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The Doctors (1963 TV series)

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The Doctors
Created byOrin Tovrov
StarringJames Pritchett
Elizabeth Hubbard
Lydia Bruce
David O'Brien
Carolee Campbell
Theme music composerBob Israel at Score Productions
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons20
No. of episodes5,155
Production
Running time30 minutes
Original release
NetworkNBC
ReleaseApril 1, 1963 (1963-04-01) –
December 31, 1982 (1982-12-31)

The Doctors is an American daytime soap opera television series which aired on NBC from April 1, 1963, to December 31, 1982.[1]

From anthology to serial[edit]

1971 title card
1977 title card

Beginning on March 2, 1964, The Doctors ceased its experimental anthology format and became a traditional continuing serial, like all the other daytime dramas on air at the time.[2]

For most of the series, storylines revolved around Hope Memorial Hospital and its patriarch Chief of staff Dr. 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.[3]

The cast for the original daily concept, which lasted from the premiere on April 1, 1963, until July 19, 1963, was:[4]

  • 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 July 22, 1963, until February 28, 1964, was:[4]

  • 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 (July 22, 1963 – 1966)
  • Ann Williams as Dr. Maggie Fielding (July 22, 1963 – May 25, 1965)
  • Joseph Campanella as Alec Fielding (August 19–23, 1963)
  • Ruth McDevitt as Mrs. McMurtrie (Rev. Shafer's housekeeper) (September 16, 1963 - July 9, 1964)
  • Charles Braswell as Alec Fielding (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 bold in storyline choices than its primary rival at the time, 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 shown in stories that balanced personal and professional concerns. Some doctors were depicted as competitive and cutthroat. The Doctors incorporated humor and realism into its storylines, and remained anchored to actual medical work in its setting.[citation needed]

For example, when Matt Powers was on trial for murder, he was forced to rescind his Chief of Staff position. His successor schemed to remove his allies, such as Dr. Althea Davis, from positions of influence in the hospital. Althea's stories included her challenges as a female doctor working with a mainly male staff; one story outlined how Althea's divorce was discussed by the board as a moral issue in a way that no male doctor's personal life had ever been discussed.[citation needed]

James Pritchett (Matt Powers) and Elizabeth Hubbard (Althea Davis) with ten years worth of scripts on the show's tenth anniversary April 1st 1973

Awards and production[edit]

In 1972 and 1974, the serial received a Daytime Emmy Award 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." The iconic theme song "Patterns", which was updated with a new version in 1977 and 1979, stayed with the program through August 1, 1980 and was composed by in-house musician Bob Israel at Score Productions. It debuted with the episode which aired on May 24, 1971.[5]

Episodes of The Doctors were originally 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.[6]

Broadcast history[edit]

Original series run[edit]

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 CBS's Guiding Light, which expanded to an hour in consecutive years; One Life To Live and sister ABC soap General Hospital made this move in 1978 Guiding Light did so the year before 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 involving the veteran serial that year, which would amplify the series' ratings trouble and eventually lead to its demise. The first move was done to help boost the ratings of Another World, which after tying for the top spot in the daytime serial ratings in 1978 had dropped to eighth place in 1979. In an unprecedented (and since unrepeated) move, NBC decided to extend Another World and make it the first serial to run for ninety minutes daily. The Doctors, as part of the schedule shuffle that ensued, was moved to 2:00/1:00p, which placed it against the second half of As The World Turns on CBS and the first half of One Life to Live on ABC. The ratings declined slightly, but NBC was not done.

Procter & Gamble Productions (PGP), the producers of Another World, began development on a new serial in 1980 that would evolve into a spin-off of that serial set in Houston. The new program, Texas, was picked up by NBC who envisioned it as a daytime version of CBS' hit primetime drama Dallas. NBC needed to free up sixty minutes on its schedule for Texas and did so by returning Another World to its sixty-minute run time and cutting thirty minutes from The David Letterman Show. Launching on August 4, 1980, Texas was placed in the 3:00/2:00 p.m. hour with Another World moving to 2:00/1:00 to serve as its lead-in.

