The Doctors (1963 TV series)

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The Doctors
Thedoctorstitle.jpg
FormatSoap opera
Created byOrin Tovrov
StarringJames Pritchett
Elizabeth Hubbard
Ann Williams
David O'Brien
Country of originUSA
No. of episodes5,280
Production
Running time30 minutes
Broadcast
Original channelNBC
Original runApril 1, 1963 – December 31, 1982
 
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The Doctors
Thedoctorstitle.jpg
FormatSoap opera
Created byOrin Tovrov
StarringJames Pritchett
Elizabeth Hubbard
Ann Williams
David O'Brien
Country of originUSA
No. of episodes5,280
Production
Running time30 minutes
Broadcast
Original channelNBC
Original runApril 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 aired the show in the timeslot of 2:30 p.m. Eastern/1:30 Central, in between Days of our Lives and Another World, two highly rated shows. The Doctors succeeded entertainment mogul Merv Griffin's first daytime talk show in the 2:30pm timeslot, and remained in said timeslot for nearly sixteen years. This is an extraordinary feat for daytime shows of its day, especially since some of its victims in the ratings were 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 Daytime's The Guiding Light, also competed against The Doctors on several occasions.

From the late 1960s until the mid-1970s, The Doctors enjoyed a consistent run in the Top 10 of the Nielsen daytime ratings. In the 1973–1974 television season, the show peaked at fourth place, 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: 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, to 90 minutes from 60. This necessitated an earlier start time for Another World, which aired at 3:00 pm at the time, and a move of The Doctors to 2:00 pm. This change in timeslot for The Doctors alienated many of the series' longtime followers. However, the ratings drop for The Doctors was not as severe this time, as it finished the season just 0.2 points lower in the Nielsen ratings. Still, the move from the 2:30pm ET slot after over fifteen years did cause some damage to the show's already declining ratings, and the worst was yet to come.

On August 4, 1980, NBC moved The Doctors to a timeslot that caused a much larger ratings decline: it moved from 2:00 pm EST to 12:30 pm EST to make room for Texas, a spinoff of Another World. The youth-oriented Ryan's Hope on ABC and the long-running Search for Tomorrow on CBS also aired in that timeslot; several NBC affiliates also preempted the entire 12:00 pm hour to air local newscasts and, in some markets, various other syndicated programming. As a result of the loss of affiliates 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. Then, The Doctors finished in last place again with a 3.3 rating to end the 1981–1982 season.

On March 29, 1982, NBC Daytime moved The Doctors for the third time in as many years. This time, the move was made to accommodate the serial's former ratings rival, Search for Tomorrow, on its schedule. Search - which had previously been in the 12:30 pm timeslot on CBS - had been moved from the timeslot in 1981 to accommodate an earlier starting time for The Young and the Restless and moved to 2:30 pm. Series producer Procter & Gamble was dissatisfied with the ratings drop for the show not long after it changed timeslots, even though it continued to attract many viewers, and wanted the show's old timeslot back. However, CBS elected not to renew the show's contract when it came up in early 1982. NBC was the only network willing to give the then-longest-running 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 noon slot, which Password Plus had given up once it was cancelled.

Consequently, after relocating to the 12:00 slot, The Doctors was hit with an even greater rash of pre-emptions than it ever did when it moved into the 12:30 slot; many more markets preempted the first half of the hour for local newscasts than they had the second half for syndicated programs, let alone the whole hour. In markets that did air The Doctors, it squared off against the hit game show Family Feud on ABC and the first half of The Young and The Restless, which had already become a major phenomenon in its own right, in certain time zones on CBS. Thus, the already-falling ratings for The Doctors plummeted to previously unheard of levels. NBC itself worsened this situation with the move of Texas, which had never done well in the ratings, to 11:00 am to serve as the lead-in for The Doctors on April 26, 1982. By the time NBC decided to terminate The Doctors in 1982, the show had reached a 1.6 in the Nielsens; this was, and still is, 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. 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.

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:

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]

Awards[edit]

Daytime Emmy Award wins[edit]

Drama series and performer categories[edit]

CategoryRecipientRoleYear
Outstanding Drama Series1971, 1972 & 1974[1]
Lead ActorJames PritchettDr. Matt Powers1978[2]
Lead ActressElizabeth HubbardDr. Althea Davis1974[1]

Primetime Emmy Award wins[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]