The Doctors (1963 TV series)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Not to be confused with The Doctors (2008 TV series).
The Doctors
Thedoctorstitle.jpg
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
Release
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:[2]

  • 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)

Storylines[edit]

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.[3] 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 The 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 serials 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, while CBS expanded Guiding Light to an hour in length in 1977.

As the 1979 season began, the entire NBC soap opera lineup was suffering in the ratings. While The Doctors was not alone in this, the network began a series of relocations of the veteran serial that year that would amplify the series' ratings trouble. The first move was done to help boost the ratings of Another World, which had fallen off significantly after reaching the top spot in the previous season. In an unprecedented (and since unrepeated) move, NBC decided to extend Another World by an additional thirty minutes in March 1979. The Doctors was moved back thirty minutes to accommodate the switch, but managed to finish 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, however, managed to alienate its longtime fan base despite the minimal damage in the overall tally.

NBC began making the next move in 1980. For several months, Another World began a storyline which saw major character Iris Carrington relocating to Houston, Texas and begin a new life. This would eventually lead to the launch of the new serial Texas, which was produced by the same company that packaged its parent series, Procter & Gamble. NBC picked up the spinoff, which was sixty minutes in length, and needed to shuffle its schedule to accommodate it. They did so by returning Another World back to sixty minutes and cutting thirty minutes from The David Letterman Show, which opened up the necessary airtime, and placed Texas, which premiered on August 4, 1980, in the 2:00 p.m. slot where The Doctors had been airing. NBC then moved The Doctors to 12:30 p.m./11:30 a.m. to serve as the leadoff program for its afternoon serial lineup.

The move, however, did not come without problems. The noon hour would often see affiliates of the three major networks opt not to air their offerings for at least part of, if not all of, the timeslot and usually air a local newscast or some other programming, and The Doctors disappeared from some markets when it made the move. On stations that aired the serial normally, it faced off with the youth-oriented Ryan's Hope on ABC and the long-running Search for Tomorrow on CBS. Both of these series were drawing higher ratings than The Doctors was to begin with, and continued to do so now that it was their direct competition. Later in 1981 CBS decided to expand The Young and the Restless to sixty minutes and it too found ratings success. The Doctors finished the 1980-81 and 1981-82 seasons at the bottom of the ratings with a 3.8 rating the first year and a 3.3 rating the next year.

The expansion of The Young and the Restless would lead to a third and final move at NBC for The Doctors and, once again, a Procter & Gamble-produced serial was at the center of it. CBS had moved Search for Tomorrow, which had aired at 12:30/11:30 since its premiere in 1951, to 2:30/1:30 to serve as a bridge between its fellow P&G serials As the World Turns and Guiding Light. While the ratings stayed somewhat consistent, P&G grew increasingly unhappy with CBS' decision and began asking for a move back to its original timeslot. CBS would not budge, however, and announced that it would not renew the 31-year-old soap when its contract ran out in March 1982. NBC stepped in and bought the series for its daytime lineup and had a spot open due to the cancellation of the game show Password Plus. NBC began airing Search on March 29, 1982, at its original time and The Doctors moved into the Noon/11:00a timeslot.

The problems the serial faced at 12:30 were worse at noon, as local pre-emptions were again problematic. The competition in the markets that did air the series came from ABC's Family Feud and (in some cases) the first half of The Young and the Restless. The dropoff in ratings, thus, accelerated to the point where the numbers fell below a 2.0. On April 26, The Doctors had its place as the NBC lead-off soap opera taken by Texas, the show indirectly responsible for the drastic decline in ratings; the network made a last-ditch effort to save the struggling Another World spinoff by moving to 11:00 am, which did little if anything to improve its ratings.

NBC eventually cancelled The Doctors (and its lead-in, Texas), and the last episode aired on December 31, 1982. The show once again finished in last place as part of the still-struggling NBC daytime lineup, which failed to see one of its serials finish in the top five in the final Nielsens for a fifth consecutive season (and would not until 1986, when Days of Our Lives finished fifth). The ratings for The Doctors bottomed out at 1.6, approximately one quarter of what they were just three years earloer. The 1.6 rating was the worst ever end-of-season rating for a soap opera; it would take until the 1999-2000 season for that record to be broken, when Sunset Beach ended its nearly three year run at a 1.4 final rating.

The ninety minutes freed up by the cancellations of The Doctors and Texas were filled by game shows beginning the following Monday. The Doctors saw its place taken by Just Men!, which was cancelled after thirteen weeks.

Reruns[edit]

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.[4] 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)[5] (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.[6]

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.

Cast[edit]

Core characters during the series' run included:

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

Among the guest stars on The Doctors were Johnny Carson as himself, Judy Collinsas Judith Howard, Aileen Cunningham, Kevin Dobson, Tony Randall as himself, and Brooke Shields as Elizabeth Harrigton.

Among future celebrities who appeared on The Doctors before they were well known were Kathy Bates (1979), Adam Baldwin (1980-1982), Bernard Barrow (1967), Ellen Burstyn, James Broderick, Julia Duffy, Thor Fields (1977-1981), (Paul Michael Glasser (1967-1968), Jo Henderson (1968), Louise Lasser, Susan Lucci (1968), John Pankow, Carol Potter, Natalie Ross (1968), Clarice Taylor (1968-1969), Kathleen Turnner (1977-1979), Ian Ziering (1981-1982).

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[7]
Lead Actor James Pritchett Dr. Matt Powers 1978[8]
Lead Actress Elizabeth Hubbard Dr. Althea Davis 1974[7]

Primetime Emmy Award wins[edit]

References[edit]

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

External links[edit]