The Doctors (1963 TV series)

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Not to be confused with The Doctors (2008 TV series).
The Doctors
Created by Orin Tovrov
Starring James Pritchett
Elizabeth Hubbard
Ann Williams
David O'Brien
Country of origin USA
No. of episodes 5,280
Running time 30 minutes
Original channel NBC
Original release April 1, 1963 – December 31, 1982

The Doctors is an American television soap opera which aired on NBC Daytime from April 1, 1963, to December 31, 1982. There were 5280 episodes produced, with the 5000th episode airing in November 1981. The series was set in Hope Memorial Hospital in the fictional "Madison," located somewhere in New England.

From anthology to serial[edit]

The Doctors debuted as an anthology series rather than a conventional soap opera, a very ambitious concept for that time. Stories were originally self-contained within one episode and featured various medical emergencies.

Because of the obvious burdens and expense of casting for separate stories each day and due to ratings being lower than expected, on July 22, 1963, stories were expanded to weekly arcs with a new plot introduced every Monday and concluding that week on Friday. This, however, was only marginally successful than the daily anthology format had been.

Beginning March 2, 1964, The Doctors ceased its experimental anthology format and became a traditional continuing serial, like all the other daytime dramas on air then. For most of the series, storylines revolved around Hope Memorial Hospital and its patriarchal Chief of Staff Dr. Matthew "Matt" Powers (played by James Pritchett), who started on the program on July 9, 1963, although Pritchett originally appeared on the series during its weekly anthology period, in another role. [1]

The cast for the original daily concept, which lasted from the premiere on April 1, 1963 until July 19, 1963, was: [2]

  • Jock Gaynor as Dr. William Scott (April 1, 1963 - July 19, 1963, premiere cast)
  • Richard Roat as Dr. Jerry Chandler (April 1, 1963 - January 17, 1964, premiere cast)
  • Margot Moser as Dr. Elizabeth Hayes (April 1, 1963 - July 19, 1963, premiere cast)
  • Fred J. Scollay as Rev. Sam Shafer (April 1, 1963 - 1966, premiere cast)

The early cast for the second, weekly concept, which lasted from the premiere on July 22, 1963 until February 24, 1964 , was: [3]

  • Richard Roat as Dr. Jerry Chandler (April 1, 1963 - January 17, 1964, premiere cast)
  • Fred J. Scollay as Rev. Sam Shafer (April 1, 1963 - 1966, premiere cast)
  • James Pritchett as Dr. Matt Powers (July 22, 1963 - December 31, 1982)
  • Rex Thompson as Michael Powers #1 (July 22, 1963 - 1966)
  • Ann Williams as Dr. Maggie Fielding (July 22, 1963 - 1965)
  • Joseph Campanella as Alec Fielding #1 (August 19 - 23, 1963)
  • Charles Braswell as Alec Fielding #2 (January 20 - February 11, 1964)
  • Scott Graham as Dr. Johnny McGill (January 20, 1964 - December 1964)
  • Joan Anderson as Nora Hansen Lloyd (March 9, 1964 - 1966)


In the program's early years, The Doctors was considered to be more risqué in storyline choices than its rival, General Hospital (which premiered on the same day, with a similar premise to TD). While the doctors on General Hospital worked in harmony with one another for the most part and in some cases were intimate friends, the physicians on The Doctors were much more cutthroat. Also, The Doctors incorporated far more incidental humor and realism into its storylines, and remained anchored to actual medical work in its setting far longer than GH did. General Hospital, by contrast, was much more conventional, relying much more heavily on traditional soap devices such as murder trials, melodrama, extensive sexual trysts and affairs, love triangles, and amnesia than The Doctors.

For example, Matt Powers was put on trial for murder, was forced to rescind his Chief of Staff position, and became very depressed. Another doctor took over Powers' spot and immediately schemed to remove his allies, such as Dr. Althea Davis, from positions of influence in the hospital. In another storyline, one doctor's nurse found out that he killed his rival and made it look like suicide. When he discovered that she knew the truth, he tormented her every day at work until she committed suicide herself, allowing him to get away with the murder.

