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Book and Media Reviews
November 24, 2010

Playing Doctor: Television, Storytelling, and Medical Power

JAMA. 2010;304(20):2302-2303. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1733

Television is pervasive and persuasive. Ninety-eight percent of households in the United States have access to a television, and on average, the set is on for about 6 hours a day. As for the influence of television, just a few years ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that “88% of people in America learn about health issues from television.”1 Television likewise plays a role in shaping the public's perception and expectations of physicians. For roughly 60 years, physicians have been portrayed on television in all kinds of ways—kindly or grouchy, glamorous or gritty, idealistic or realistic, novice or seasoned. And during that time, well more than 100 prime-time comedy and dramatic series focusing on physicians have aired on television. These “doctor shows” feature physicians as central characters, and their treatment of patients is integral to the program. Playing Doctor: Television, Storytelling, and Medical Power tracks “the creation and evolution of the television doctor show.” This new and expanded edition contains 13 chapters written for the 1989 edition published by Oxford University Press.

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