This Week in Academia: TV Doctors Aren’t Real!

Academics have a way of making even potentially interesting books sound like they’re just stating the obvious. Case in point: TV doctors don’t behave like real doctors!

Or, to quote from the Annenberg School for Communication’s press release for Dr. Joseph Turow’s book, Playing Doctor: Television, Storytelling, and Medical Power:

Though television scenes involving shirtless, chiseled or Victoria Secret-looking medical doctors will boost a network’s ratings significantly, it gives the audience a very strange notion as to what the medical system should be like, according to Joseph Turow, Ph.D., the Robert Lewis Shayon Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, and author of the new book Playing Doctor: Television, Storytelling, and Medical Power.

“The people who work in television are much more concerned about the drama on medical shows than they are about the politics of medicine or changes in the medical system,” said Professor Turow. “This clash of insights leads to some real tensions about how people think of the medical system and what its future should be.”

In his book, Professor Turow offers an inside look at the creation of iconic doctor shows as well as a detailed history of the programs, an analysis of changing public perceptions of doctors and medicine, and an insightful commentary on how medical dramas have both exploited and  shaped these perceptions.

OK, it sounds like a great big “Duh” moment, but the YouTube clip of Turow discussing the book — with footage from movies and TV — actually isn’t bad. Then again, I might be biased, since I wrote about this topic just over a year ago, in a column titled “Reality Missing in Medical Shows.”

My advice, frankly, if you’re looking for a Dr. McDreamy, is to take two aspirin and wait for healthcare reform to be implemented or hell to freeze over, whichever comes first.

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