Television is full of surgeons, some good and some, well—let’s just say you wouldn’t want them to operate on you or anyone you know.
When Cinemax’s The Knick, a show about the early days of surgery, premieres Friday, viewers will meet yet another TV surgeon: Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen), a gruff doctor who’s often up to his elbows in blood. Because The Knick is set in the early 20th century, Thackery is lacking many of the luxuries today’s medical professionals have. But he still proves more trustworthy than, for example, Grey’s Anatomy’s Leah Murphy.
From the skilled Thackery to the not-so-skilled Murphy, here’s a look at which TV surgeons would be ideal candidates the next time you need to head to the O.R.—and which ones you’d probably want to steer clear of:
10. Leah Murphy (Tessa Ferrer), Grey’s Anatomy
Out of the dozens of surgeons featured on Grey’s Anatomy over its (so far) nine-year run, Leah Murphy is the only one who’s been flat-out told, “You aren’t cut out to be a surgeon.” Even April Kepner, who was once fired because she basically killed a patient, was still given a second chance. But Murphy made many reckless mistakes throughout her surgical residency, including a near-fatal one caused by being distracted by a fight she was having with another resident. Someone who can’t separate drama and work enough to hook some oxygen up to the correct line? Pass.
9. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie), House
On the one hand: House performed surgery on himself, and that’s pretty badass. On the other hand: House performed surgery on himself, and that’s pretty dumb. As the head of diagnostic medicine, Gregory House doesn’t spend much time digging into his patients’ insides, but we finally get a look at his surgical skills when he slices into his leg—in his pre-sanitized bathroom—to remove some possibly fatal tumors. The surgery doesn’t last long, though: After the first tumor, House can’t handle the pain and has to be rushed to the hospital where he almost has to have his leg amputated. It’s probably better for himself—and everyone else—that he sticks to solving medical mysteries sans scalpel.
8. Christian Troy (Julian McMahon), Nip/Tuck
Christian Troy is good at what he does, and what he does is sleep with women—and some plastic surgery on the side. But really: He reversed all of Kimber’s scars and wounds after The Carver destroyed her body, and that takes some skill. But he’s also easily distracted and is more concerned with perfection than well-being, which could be a positive if you’re going to him for a boob job but isn’t as comforting if anything goes wrong during said boob job.
7. Peter Benton (Eriq La Salle), ER
Peter Benton breaks a lot of rules. He operates on a patient without permission; he operates on another patient who doesn’t have the proper insurance. But most of the time, he ends up saving a patient by breaking those rules, proving that he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure his patients get the care they need. That attitude is honorable when it all works out, but a doctor who will bypass protocol is a doctor who could one day make a grave mistake. Your elementary school teacher had a good point: Rules exist for a reason.
6. Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson), Hart of Dixie
Sure, Zoe Hart might not wear the typical doctor attire—she prefers short shorts and stilettos over Crocs and T-shirts—but that doesn’t make her any less of a surgeon. When Earl falls into a hole and gets himself a gnarly injury, Hart jumps into action and ends up saving his foot by using some newspaper and a dress tie. If she can rescue an almost-dead foot with just paper and formalwear, just imagine what she could do with scalpels and forceps.
5. Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda), M*A*S*H
Hawkeye is chief of surgery at the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, located right in the middle of Korean War territory. To work under violent conditions, and to get promoted while working under those conditions, proves that Hawkeye is someone who can concentrate even in the most chaotic of circumstances. Not that operating rooms are usually too chaotic, but, hey, it’s comforting to know that if bombs start going off (or, in other words, if you’re at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital), you’ll be in good hands.
4. John Thackery (Clive Owen), The Knick
A preface: If you needed surgery and had to pick any medical drama to transport yourself into, you would most definitely not choose The Knick. But within the context of the show, Thackery is a grade-A surgeon who will staunchly defend his patients—in the first episode, he publicly chastises a nurse for potentially hurting a patient by making a mistake—because he feels so passionately about doing his job well. Transport him to 2014, give him some gloves and a scrub cap, and he becomes a go-to.
3. Chris Turk (Donald Faison), Scrubs
Turk might be one of the silliest characters out of the whole list (proof: this conversation), but he also has a reputation as a quality surgeon at Sacred Heart and was even promoted to Chief of Surgery—a doctor who can save your life and tell you a joke after? The dream.
2. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh), Private Practice
Addison Montgomery, who fans first met when she was still McDreamy’s wife on Grey’s Anatomy, once traveled all the way from Los Angeles to Seattle to operate on a fetus whose heart was growing outside of its heart—and ended up saving both the baby and the mom. Addison is a skilled surgeon, and that combined with her dedication to her patients makes her the ideal candidate for any type of neonatal operation — or any surgery, really.
1. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), Grey’s Anatomy
Cristina Yang is good. Cristina Yang is so good that her ex-fiancé just gave her his entire hospital. His entire hospital. Like it was a coffee or something. “Hey Cristina, what’s up? Want a hospital? Cool, bye!” Yang is fascinated by the heart, and devotes her life to operating on it and learning the best ways to do those operations. You could go to her with a fairly common heart problem and she’d stitch you right up, but you could also go to her with the rarest type of heart disease and she’d probably just print you a 3D new organ, no big deal. Plus, now that she’s living in Switzerland, your surgery would come with a vacation too. The perks of being Cristina Yang’s patient!