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The doctors

The Doctors was an NBC network soap opera created by Orin Tovrov which premiered on NBC Daytime on April 1, 1963.

Cast members of the series consisted of James Pritchett, Elizabeth Hubbard, Ann Williams and David O'Brien. Several well-known actors & actresses such as Alec Baldwin, Kathy Bates, Ellen Burstyn, Jonathan Frakes, Julia Duffy, Kathryn Harrold and Terry O'Quinn appeared on the show.

The series' 5000th episode aired in November of 1981. On December 31, 1982, "The Doctors" was cancelled after 5,280 episodes.

PlotEdit

"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 more successful than the daily anthology format had been.

Beginning on March 2, 1964, the show 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. 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.

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

  • 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:

  • 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 - 1965)
  • Joseph Campanella as Alec Fielding (August 19–23, 1963)
  • 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)

StorylinesEdit

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.

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.

CastEdit

The core characters during the series' run included:

  • James Pritchett as Dr. Matt Powers (1963-1982)
  • Ann Williams (1963-1965), Bethel Leslie (1965-1968), and Lydia Bruce (1968-1982) as Dr. Maggie Hansen Powers.
  • Gerald Gordon as neurosurgeon Dr. Nick Bellini (1966-1974, 1976)
  • David O'Brien as Dr. Steve Aldrich (1967-1982)
  • Carolee Campbell (1967-1975), and Jada Rowland (1976-1982), as Carolee Simpson Aldrich, R. N.
  • Elizabeth Hubbard (1964-1969; 1970-1977; 1981-1982) and Virginia Vestoff, (1969–1970) as Dr. Althea Davis,
  • Glenn Corbett as Jason Aldrich (1977-1981)

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

  • Hillary Bailey as Kit McCormack, R. N.
  • Jane Badler as Natalie Bell (1981–1982)
  • Alec Baldwin as Billy Aldrich (1980–1982)
  • Nancy Barrett as Nurse Kathy Ryker #2 (1971-1972)
  • Kathy Bates as Phyllis (dayplayer, 1979)
  • Peter Burnell (1968-1973), Armand Assante (1970s), as Dr. Mike Powers,
  • Ellen Burstyn as Dr. Kate Bartok (mid-1960s).
  • Chris Calloway as Ivie Gooding (1982)
  • Zaida Coles as Anna Ford (1968-1970)
  • Geraldine Court as Ann Larimer (1970-1973, 1976-1977)
  • Augusta Dabney as Theodora Van Alen (1980–1981)
  • Ted Danson as Dr. Mitchell Pearson (1977–1982)
  • Nancy Donohue as Nancy Bennet (1968-1969)
  • Mark Goddard as Lt. Paul Reed (1982)
  • Dorothy Fielding as Sarah Dancy Powers (1978–1979)
  • Julia Duffy as Penny Davis (1973–1977)
  • Jonathan Frakes as Tom Carroll (1977-1978)
  • Jock Gaynor as Dr. William Scott (1963–1964)
  • Gil Gerard as Dr. Alan Stewart (1974-1976)
  • Katherine Glass as Mary Jane "M. J." Match (1978–1981)
  • Kathryn Harrold as Nola Dancy Aldrich (1976–1977)
  • Patrick Horgan as Dr. John Morrison (1970-1974)
  • House Jameson as Nathan Bunker (1967-1968)
  • Adam Kennedy as Brock Hayden (1965)
  • Terry Kiser as Dr. John Rice (1967-1968)
  • Barbara Lang as Marilyn Langley (1982)
  • Laryssa Lauret as Dr. Karen Werner (1967-1969, 1971-c. 1975)
  • Louise Lasser as Jackie
  • Jean LeClerc as Dr. Jean-Marc Gautier (1982)
  • Karl Light as Dave Davis (c. 1963-1966)
  • Pamela Lincoln as Doreen Aldrich (1977–1979)
  • Franc Luz as Dr. John Bennett
  • Meg Mundy as Mona Aldrich Croft (1972–1982)
  • Denise Nickerson as Katie Harris
  • James Noble as Dr. Bill Winters (1967-1968)
  • Terry O'Quinn as Dr. Jerry Dancy (1981)
  • Petronia Paley as Dr. Jessie Rawlings (1977)
  • John Pankow as Danny Martin (1981–1982)
  • Holly Peters as Nurse Kathy Ryker # 3
  • Carol Pfander as Nurse Kathy Ryker # 1
  • Carol Potter as Betsy Match
  • Ralph Purdum as Phillip Townsend III (1968-1969)
  • Victoria Racimo as Tia Mahala
  • Rex Robbins as Murray Glover
  • Conrad Roberts as Ed Stark (1968-1969)
  • P. Jay Sidney as Paul Stark (1968-1969)
  • 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 (1971-1977)
  • Robert Frank Telfer as Luke Dancy (1976–1982)
  • Pamela Toll as Liz Wilson (1967-1970),
  • Kathleen Turner as Nola Dancy Aldrich (1977–1979)
  • Beatrice Winde as Lillian Foster
  • Jennifer Wood as Doreen Aldrich (1976–1977)
  • Ian Ziering as Erich Aldrich (1981–1982)
  • Kim Zimmer as Nola Dancy Aldrich (1979–1982)

Broadcast HistoryEdit

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.

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 show plummeted from fourth to eleventh in the ratings.

The decline in the show's 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 and "The Doctors" was moved back thirty minutes to accommodate the switch, but managed to finish just 0.2 points lower in the Nielsen ratings.

In 1980, the producers of "Another World" launched a spin-off series, "Texas". NBC (who needed to free up 60 minutes on its schedule and find a place for the spinoff), reduced "Another World" back to sixty minutes and then chopped thirty minutes off the morning variety series "The David Letterman Show", then slotted" Texas" to serve as the lead-in for its parent series.

"The Doctors" was shifted to 12:30 p.m./11:30 a.m. to serve as the leadoff program for its afternoon serial lineup.

However, the move 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. The show 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.

Toward the end of the 1981-82 season, NBC added another soap to its lineup when it acquired the long-running "Search for Tomorrow" which had been cancelled by CBS over a dispute regarding its timeslot.

NBC was willing to give Search a spot on its schedule at its previously longstanding 12:30 p.m./11:30 Central airtime, and on March 29, 1982, "The Doctors" moved to noon/11:00 Central.

The problems the serial had faced at 12:30 worsened 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" on CBS. The dropoff in ratings, thus, accelerated to the point where the numbers fell below a 2.0.

On April 26, 1982, "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.

The ratings for "The Doctors" bottomed out at 1.6, approximately one quarter of what they were just three years earlier.

The 90 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.

AccoladesEdit

In 1971 and 1972, "The Doctors" won the Primetime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Achievement in Daytime Drama-Program" (Drama Series). It also won three Daytime Emmy Awards for "Outstanding Drama Series", "Lead Actor" (which was given to James Pritchett) and "Lead Actress" (which was given to Elizabeth Hubbard).

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