The Doctors (1963 TV series)

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The Doctors
Thedoctorstitle.jpg
Format Soap opera
Created by Orin Tovrov
Starring James Pritchett
Elizabeth Hubbard
Ann Williams
David O'Brien
Country of origin USA
No. of episodes 5,280
Production
Running time 30 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel NBC
Original run 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]

Originally, The Doctors was not supposed to be a conventional soap opera. It first aired in 1963 for a trial run as an anthology series with self-contained episodes about medical emergencies. When the show was brought back in 1964, the show adopted a serial form of storytelling. For most of the series, storylines revolved around Hope Memorial Hospital's Chief of Staff Matthew Powers (played by James Pritchett).

Storylines[edit]

The Doctors was considered to be more risqué in storyline choices than its rival, General Hospital (which premiered on the same day). 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.

For example, Dr. 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. During the final years, 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. In the years following, announcer Mel Brandt 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.

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.

Broadcast history[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, in between Days of our Lives and Another World. The Doctors replaced entertainment mogul Merv Griffin's first daytime talk show in the 2:30 timeslot, where it remained 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, which had previously aired at 12:30 p.m./11:30 a.m. on CBS, had been moved to 2:30/1:30 p.m. in 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 plummeting to previously unheard of levels. NBC's move of 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, 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 three months before it would have celebrated its 20th anniversary on NBC.

In July 2014, cable channel Retro TV announced that they would begin showing The Doctors in the latter half of the year. While the show began in 1963, these episodes begin with episodes from 1967, when the show began being shown in color.[1]

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]

Cast[edit]

The five core characters during the series' run were:

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

  • Armand Assante as Dr. Mike Powers, Matt's son from a previous marriage, also a doctor.
  • Hillary Bailey as Kit McCormick—Doctor or nurse. Third wife of Mike Powers.
  • Jane Badler as Natalie Bell No. 2 (1981–1982)—Natalie was Billy's Girlfriend and later Paul Reed's. Found out that Lt. Reed also killed Billy besides Felicia Hunt. Private nurse to Theodora.
  • Alec Baldwin as Billy Aldrich (1980–1982)—Billy was married to Greta. Killed by Felicia Hunt, disguised as her daughter Adrienne.
  • Kathy Bates as Phyllis
  • Ellen Burstyn as Dr. Kate Bartok
  • Chris Calloway as Ivy Gooding Dancy (1982). Hostess of The Medicine Man. Dated Luke Dancy.
  • Richard Christopher as Dr. Mike Powers No. 3 (1967)
  • Jeannie Costigan as LeeAnn Powers (1978–1982)—Daughter of Greta Powers and Billy Aldrich
  • Augusta Dabney as Theodora Van Alen No. 3 (1980–1981)—Formerly Maggie's sister-in-law. Aunt of Greta Powers. Sister of Kurt.
  • Ted Danson as Dr. Mitchell Pearson (1977–1982)
  • Julia Duffy as Penny Davis (1973–1978), daughter of Althea.
  • Mark Goddard as Lt. Paul Reed (1982)—Police Officer for Madison.
  • Dorothy Fielding as Sarah Dancy Powers No. 2 (1978–1980)—Mike Powers's 2nd wife after Toni.
  • Thor Fields as Erich Aldrich No. 1 (1977–1981)—Son of Steve Aldrich.
  • Jonathan Frakes as Tom Carroll, Ex-husband of M.J., 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 Match No. 3 (1978–1981)
  • Mark Goddard as Lt. Paul Reed
  • Kathryn Harrold as Nola Dancy Aldrich No. 1 (1975–1977)
  • Adam Kennedy as Brock Hayden (1965)
  • Barbara Lang as Marilyn Langley (1982), Wife of James Langley
  • 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.
  • Pamela Lincoln as Doreen Aldrich No. 2 (1977–1979) Doreen was Jason Aldrich's first wife and was at odds with Carolee, Nola and Mona on and off, thought to have leukemia but that was a lie, but after that ordeal she went insane and presumably left Madison. Former lover of Luke Dancy.
  • Franc Luz as Dr. John Bennett
  • Meg Mundy as Mona Aldrich Croft (1971–1982). 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 No. 2 (1980–1982) Doctor. Son of Barney and Virginia. Brother of Luke, Sarah, Nola and Joan.
  • Petronia Paley as Dr. Jessie Rawlings
  • John Pankow as Danny Martin (1980–1982)
  • Carol Potter as Betsy Match—Sister of Mary Jane (MJ) and Darren Match; Mother of Ricky Match
  • Victoria Racimo as Tia Mahala
  • Rex Robbins as Murray Glover
  • Brooke Shields as Elizabeth Harrington (1982)
  • 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, a lab technician who was Mike Powers' first wife.
  • Robert Frank Telfer as Luke Dancy (1976–1982)—The playboy son of Barney and Virginia. Brother to Jerry, Nola, Joan and Sarah; Former lover of Doreen Aldrich. Formerly Married to Missy Roberts. Dated Natalie Bell and Ivy Gooding. Co-owned restaurants Andre's and The Medicine Man.
  • Kathleen Turner as Nola Dancy Aldrich No. 2 (1977–1979)
  • Beatrice Winde as Lillian Foster—Mother of Dr. Terri Foster (Carolyn Byrd)
  • Jennifer Wood as Doreen Aldrich No. 1 (1975–1977) First actress to play Doreen.
  • Ian Ziering as Erich Aldrich No. 2 (1981–1982)
  • Kim Zimmer as Nola Dancy Aldrich No. 3 (1980–1982)

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 Pollack, David Cherrill, Peter Brash, Doris Quinlan, A.M. Barlow, Heather Matthews, Kate Brooks, Ralph Ellis and Eugenie Hunt.

Richard Christopher (JJ.Gop) played Dr. Mike Powers in 1967 while under his management with Universal Studios.

Head writers[edit]

Executive Producers[edit]

  • Orin Tovrov, 1963-1965
  • Jerry Layton, 1965-1967
  • Allen M. Potter, 1967-1972
  • 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[2]
Lead Actor James Pritchett Dr. Matt Powers 1978[3]
Lead Actress Elizabeth Hubbard Dr. Althea Davis 1974[2]

Primetime Emmy Award wins[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]