The Doctors was once again displaced as a result of the move, being shifted to the only open spot on the network's lineup, the 12:30 p.m./11:30 a.m. slot following Card Sharks. 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. In addition, the 12:30 timeslot was a competitive one for the three networks. ABC's competition came from Ryan's Hope, which had been beating The Doctors by nearly a full ratings point in the overall rankings. The serial's competition on CBS originally consisted of the long-running Search for Tomorrow, which was also pulling in significantly higher ratings than The Doctors had been. In June 1981, CBS moved The Young and the Restless to 12:30 and the ratings faded even further. The Doctors fell to a 3.8 rating at the end of the 1980–81 season, which was tied for last place with Texas.

NBC had not completed its reshuffling of the daytime lineup, though, and a Procter & Gamble serial was again at the forefront for the latest shift. In addition to the aforementioned Another World and Texas, PGP was the production company for Search for Tomorrow. When The Young and the Restless was moved, it took over the timeslot that had been home to Search for Tomorrow since its 1951 premiere. PGP was not willing to renew its contract with CBS to continue carrying the serial unless the network was willing to move it back to its original time; as things stood, Search was airing at 2:30/1:30, which placed it against the second half of its fellow PGP production Another World.

NBC, however, was willing to do what CBS would not and began negotiating with PGP to move the long-running serial to its daytime lineup. NBC agreed to return Search to 12:30p/11:30a, which it did beginning on March 29, 1982. Once again, this required a shuffling of the schedule. When it was done, The Doctors moved back thirty minutes into the noon time slot that had been occupied by Password Plus, which was cancelled to make room for Search.

Both moves did not help matters, as NBC's serial lineup as a whole had been struggling for some time. The Doctors continued to be the lowest rated of the group, and the move to noon exacerbated the issue. The only serial ahead of it in the ratings was its new stablemate, which saw viewership drop by half after its move from CBS. NBC tried to remedy the situation by cancelling two more of its game shows, Battlestars and Blockbusters, and using that sixty minutes to relocate Texas, which had not found an audience, to 11:00a/10:00a on April 26, 1982, so it could serve as the lead in for the two veteran serials airing in the noon hour. The move did not work as all three serials finished with lower ratings; The Doctors saw its ratings cut even more, eventually falling below a 2.0.

NBC announced the cancellation of The Doctors (along with that of Texas) during the fall of 1982, 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. The ratings for The Doctors bottomed out at 1.6, less than half of what they were the year before and nearly one-fourth of what they were three years earlier. The final number broke a record set by the short-lived ABC soap The Best of Everything, which pulled a 1.8 rating at the conclusion of its only season in 1970; only Sunset Beach (1997–1999) and Passions (1999–2007), two later NBC serials, finished a season with a lower final rating.[citation needed]

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. The noon timeslot would not receive a stable show until Super Password premiered in September 1984, which ran until March 1989.[citation needed]

Ratings history[edit]

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 December 1967.[7]

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).[8]

Retro TV started off their reruns of The Doctors in September 2014 with the episode which originally aired December 4, 1967,[9] and stopped its run of episodes with the December 31, 1979 episode on April 23, 2020, at which point syndication on Retro TV restarted with the December 4, 1967 episode on April 27.


Episodes from December 4, 1967-September 29, 1980 are available to watch on demand for free at RetroTV's It's Real Good TV site. https://watch.itsrealgoodtv.com/

1967 https://watch.itsrealgoodtv.com/content/sc_49984_16075

1968 https://watch.itsrealgoodtv.com/content/sc_49984_16076

1969 https://watch.itsrealgoodtv.com/content/sc_49984_16077

1970 https://watch.itsrealgoodtv.com/content/sc_49984_15967

1971 https://watch.itsrealgoodtv.com/content/sc_49984_15968

1972 https://watch.itsrealgoodtv.com/content/sc_49984_16078

1973 https://watch.itsrealgoodtv.com/content/sc_49984_16079

1974 https://watch.itsrealgoodtv.com/content/sc_49984_16080

1975 https://watch.itsrealgoodtv.com/content/sc_49984_16081

1976 https://watch.itsrealgoodtv.com/content/sc_49984_16082

1977 https://watch.itsrealgoodtv.com/content/sc_49984_16083

1978 https://watch.itsrealgoodtv.com/content/sc_49984_16084

1979 https://watch.itsrealgoodtv.com/content/sc_49984_16085

1980 https://watch.itsrealgoodtv.com/content/sc_49984_16993


The October 1980-December 1982 episodes were not provided to them and are apparently no longer available.[10]