James Pritchett (Matt Powers) and Elizabeth Hubbard (Althea Davis) with ten years worth of scripts on the show's tenth anniversary

Other notable storylines included cancer and drugs. Doreen Aldrich (played by Jennifer Wood and then by Pamela Lincoln) suffered from leukemia, and Joan Dancy (Margaret Whitton) had an addiction to drugs which was believed to have killed her, but it was later revealed that a hospital worker framed a doctor for pulling the plug on Joan's life support machines.

For about the last five years or so, the show began to move away from its early realism and sobriety in plot toward more stereotypically "soapish" writing. For example, one storyline centered around a woman over 60 years old who impersonated her daughter Adrienne Hunt (Nancy Stafford) by taking a special serum that would keep the old woman younger, but caused the death of Billy Aldrich (Alec Baldwin) in the process.

Awards and production[edit]

In 1972 and 1974, the serial received a Daytime Emmy for Best Drama. During that period until a new opening sequence was created in 1977, announcer Mel Brandt (who was also known for his announcing the animated "Laramie Peacock" color opening in the 1960s and 1970s) would inform the audience at the beginning of each episode: "And now, The Doctors, (The Emmy-award winning program) dedicated to the brotherhood of healing."

Episodes of The Doctors were originally broadcast live and later taped in black and white at Studio 3B, one of NBC's production studios at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City. It was the last NBC daytime serial to transition from black and white to color on October 17, 1966.[4] For most of its run, The Doctors was packaged and sponsored by the Colgate-Palmolive company through its Channelex division; in September 1980, NBC took over production in-house when C-P decided to close Channelex. However, C-P continued to buy much of the program's advertising time until its cancellation.

Broadcast history[edit]

Original series run[edit]

The popularity of The Doctors began flourishing in the late 1960s, when it was featured in advertisements for NBC's 90-minute serial block. NBC first placed the program at 2:30 p.m. Eastern/1:30 Central, where it would eventually air in between Days of Our Lives (starting in November 1965) and Another World (starting in May 1964). When The Doctors premiered in 1963, it replaced entertainment mogul Merv Griffin's first daytime talk show in the 2:30 timeslot, and remained in the slot for nearly sixteen years. This is an extraordinary feat for daytime shows of its day considering its competition, which included long-running favorites such as CBS' House Party with Art Linkletter and ABC's Dating Game. The longest-running soap opera in television history, CBS' The Guiding Light, also competed against The Doctors on several occasions.

From the late 1960s until the mid-1970s, The Doctors ranked as one of the top five daytime dramas in the United States. It peaked at fourth place in the 1973–1974 television season, behind CBS' As the World Turns and fellow NBC serials Days of our Lives and Another World. However, within a period of three years, The Doctors plummeted from fourth to eleventh in the ratings. The decline in ratings was partly attributed to two soaps with which The Doctors shared its timeslot: ABC's One Life to Live and Guiding Light, which expanded to an hour in consecutive years. ABC increased the running time of One Life to Live from 45 minutes to an hour in 1976; CBS expanded Guiding Light to an hour in length in 1977. In 1979, the ratings for The Doctors took another hit after NBC decided to extend the length of its own soap opera, Another World, from 1 hour to an hour and a half, which made Another World itself the first 90-minute daytime soap opera. This decision necessitated a 2:30/1:30 start time for Another World and a move of The Doctors to 2:00/1:00 p.m. The change in timeslot for The Doctors alienated many of the series' longtime followers. Although the show actually finished the 1979-1980 season just 0.2 points lower in the Nielsen ratings, the show's relocation from its longtime 2:30/1:30 p.m. slot after over fifteen years did cause some damage to its already declining ratings, and the worst was yet to come.

On August 4, 1980, NBC moved The Doctors to 12:30 p.m./11:30 a.m. to make room for Texas, a spinoff of Another World. However, with the show facing youth-oriented Ryan's Hope on ABC and the long-running Search for Tomorrow at 12:30 p.m./11:30 a.m., the 12:30 slot caused a more drastic ratings decline for the show. Further, several NBC affiliates chose to preempt the entire 12:00 p.m. hour to air local newscasts and, in some markets, syndicated programming. As a result of these pre-emptions and the solid performance of the other two soaps in the timeslot, The Doctors went from a 6.1 rating at the end of the 1980 season to last place, with a 3.8 rating, in 1981. In 1982, the show finished in last place for the second time in as many seasons: it had a 3.3 rating to end the 1981–1982 season.

