The 15 Best Medical Examiner TV Shows

Jobs in the medical and forensic field have always held a certain level of fascination, especially with the rising interest in crime and fictional, procedural law enforcement shows like the CSI franchise and Criminal Minds, or true crime docuseries’ like The Keepers or Exhibit A.

So, if talk of crime scenes, pathology, and forensics is something that piques your interest, and these kinds of TV shows are right up your alley, then this is the right place for you!

Saying one works as a medical examiner paints a clear picture already, but did you know that there are actually several specialties within the field? Therefore, in this article, we’re going to talk about the different kinds of medical examiners and the TV shows that have these officials at the forefront.

Rizzoli & Isles, TNT (2010 – 2016)

Rizzoli & Isles was based on a series of novels authored by Tess Gerritsen, who used her background in anthropology and medicine when penning the Rizzoli & Isles novels.

Rizzoli was a secondary character in the first novel, while Dr. Isles was introduced only in the second, so this is where the TV show picks up from.

In this TNT series, we meet Boston police detective Jane Rizzoli and Massachusetts’ chief medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles.

They begin their partnership investigating the copycat of a murderer that Rizzoli had previously encountered.

As they continue to investigate him and his victims, the two develop a deeply personal friendship despite their polar opposite personalities.

Body of Proof, ABC (2011 – 2013)

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ABC’s Body of Proof aired for three seasons before the series was canceled after ratings and viewership dropped in the latter two seasons – though its first season was the network’s second most-watched scripted drama.

In order to make sure the science was as factual and realistic as possible, the show’s producers ensured the constant presence of technical advisers on set while filming.

Body of Proof features another strong female lead in Dr. Megan Hunt, a former neurosurgeon who accidentally killed a patient on her operating table.

This unfortunate incident led her to leave that profession entirely and become a medical examiner instead.

While delivering her medical duties, she must also attempt to rekindle a relationship with her estranged daughter.

Forever, ABC (2014 – 2015)

Not to be confused with Amazon Video’s 2018 comedy series of the same name, Forever was ABC’s next attempt at a crime drama with a medical examiner in the lead role, albeit with a fascinating mix of the fantasy genre.

The main character, Dr. Henry Morgan, is a medical examiner in New York City who works closely with the NYPD to solve crimes, though he also has an ulterior motive.

His drive to keep studying dead bodies is also an attempt to solve the mystery of his own immortality.

That’s right, Dr. Morgan is a 200-year-old immortal who immediately disappears upon “death” and then reappears in a nearby body of water.

His long life and experience enabled him to amass a broad range of knowledge and skills in the field, making him an exceptional professional in his field as well.

One West Waikiki, CBS (1994 – 1996)

Another show that features a medical examiner and a detective teaming up is One West Waikiki, which takes viewers on a thrilling journey to the lush landscapes of Hawaii, where crime meets paradise.

We follow Dr. Dawn “Holli” Holliday, a forensic pathologist with a knack for solving mysteries, and her partnership with detective Mack Wolfe.

Together, they tackle a range of perplexing cases, from murder to medical malpractice, against the stunning backdrop of Waikiki.

Quincy, M.E., NBC (1976 – 1983)

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NBC’s Quincy, M.E. may have been one of the first shows with a medical examiner as the protagonist, having first aired all the way back in 1976!

The show was inspired by a book written by a former FBI agent, while the main character of Quincy is loosely based on Dr. Thomas Noguchi, the “Coroner to the Stars” who investigated high-profile Hollywood cases in the 60s and 70s.

Dr. R. Quincy, or ‘Quince”, is the medical examiner for the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.

With the help of his lab assistant Sam Fujiyama and occasional cooperation from his boss, Dr. Robert Asten, and LAPD Homicide Lieutenant Frank Monahan, Quince works to investigate suspicious deaths in the county.

While the first few seasons were primarily whodunit cases, the latter seasons began to feature more socially involved themes like waste and pollution, mental health, drugs, and firearms.

Silent Witness, BBC One (1996 – present)

Next up, we have the first non-American series on this list – the long-running British crime drama Silent Witness.

Renowned for its intricate narratives and forensic realism, the show follows a team of dedicated forensic pathologists as they unravel complex mysteries surrounding suspicious deaths.

With each episode, viewers are drawn into a world of high-stakes investigation, where cutting-edge forensic techniques intersect with intense human drama.

From deciphering clues in the lab to confronting dark secrets, Silent Witness navigates the intricate web of criminality with authenticity and suspense.

Spanning over two decades, the show continues to captivate audiences with its compelling storytelling, cementing its status as a cornerstone of British television.

McCallum, ITV (1995 – 1998)

Speaking of British dramas, in the late 1990s, ITV had its own series about a forensic pathologist – McCallum.

The show follows the brilliant yet unconventional forensic pathologist Dr. Iain McCallum.

Set in London, the show delves into McCallum’s world as he navigates the complexities of forensic investigation while battling personal demons and professional challenges.

With his sharp intellect and unorthodox methods, McCallum tackles a range of intriguing cases, from mysterious deaths to high-profile murders.

Alongside his dedicated team, including forensic biologist Angela Moloney, McCallum confronts the dark underbelly of society while unraveling the truth behind each crime.

The Expert, BBC2 (1968 – 1976)

Jumping back a few more decades in British TV history, in the late 1960s, BBC2 also produced a show about a forensic pathologist aptly titled The Expert.

