkward hello, he attempts to break into the building. Meanwhile, Turk teaches J.D.’s class how to do the latest TikTok dance. —Omar Sanchez
Dr. Conrad Hawkins, The Resident
Although audiences are used to seeing Dr. Conrad Hawkins (Matt Czuchry) of Fox's The Resident make it his mission to fix the corrupt medical system, during this time of crisis he makes it his mission to take down COVID-19. First, he determines where the virus started and after finding patient zero, discovers that the virus started at — and has been spreading throughout — his very own hospital. Naturally, this information is kept under wraps by Red Rock Mountain Medical because they believe it to be a catastrophic PR nightmare, thereby stirring up another battle between the hospital staff and the medical company. Luckily, the hospital staff comes out on top. With Red Rock out of Hawkins’ way, he works tirelessly to find a cure. Ultimately, Hawkins realizes the cure is rather simple and that they have all the resources/knowledge they could possibly need right at the touch of their hands — as long as they don't touch hands in the process. —Jessica Leon
The Doctor, Doctor Who
Admittedly, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) is more of a zany, outlaw time-traveler and less of an actual medical expert. But if there’s one thing she’s proved throughout her 13-plus regenerations, it’s that she’s the person-slash-Timelord you’d want on your side during a crisis. Plus, self-quarantine doesn’t seem so bad when your house/TARDIS is bigger on the inside. She wouldn’t be able to go back in time and prevent the outbreak — no temporal paradoxes allowed! — but she would use the TARDIS to zip around the world, convincing global governments to enact social distancing measures and furiously dressing down any authority figures who doubted her (probably by delivering a grand, inspirational speech about the motivational perseverance of the human race). —Devan Coggan
Dana Scully, The X-Files
While Mulder (David Duchovny) was busy blaming the virus on aliens, the government, and/or Bigfoot, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) — an FBI agent and M.D. — would do what she does best: roll up her sleeves and save some lives. After pulling an 18-hour shift volunteering in the ICU, she’d then use her government connections to try to get supplies rerouted to hospitals in need, before treating herself to a bagel (one with real cream cheese, of course). —D.C.
Dr. Claire Randall Fraser, Outlander
Whether she’s in the 1960s or the 18th century, Dr. Claire Randall Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) is never not prepared. If she can find a way to make and administer penicillin in the past, we have no doubt she’d meet the COVID-19 pandemic with her usual ingenuity and grim determination. Claire would be recruiting Bree (Sophie Skelton), Roger (Richard Rankin), Marsali (Lauren Lyle), and Fergus (César Domboy) to sew masks for all their loved ones, instituting social distancing before it was official policy, and doing her best to treat anyone with symptoms. She’s used to people ignoring her medical advice or dismissing it as witchcraft, so she’d plow right on through any unhelpful federal suggestions or inaction to protect all those around her. And she’d still find time for a roll in the literal hay with Jamie. Couples who quarantine together... —Maureen Lee Lenker
Simon Tam, Firefly
Firefly is set centuries in the future, after humankind has spread to the stars — but considering that many of the show’s planets rely on basic frontier technology, it’s fair to imagine a coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc there as much as it is here. In fact, it would probably happen in much the same way, with poor areas hit much harder than the rich metropolises. Though born rich, Simon’s experiences and natural altruism would push him towards helping coronavirus patients. But ultimately it would become clear that in order to really help people at a responsible level, the Serenity crew would have to run a heist and steal some medicine/supplies from a rich city to give to the poor. —Christian Holub
Dr. Zoe Hart, Hart of Dixie
After landing back in Bluebell, Alabama from a trip to New York City to see her mom, Dr. Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson) hears about a virus spreading across the Big Apple, so she has to self-isolate. While Dr. Brick Breeland (Tim Matheson) and Mayor Lavon Hayes (Cress Williams) monitor the situation and the health of everyone in town, Zoe keeps getting visits from people wanting to see a doctor right at her window. Refusing to ignore her patients, Zoe has George Tucker (Scott Porter) and Wade Kinsella (Wilson Bethel) go around town to patients in order for Dr. Hart to see her patients via laptops and cell phones. —Alamin Yohannes
Dr. Hank Lawson, Royal Pains
During his usual round of visits as a concierge doctor in the Hamptons, Dr. Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein) begins to see several of them exhibiting the same symptoms. Quickly he reaches out to his girlfriend, and local hospital administrator, Jill Casey (Jill Flint) about the situation and has several tests ran on himself by his physician’s assistant Divya Katdare (Reshma Shetty). Once he’s cleared of whatever is going around, Hank uses his experience as an E.R. doctor to help Jill and her staff get to the bottom of the impending crisis. —Alamin Yohannes
Dr. Naomi Bennett, Private Practice
Dr. Naomi Bennett (Audra McDonald) returns to Los Angeles from her new life running a global health organization when her former Seaside Health & Wellness colleagues call her in to stop virus that's quickly making its way around the city. Using the fortune William White (James Morrison) left her, Dr. Bennett calls in specialists from across the globe, and then flies in the supplies they need to stay safe while treating patients. The skilled fertility specialist may not be the one who will find a treatment or cure, but she’s the right doctor to mobilize vast resources and ensure it happens. —Alamin Yohannes
Dr. TC Callahan, The Night Shift
Rule breaker Dr. TC Callahan (Eoin Macken) is on a humanitarian mission abroad to put some space between him and his frustrated bosses after a recent maverick move when he sees a community being ravaged by an unknown disease. The former Army medic quickly mobilizes the people on the ground with him, his contacts in the army, and his colleagues at San Antonio Memorial Hospital in an effort to get the help he needs. With the resources and information in hand, TC faces off with government officials less inclined to devote vast resources, putting everyone on the humanitarian mission in a tough spot. In his typical reckless fashion, TC pisses them all off when he pushes ahead anyway, but he does stop the disease from spreading in the end. —Alamin Yohannes
For the latest information on coronavirus (COVID-19), including how to protect yourself and what to do if you think you are sick, please visit coronavirus.gov.