On March 29, 1982, NBC moved The Doctors for the third and final time, this time to 12:00 p.m./11:00 a.m. NBC made this move to accommodate the serial's former ratings rival, Search for Tomorrow, on its daytime schedule. Search for Tomorrow used to occupy the 12:30 p.m./11:30 a.m. timeslot on CBS, but had been moved to 2:30/1:30 p.m. by June 1981 to accommodate an earlier starting time for The Young and the Restless. While Search's ratings remained decent in the 2:30 slot, series producer Procter & Gamble wanted Search to return to 12:30 p.m. However, CBS elected to cancel Search in early 1982. NBC itself expressed interest in giving the then-longest-running American television soap opera the 12:30 slot. In a complicated switch, Search took over for Password Plus on NBC's daytime schedule. The Doctors was moved into the 12:00 p.m./11:00 a.m. slot, taking on the role of lead-in show for Search for Tomorrow.

However, given that many more markets began airing local newscasts in the first half of the noon hour than ever, The Doctors suffered a major rash of pre-emptions at 12:00pm in those areas. In markets that did air The Doctors, the successes of ABC's hit game show Family Feud and CBS' The Young and the Restless - the latter of which had, by this time, become a major phenomenon in its own right - resulted in the ratings for The Doctors hitting an all-time low. NBC relocated the soap opera Texas - which had never been a hit in the ratings - to 11:00/10:00 a.m. to serve as the lead-in for The Doctors on April 26, 1982, which did nothing to help this situation. By the time The Doctors signed off in 1982, its final rating was a 1.6 in the Nielsens; this is currently the lowest level any soap opera had reached in the history of the rating system, breaking the record that ABC's short-lived 1970 soap, The Best of Everything, had set with a 1.8 rating. Guiding Light would also finish its final season with a 1.6 rating in September 2009, sharing the mark with The Doctors for the lowest-rated soap in any season, let alone its final season.

The Doctors aired its final episode on December 31, 1982, some four months before it would have celebrated its 20th anniversary on NBC.


In July 2014, Retro TV announced that it would begin broadcasting reruns of The Doctors in the latter half of the year, starting with episodes from 1967.[5] On September 29, 2014, the network began airing two episodes of The Doctors each weekday, starting at 12 p.m. (ET)/11 a.m. (CT)[6] (which was also the series' last time slot on NBC). Retro TV followed this up by adding two more daily airings of The Doctors reruns at 9 p.m. (ET)/8 p.m. (CT), beginning December 22, 2014. Just like the reruns of the show which began in September 2014, Retro TV started off with the episode of The Doctors which originally aired December 4, 1967.[7]

Proposed spin-off[edit]

House of Hope was a proposed spin-off of The Doctors in 1970. NBC Daytime picked up Somerset, the Another World spin-off, instead.[citation needed]A real-life police investigation involving The Doctors was used as the basis for the 29th episode of Cagney and Lacey entitled "Matinee," where a fictional TV soap opera helped solve a murder case.


Core characters during the series' run included:

