TV

The Greatest TV Shows About Illness  

Ranker TV
68 votes 14 voters 20 items

List Rules Vote up the shows that center their storyline around ongoing illness such as cancer.

Illness in all its various forms can often be an all-consuming feeling that is scarier and more alienating than anything else in the world. But the fact is, nearly everyone has experienced illness at one time or another in their lives, whether themselves or through a family member. Sometimes the best way to understand illness is to watch how others deal with it, because there's no right way to handle something so life-changing. In our current age of television, there's no shortage of shows that deal with illness in utterly compelling, human ways that can go from heartbreaking to empathetic to hilariously satisfying all in one episode. 

A TV series about illness can be therapeutic for those staring sickness in the face, but they can also be cathartic and just plain entertaining for everyone else. Sometimes there's nothing better than a good cry, and the best shows about illness understand that. Much like being sick itself, these TV shows about characters dealing with their own chronic illness or that of family members can whisk you from hopeless lows to dazzling highs in no time at all. From prestige dramas to network sitcoms to big-budget genre epics, the television series on this list all manage to say something unique about illness (rather than simply featuring an ill character) and show the variety of ways that things such as cancer, grief, depression, OCD, and other mental and physical difficulties. can affect us. Whether these shows are full on cry-fests or manage to wrap up their various storylines of illness in a happy ending, they all understand the complexity of illness and are able to turn that complexity into endlessly riveting television.

list ordered by
1
House is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard
House is an American television medical drama that originally ran on the Fox network for eight seasons, from November 16, 2004 to May 21, 2012. The show's main character is Dr. Gregory House, a ...more
2
The West Wing is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Allison Janney
The West Wing is an American serial political drama television series created by Aaron Sorkin that was originally broadcast on NBC from September 22, 1999, to May 14, 2006. The series is set ...more
3
This Is Us is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown
This Is Us (NBC, 2016) is an American television series created by Dan Fogelman. Follows a unique ensemble, as their paths cross and their life stories interwine, from sharing the same birthday, ...more
4
Parenthood is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard
Parenthood is an American television drama series developed by Jason Katims and produced by Imagine Television and Universal Television for NBC. The show tells of the Braverman clan which ...more
5
The Good Doctor is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Freddie Highmore, Antonia Thomas, Nicholas Gonzalez
The Good Doctor (ABC, 2017) is an American medical-drama television series based on the 2013 South Korean series of the same name. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) is a young pediatric surgeon ...more
6
Grey's Anatomy is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Ellen Pompeo, Justin Chambers, Chandra Wilson
Grey's Anatomy is an American medical soap opera television series that premiered on American Broadcasting Company as a mid-season replacement on March 27, 2005. The series has aired eleven ...more
7
The Act is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Patricia Arquette, Joey King, Chloë Sevigny
The Act (Hulu, 2019) is an American true crime anthology drama web television series. A girl's (Joey King) quest for independence from the toxic relationship she has with her overprotective ...more
8
Atypical is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Keir Gilchrist, Brigette Lundy-Paine
Atypical (Netflix, 2017) is a coming-of-age dark comedy television series created and written by Robia Rashid. Sam (Keir Gilchrist), an 18-year-old on the autism spectrum, looks for a ...more
9
One Mississippi is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Tig Notaro, Casey Wilson, Noah Harpster
One Mississippi (Amazon Prime, 2016) is a semi-autobiographical American comedy television series created by comedian Tig Notaro. Los Angeles radio host Tig Bavaro returns to Bay St. Lucille, ...more
10
The Big C is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Laura Linney, Oliver Platt, Gabriel Basso
The Big C is a Showtime original television series which premiered on August 16, 2010. It drew the largest audience for a Showtime original series premiere. The second season premiered on June ...more
11
The Golden Girls is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan
The Golden Girls is an American sitcom, created by Susan Harris, that originally aired on NBC from September 14, 1985, to May 9, 1992. Starring Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and ...more
12
Derek is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Ricky Gervais, Kerry Godliman, David Earl
Derek is a British television comedy-drama written by, directed by and starring Ricky Gervais. The pilot was produced by Derek Productions Ltd. for Channel 4 and aired on 12 April 2012. On 9 May ...more
13
Nurse Jackie is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Edie Falco, Merritt Wever, Paul Schulze
Nurse Jackie is an American medical dark satirical comedy-drama series. It premiered on Showtime on June 8, 2009. The show's seventh and final season will premiere April 12, 2015. The show stars ...more
14
Friday Night Lights is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Aimee Teegarden
Friday Night Lights is an American drama television series about a high school football team in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas. It was developed by Peter Berg, and executive produced by ...more
15
Shameless is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Emmy Rossum, William H. Macy, Ethan Cutkosky
Shameless is an American television comedy-drama which airs on Showtime. This remake of the award-winning British series is set in Chicago's Canaryville neighborhood on the South Side, although ...more
16
Transparent is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Jeffrey Tambor, Amy Landecker, Judith Light
Transparent is an American comedy-drama television series produced by Picrow for Amazon Studios that debuted on February 6, 2014. The series was created and directed by Jill Soloway. The story ...more
17
Life Sentence is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Lucy Hale, Elliot Knight, Dylan Walsh
Life Sentence (The CW, 2017) is an American comedy-drama created by Erin Cardillo and Richard Keith. When Stella Abbott (Lucy Hale) finds out her terminal cancer is cured, she's going to have to ...more
18
Brothers & Sisters is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Sally Field, Emily VanCamp, Rob Lowe
Brothers & Sisters is an American television drama series that centers on the Walker family and their lives in Los Angeles and Pasadena, California. The series premiered on ABC on September ...more
19
Black-ish is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi
Black-ish (ABC, 2014) is an American sitcom created by Kenya Barris. A family man (Anthony Anderson) struggles to gain a sense of cultural identity while raising his kids in a predominantly ...more
20
The OA is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest TV Shows About Illness
Brit Marling, Emory Cohen, Scott Wilson
The OA (Netflix, 2016) is an American mystery drama web television series, with science fiction, supernatural and fantasy elements. Creator Brit Marling stars as a young woman named Prairie ...more