Five American medical television series (Chicago Med, Grey’s Anatomy, New Amsterdam, The Good Doctor, and The Resident) integrated Covid-19 into their storylines. This qualitative analysis examines the content of the coronavirus-related episodes and the central medical cases beyond coronavirus in the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 television seasons. The number of Covid-specific episodes varies per series. In the portrayal of the pandemic, three stages appear: (1) pre-crisis: first cases; (2) crises; (3) post-crisis aftermaths. Storylines admitted the limitations of sources and technology; common plot elements included patient overload, changing spatial structure within the hospital, and blurring hierarchical and specialty lines. Series stood up for the scientific approaches to coronavirus and safety protocols. After two special episodes, The Good Doctor and The Resident reallocated their story world to a Covid-free future – but they admitted that coronavirus still exists. It is a crucial step because, as former studies show, the audience tends to use this genre as an information source on medical issues. Cultivation theory is a well-established research framework of medical series. The second part of the analysis discusses the central medical storylines beyond Covid-19 to see what other directions the five productions focused on.
Television series; medical drama; medicine in popular culture; Covid-19 representation; edutainment.