  • James Pritchett as Dr. Matthew "Matt" Powers (1963-1982), who was Hope Memorial Hospital's chief of staff, a determined thoracic surgeon who tried to keep his ambitious, sexually-agresssive charges in line and cooperative in public, in addition to his ordinary administrative duties. Pritchett was the only actor to remain in the cast from the time of the program's reformatting into a week-long storyline, until its cancellation.
  • Ann Williams (1963-1965), Bethel Leslie (1965-1968), and Lydia Bruce (1968-1982) as Dr. Margaret "Maggie" Hansen Fielding Van Alen Powers, Matt's wife, also a doctor.
  • Gerald Gordon as loud-voiced and mercurial neurosurgeon Dr. Nicholas "Nick" Bellini (1966-1974, 1976), an Italian-American who was reared in a poor, violent neighborhood in Chicago. Married Althea (her second husband) for three years (1968-1971) before divorcing and was stepfather of Penny (see both below), whom he was surprisingly gentle with. Later dated nurses and Dr. Ann Larimer (see below) but continued to love Althea and wound up fighting her later husband, John Morrison (see below).
  • David O'Brien as Dr. Steven T. "Steve" Aldrich (1967-1982), a doctor who was the son of wealthy parents. Oscillated during the series between the behavior of an irresponsible playboy and that of a conscientious husband and father.
  • Carolee Campbell (1967-1975), and later Jada Rowland (1976-1982), as Carolee Simpson Allison Aldrich, Steve's wife, in the early years the desk nurse at Hope Memorial.
  • Elizabeth Hubbard (1964-1969; 1970-1977; 1981-1982) (replaced briefly by Virginia Vestoff, 1969–1970) as Dr. Althea Hamilton Davis Bellini Morrison, Matt and Maggie's friend, a genteel but independent-minded career woman unable to hold a husband. Her prim mannerisms and obsessions over propriety sharply clashed with second husband Nick Bellini's (see above) casual and often coarse attitudes toward work and life.

Several well-known actors and actresses had roles on The Doctors throughout its long run:

