|Created by||Orin Tovrov|
|Theme music composer||Bob Israel at Score Productions|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||20|
|No. of episodes||5,155|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original release||April 1, 1963 -|
December 31, 1982
The Doctors is an American daytime soap opera television series which aired on NBC from April 1, 1963, to December 31, 1982. There were 5,155 episodes produced, with the 5,000th episode airing in May 1982. The series was set in Hope Memorial Hospital in a fictional town called Madison.
On April 1, 1963anthology 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., The Doctors debuted as an
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.
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.
The cast for the original daily concept, which lasted from the premiere on April 1, 1963 until July 19, 1963, was:
The early cast for the second, weekly concept, which lasted from July 22, 1963 until February 28, 1964, was:
In the program's early years, The Doctors was considered to be more risqué 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 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.
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, which stayed with the program through 1980, was composed by in-house musician Bob Israel at Score Productions and debuted with the episode which aired on May 24, 1971.
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.
For most of its run, The Doctors was packaged and sponsored by the Colgate-Palmolive company through its Channelex division; in September 1980, NBC moved 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.
The popularity of The Doctors took off 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 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 in 1976 to an hour in 1978 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 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 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 and make it the first serial to run for ninety minutes daily. The Doctors and Days of Our Lives were both moved ahead thirty minutes to accommodate the switch, but managed to finish just 0.2 points lower in the Nielsen ratings.
Then, in 1980, the producers of Another World began development on a new serial. The project eventually became the AW spinoff Texas, which NBC had wanted to serve as a daytime version of the then-popular Dallas. On August 4, 1980, after reducing Another World and The David Letterman Show by thirty minutes each, NBC launched Texas at 3:00/2:00 PM. Another World was the lead-in for the spin-off in 1980. The Doctors was 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 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. 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 and again to a 3.3 the following year.
NBC was not done reshuffling its daytime lineup, though, and on March 29, 1982, The Doctors was moved ahead another half hour to noon/11:00 Central, resulting in the cancellation of Password Plus. The move was made after the network acquired Search for Tomorrow and placed it in the 12:30/11:30 slot where The Doctors was; it became available to NBC after CBS opted not to renew the serial instead of returning it to the 12:30 spot it lost to The Young and the Restless. In April of that year, NBC moved Texas to 11:00 a.m./10:00 Central to give The Doctors a lead-in and to try to increase the soap's low ratings.
Despite NBC's acquisition of Search for Tomorrow, the move of Texas to the 11:00 a.m. timeslot backfired; The Doctors saw no ratings bump from the serial whose presence had indirectly caused its ratings decline. NBC's serial lineup at the time was struggling in the ratings as a whole and The Doctors was no exception as it continued to falter, becoming one of the few serials at the time to fall below 2.0 in the ratings. Preemptions for other programming, along with the performance of Family Feud on ABC and having to compete with The Young and the Restless in some markets, drove the numbers to record-setting lows.
NBC announced the cancellation of The Doctors (and its lead-in, 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 Best of Everything, which pulled a 1.8 rating at the conclusion of its only season; only Sunset Beach and Passions, also NBC serials, finished a season with a lower 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. The noon timeslot would not receive a stable show until Super Password premiered in September 1984, which ran until March 1989.
For historical ratings information, see List of U.S. daytime soap opera ratings
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) (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.
Retro TV started off their reruns of The Doctors in September 2014 with the episode which originally aired December 4, 1967.
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.
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, including:
Dianne Kirksey as Bobbi Duvall (1981)
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).
|Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series||1971, 1972 & 1974|
|Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor||James Pritchett||Dr. Matt Powers||1978|
|Daytime Emmy Awatd for Outstanding Lead Actress||Elizabeth Hubbard||Dr. Althea Davis||1974|