The Doctors has been distributed by SFM Entertainment, which has 4,865 episodes available for syndication, only 290 episodes short of the entire run.[11]

As of July 2018, Retro was running the series seven days a week, but from three different periods of time, with Monday through Friday with one time frame, and then Saturday and Sunday each with two additional respective time frames in the series.[citation needed]

Cast[edit]

Core characters during the series' run included:

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

Among the guest stars on The Doctors were

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, Eileen and Robert Mason Pollock, David Cherrill, Peter Brash, Doris Quinlan, A.M. Barlow, Heather Matthews, Kate Brooks, Ralph Ellis, James Lipton, Eugenie Hunt, William T. Anderson (Lighting).[citation needed]

Head writers[edit]

  • Orin Tovrov, 1963 – 1966
  • Ian Martin, 1966 – 1967
  • John Kubek, 1967
  • Rita Lakin, June 1967 – June 1968
  • Rita Lakin and Rick Edelstein, June 1968 – June 1969
  • Rick Edelstein, June 1969 - November 1969
  • Ira Avery, November 1969 – April 1970
  • Ira Avery and Stanley H. Silverman, April 1970 – September 1970
  • Eileen and Robert Mason Pollock, September 1970 – August 1975
  • Robert Cenedella, August 1975 - February 1976
  • Margaret DePriest, February 1976 - September 1976
  • Douglas Marland, September 1976 – 1977
  • Mel Brez and Ethel Brez, Late 1977 - April 1978
  • Linda Grover and David Cherrill, 1978 – February 26, 1979
  • Elizabeth Levin and David Cherrill, February 27, 1979 - December 1979
  • Ralph Ellis and Eugenie Hunt, December 1979 – 1980
  • Lawrence Konner and Ronnie Wencker-Konner, 1980 – 1981
  • Elizabeth Levin, September–December 1981
  • Harding Lemay and Stephen Lemay, December 1981 – May 1982
  • Barbara Morgenroth and Leonard Kantor, June – December 1982

Executive producers[edit]

  • Orin Tovrov, 1963–1965
  • Jerry Layton, 1965–1967
  • Allen M. Potter, 1967–1973
  • Joseph Stuart, 1973–1975
  • Jeff Young, 1975–1977
  • Chuck Weiss, 1977–1979
  • Doris Quinlan, 1979–1980
  • James A. Baffico, 1980–1981
  • 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
Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series 1971, 1972 & 1974[citation needed]
Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor James Pritchett Dr. Matt Powers 1978[citation needed]
Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress Elizabeth Hubbard Dr. Althea Davis 1974[citation needed]

Primetime Emmy Award wins[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Schemering, Christopher (1987). The Soap Opera Encyclopedia (2nd ed.). Ballantine Books. pp. 78–83. ISBN 0-345-35344-7.
  2. ^ Copeland, Mary Ann (1991). Soap Opera History. Publications International. pp. 92–99. ISBN 0-88176-933-9.
  3. ^ Hyatt, Wesley (1997). The Encyclopedia of Daytime Television (1st ed.). Billboard Books. p. 128. ISBN 0-8230-8315-2.
  4. ^ a b LaGuardia, Robert (1983). Soap World. New York, NY: Arbor House. p. 350. ISBN 0-87795-482-8.
  5. ^ May 24, 1971 theme. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_30jMb5QlWg.
  6. ^ TV GUIDE, Volume 14, No. 42, New York Metropolitan Edition
  7. ^ Newcomb, Roger (July 16, 2014). "'The Doctors' Coming to Retro TV Later This Year!". We Love Soaps. Retrieved 2014-09-28.
  8. ^ Mulcahy Jr., Kevin (September 28, 2014). "'The Doctors' Debuts on Retro TV With 2 Episodes Each Weekday Starting Monday". Retrieved 2014-09-28.
  9. ^ Newcomb, Roger (December 22, 2014). "Retro TV Adding Primetime Airing of 'The Doctors' Starting Tonight". Retrieved 2014-12-23.
  10. ^ "Retro TV Adds 181 Eps of the Doctors from 1980 - Daytime Confidential". Daytime Confidential.
  11. ^ "SFM Entertainment :: Doctors, The". SFM Entertainment. 2016-10-09. Archived from the original on 2016-10-09. Retrieved 2017-07-29.

External links[edit]