  • Hillary Bailey as Nurse Kit McCormac, who was romanced by Mike.
  • Jane Badler as Natalie Bell (1981–1982), girlfriend of Billy Aldrich and later Paul Reed. Found out that Lt. Reed also killed Billy besides Felicia Hunt. Private nurse to Theodora. Had a short-lived marriage to Luke Dancy.
  • Alec Baldwin as Billy Aldrich (1980–1982), the husband of Greta Powers. Killed by Felicia Hunt, disguised as her daughter Adrienne.
  • Kathy Bates as Phyllis (dayplayer, 1979)
  • Richard Christopher (1967), Peter Burnell (1968-c. 1974), Armand Assante (1970s), as Dr. Mike Powers, son of Matt Powers from his first marriage. Mike followed his father's footsteps into medicine, but eventually became an antagonist against Matt, leading to crime in the 1970s.
  • Ellen Burstyn (then billed as Ellen McRae) as Dr. Kate Bartok (mid-1960s).
  • Chris Calloway as Ivie Gooding (1982), hostess of "The Medicine Man." Dated Luke Dancy.
  • Zaida Coles as Anna Ford (1968-c. 1970), a civilian paralyzed by a mortar attack in the Vietnam War, along with Ed Stark (see below). Recuperated through spinal surgery performed by Nick Bellini and physical therapy by Nancy Bennet. Worked for Hope Memorial after her rehabilitation.
  • Jeannie Costigan as Lee Ann Aldrich (1978–1982), daughter of Greta Powers and Billy Aldrich.
  • Geraldine Court as Ann Larimer (1970-1973, 1976-1977), female doctor whose engagement to Nick Bellini was ruined by an illness and who lashed out by kidnapping Carolee Simpson. An ex-wife of Steve Aldrich.
  • Augusta Dabney as Theodora Van Alen (1980–1981), formerly Maggie's sister-in-law. Aunt of Greta Powers. Sister of Kurt.
  • Ted Danson as Dr. Mitchell Pearson (1977–1982)
  • Nancy Donohue as Nancy Bennet (1968-c. 1971), sharp-tongued and pushy physical therapist who dated Mike Powers, believing that her husband, Paul, a journalist, had been killed in the Six-Day War of 1967.
  • Mark Goddard as Lt. Paul Reed (1982), officer of the Madison Police Department.
  • Dorothy Fielding as Sarah Dancy Powers (1978–1979), Mike Powers' second wife after Toni.
  • Jami Fields (1968-c. 1971), Julia Duffy (1973-1977) as Penny Davis (1973–1977), daughter of Althea. She had been traumatized by the death of her brother Buddy and the divorce of her mother, Althea, from her father, Dave Davis. While cultivating a close relationship with her stepfather Nick Bellini, after their divorce, she turned against her mother and led a troubled adolescence and young adulthood.
  • Thor Fields as Erich Aldrich (1977–1981), son of Steve Aldrich by his 1968-1969 marriage to Dr. Karen Werner.
  • Jonathan Frakes as Tom Carroll, ex-husband of M.J. Match; died in a fire along with Virginia Dancy.
  • Jock Gaynor as Dr. William Scott (1963–1964)
  • Gil Gerard as Dr. Alan Stewart
  • Katherine Glass as Mary Jane "M. J." Match (1978–1981)
  • Kathryn Harrold as Nola Dancy Aldrich (1976–1977)
  • Patrick Horgan as Dr. John Morrison (1970-1974), British-born Hope Memorial psychiatrist and third husband of Althea who resorted to drastic and diabolical acts in order to keep Althea's former husband Nick away from her.
  • House Jameson as Nathan Bunker (1967-1968), editor of Madison's newspaper who had a long-standing grudge against Matt Powers as a result of a failed surgery performed by Matt that left him paralyzed years earlier.
  • Adam Kennedy as Brock Hayden (1965), a rancher who died while a patient at Hope Memorial.
  • Terry Kiser as Dr. John Rice (1967-1968), a young, wisecracking intern.
  • Barbara Lang as Marilyn Langley (1982), wife of James Langley.
  • Laryssa Lauret as Dr. Karen Werner (1968-c. 1975), emotionally repressed daughter of the German physician mentor of Matt Powers who came to Hope Memorial Hospital to be close to Matt, despite having to serve an internship and residency that she had already been through in her native land, due to American regulations. Attempted surreptitiously to have an affair with Matt in 1968, causing Matt and Maggie to temporarily separate. Married Steve Aldrich after conceiving his son Erich (see above).
  • Louise Lasser as Jackie
  • Jean LeClerc as Dr. Jean-Marc Gautier (1982), a French doctor who experimented on Felicia/Adrienne Hunt and fell in love with Althea Davis at the end of the series.
  • Karl Light as David "Dave" Davis (c. 1963-1966), first husband of Althea. Divorced Althea and moved to California after the death of their son Buddy and a short-lived affair between Althea and Nick Bellini (her next husband), leaving daughter Penny to live with her grandmother out of town.
  • Pamela Lincoln as Doreen Aldrich (1977–1979), Jason Aldrich's first wife. Went insane and engineered the kidnapping of Carolee Aldrich.
  • Franc Luz as Dr. John Bennett
  • Meg Mundy as Mona Aldrich Croft (1972–1982). Madison's wealthiest citizen, mother of Steve Aldrich and Jason Aldrich; formerly married to Winston Croft; grandmother of Billy, Erich, Stephanie; great-grandmother to Jessica Aldrich and LeeAnn Powers.
  • Denise Nickerson as Katie Harris
  • Terry O'Quinn as Dr. Jerry Dancy (1981), doctor and son of Barney and Virginia. Brother of Luke, Sarah, Nola and Joan.
  • Petronia Paley as Dr. Jessie Rawlings (1977)
  • John Pankow as Danny Martin (1981–1982)
  • Carol Potter as Betsy Match, sister of M. J. and Darren Match; mother of Ricky Match
  • Ralph Purdum as Phillip Townsend III (1968-1969), Madison businessman and chairman of the Hope Memorial board who was traumatized by the death of his teenage daughter and abducted Liz Wilson in order to have her replace his daughter in his delusional fantasies.
  • Victoria Racimo as Tia Mahala
  • Rex Robbins as Murray Glover
  • Conrad Roberts as Ed Stark (1968-1969), a Vietnam War veteran and the son of a board member of Hope Memorial (see Paul Stark below) who sought to rehabilitate his medical career working for Nick Bellini.
  • Brooke Shields as Elizabeth Harrington (dayplayer, 1982)
  • P. Jay Sidney as Paul Stark (1968-1969), African-American Madison attorney and member of the Hope Memorial board who arranged for Matt Powers to allow his son Ed, a former medical student, to work at the hospital to recover physically and psychologically from the trauma of his tour of duty for the U.S. Army in Vietnam.
  • Jocelyn Somers as Jessica Bartok
  • Nancy Stafford as Adrienne/Felicia Hunt (dual role) (1982)
  • Count Stovall as Dr. Hank Chambers
  • Anna Stuart as Toni Ferra Powers (1971-1977), a lab technician who was Mike Powers' first wife.
  • Clarice Taylor as Hope Stark (1968-1969), wife of Paul and mother of Ed (see above).
  • Robert Frank Telfer as Luke Dancy (1976–1982), playboy son of Barney and Virginia. Brother to Jerry, Nola, Joan and Sarah; Former lover of Doreen Aldrich. Formerly Married to Missy Roberts. Married Natalie Bell. Co-owned restaurants Andre's and The Medicine Man.
  • Pamela Toll as Liz Wilson (1967-1970), a young intern who went through several harrowing experiences during her tenure at Hope Memorial, including several failed romances, one of which was with Nick Bellini, who conducted an experiment on her with LSD.
  • Kathleen Turner as Nola Dancy Aldrich (1977–1979)
  • Beatrice Winde as Lillian Foster, mother of Dr. Terri Foster (Carolyn Byrd).
  • Jennifer Wood as Doreen Aldrich (1976–1977). First actress to play Doreen.
  • Ian Ziering as Erich Aldrich (1981–1982)
  • Kim Zimmer as Nola Dancy Aldrich (1979–1982)

