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 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; 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 Another World for the second time in four years. After having already been the first serial to expand from thirty to sixty minutes in early 1975, NBC took it one step further and added another thirty minutes to Another World, making it the first (and as of 2015, only) serial to run for ninety minutes daily. The Doctors moved back a half hour to 2:00/1:00 p.m., a move that 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. as part of a scheduling shuffle which saw the network reduce Another World back to sixty minutes and give the 2:00 pm hour to an AW spinoff, Texas. 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. The June 1981 expansion of The Young and the Restless to an hour also affected the ratings for The Doctors, as 1982 ended with ratings down half a point to 3.3.

On March 29, 1982, NBC shuffled its daytime lineup again. The network found itself with a open time slot after Password Plus, which had been airing at Noon/11:00, ended its run. The timing of this shuffle happened to coincide with one going on at CBS. When the network expanded The Young and the Restless to sixty minutes, it moved Search for Tomorrow to 2:30/1:30. Procter & Gamble, the producers of Search, wanted the show's old airtime back but CBS did not give it to them and opted not to replace the series with a new serial, Capitol, when its contract ran out. NBC was willing to take on what was then the longest running serial in television history and give P&G what it wanted. In order to do this, however, The Doctors was forced to move to an even earlier timeslot and it replaced Password Plus at Noon.

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 (in certain markets) the first half of The Young and the Restless resulted in the ratings for The Doctors hitting an all-time low. From April 26 onward, The Doctors was the lead-out program for the struggling Texas, whose debut nearly two years earlier had indirectly led to the beginning of its sharp ratings decline.

NBC eventually cancelled The Doctors (and its lead-in, Texas), and the last episode aired on December 31, 1982. 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 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.


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:

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[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]