This compelling series revolves around the character of Dr. John Hardy,, a forensic pathologist known for his astute analytical skills and dedication to solving complex crimes.

Set against the backdrop of post-World War II London, the show follows Dr. Hardy as he navigates the intricacies of forensic investigation, unraveling the truth behind baffling murders and mysterious deaths.

With each episode presenting a new and intriguing case, The Expert offers a captivating blend of suspense, intrigue, and character-driven storytelling, showcasing Dr. Hardy’s unwavering commitment to justice and his relentless pursuit of truth in the face of adversity.

iZombie, The CW (2015 – 2019)

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Here’s a show that definitely brings a new take to the oft-used zombie trope.

iZombie follows a Seattle medical resident named Liv Moore.

After attending a party one night, she, unfortunately, becomes a zombie who has developed an appetite for human brains. If she doesn’t satisfy it, she turns into a regular mindless zombie.

Not wanting to kill innocent humans, she decides to work for the King County medical examiner’s office so she has easy access to the brains.

When she consumes them, however, she’s able to gain their personality and memories temporarily, so she uses this advantage to help the Seattle Police solve their murders.

Harrow, ABC (2018 – 2021)

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Harrow is the first and only Australian crime drama series on our list, and it premiered in 2018 on the country’s national public television network, ABC.

Dr. Daniel Harrow is the show’s lead character: a “brilliant, unorthodox, mysterious” forensic pathologist who works at the Queensland Institute of Forensic Medicine.

He and his fellow pathologists at the QIFM assist various branches of local law enforcement agencies. However, he doesn’t always get along with them due to his disregard for the rules and authority in general.

Rosewood, Fox (2015 – 2017)

Like the previous show, Fox’s Rosewood gets its title from the main character.

In this case, it’s Dr. Beaumont Rosewood, the best private pathologist in Miami, Florida. The show premiered to high ratings, but after its move to a different timeslot, ratings dipped, and Rosewood was subsequently dropped after two seasons.

It was interesting to watch the dynamic within Rosewood’s private pathology practice, too.

Working alongside him are his sister, Pippy (she works in toxicology), DNA specialist Tara Milly Izakoff, aka TMI, and Rosewood’s mother, Donna.

Being Miami’s best, they are in high demand and work closely with law enforcement as well.

Since Rosewood himself deals with a slew of personal medical conditions, he believes in looking at the littlest details in life in order to live the best life.

Because of this, he’s able to spot the littlest details in their cases to solve them.

Crossing Jordan, NBC (2001 – 2007)

We go back to Massachusetts with Crossing Jordan, which aired on NBC between 2001 to 2007 and was canceled after six seasons.

Showrunners had actually marketed the season six finale as a cliffhanger, but the network suddenly announced that they had no plans to renew the show. As a result, they had to reboot the ending so that the show could wrap up properly.

As another show that takes its title from the main character, Crossing Jordan follows Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh, a forensic pathologist working out of the Boston Medical Examiner’s Office.

Her interest in the field and solving suspicious deaths started after the murder of her mother when she was a child.

Because of this, she developed trust issues and an irritable temperament that sometimes makes her difficult to work with, but it also gives her the drive to solve the crimes that end up on her table.

Balthazar, La Une (2018 – 2023)

One of the two foreign-language series on this countdown is this riveting French crime drama Balthazar.

The series follows the enigmatic forensic pathologist Raphaël Balthazar. With a sharp mind and unconventional methods, Balthazar leads viewers through a series of complex murder investigations in Paris.

Despite his brilliance, Balthazar grapples with personal demons, adding depth to his character as he navigates both professional challenges and emotional turmoil.

Alongside police detective Hélène Bach, Balthazar unravels intricate cases while delving into the darkest corners of the human psyche.

Forensic Heroes, TVB (2006)

The other foreign-language series we wanted to feature is the Chinese suspense series Forensic Heroes.

This series intertwines thrilling crime-solving with intricate forensic analysis.

Set in Hong Kong, the show follows a team of dedicated forensic experts led by Dr. Man Heung-lam as they investigate a myriad of complex cases.

Combining cutting-edge scientific techniques with keen deductive reasoning, the team unravels the mysteries behind murders, accidents, and other criminal acts.

The show was so popular that the series quickly became a franchise, with the latest show being Forensic Heroes V (before which there were Forensic Heroes II, III, and IV), that came out in 2022 and follows Hong Kong forensic scientists and police as they solve murders in the city.

Bones, Fox (2005 – 2017)

Fox’s Bones is the second-longest-running show on this list, having an incredible twelve seasons and 246 episodes when it ended in March of 2017.

The show’s inspiration was from Kathy Reichs’ fictional crime novels as well as her personal experiences as a forensic anthropologist – thus, she was a producer on Bones as well. At least we know that with her on board, the science and procedures on the show were accurate!

The novel’s titular character is Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan, who is also the lead character in the series.

Funnily enough, she also writes crime novels based on her own experiences where the main character’s name is – you guessed it – Kathy Reichs.

Brennan is a brilliant forensic anthropologist with a high IQ, but her one-track focus on facts and evidence, without emotions, sometimes makes her seem almost too aloof.

She’s highly dedicated to her career and works closely with FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth and as their professional relationship progresses, we find that she’s not completely immune to her own emotions.

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