Main crew[edit]

Some notable writers, producers and directors of The Doctors: Henry Kaplan, Dennis Brite, Douglas Marland, Frank Salisbury, Malcolm Marmorstein, Rita Lakin, Elizabeth Levin, Gerald Straub, Orvin Tovrov, Allen Potter, Joseph Stuart, Robert Costello, Leonard Kantor, Robert Pollock, David Cherrill, Peter Brash, Doris Quinlan, A.M. Barlow, Heather Matthews, Kate Brooks, Ralph Ellis and Eugenie Hunt.

Head writers[edit]

Executive Producers[edit]

  • Orin Tovrov, 1963-1965
  • Jerry Layton, 1965-1967
  • Allen M. Potter, 1967-1973
  • Joseph Stuart, 1973-1977
  • Charles Weiss, 1977-1979
  • Doris Quinlan, 1979-1981
  • James A. Baffico, 1981
  • Robert Costello, 1981-1982
  • Gerald Straub, 1982

Awards and nominations[edit]

Daytime Emmy Award wins[edit]

Drama series and performer categories[edit]

Category Recipient Role Year
Outstanding Drama Series 1971, 1972 & 1974[8]
Lead Actor James Pritchett Dr. Matt Powers 1978[9]
Lead Actress Elizabeth Hubbard Dr. Althea Davis 1974[8]

Primetime Emmy Award wins[edit]


  1. ^ Hyatt, Wesley (1997). The Encyclopedia of Daytime Television (1st ed.). Billboard Books. p. 128. ISBN 0-8230-8315-2. 
  2. ^ LaGuardia, Robert (1983). Soap World. New York, NY: Arbor House. p. 350. ISBN 0-87795-482-8. 
  3. ^ LaGuardia, Robert (1983). Soap World. New York, NY: Arbor House. p. 350. ISBN 0-87795-482-8. 
  4. ^ TV GUIDE, Volume 14, No. 42, New York Metropolitan Edition
  5. ^ Newcomb, Roger (July 16, 2014). "'The Doctors' Coming to Retro TV Later This Year!". We Love Soaps. Retrieved September 28, 2014. 
  6. ^ Mulcahy Jr., Kevin (September 28, 2014). "'The Doctors' Debuts on Retro TV With 2 Episodes Each Weekday Starting Monday". We Love Soaps. Retrieved September 28, 2014. 
  7. ^ Newcomb, Roger (December 22, 2014). "Retro TV Adding Primetime Airing of 'The Doctors' Starting Tonight". We Love Soaps. Retrieved December 23, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b "Daytime Emmys - 1974". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2013-02-22. 
  9. ^ "Daytime Emmys - 1978". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2013-02-22. 

External links[edit]