The Doctors (1963 TV series)

The Doctors is an American daytime soap opera television series which aired on NBC from April 1, 1963, to December 31, 1982. There were 5155 episodes produced, with the 5000th episode airing in May 1982. The series was set in Hope Memorial Hospital in a fictional town called "Madison."

The Doctors
Created byOrin Tovrov
StarringJames Pritchett
Elizabeth Hubbard
Lydia Bruce
David O'Brien
Carolee Campbell
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes5,155
Running time30 minutes
Original networkNBC
Original releaseApril 1, 1963 
December 31, 1982

From anthology to serial

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 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. 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 July 22, 1963 until February 28, 1964, was:[2]

  • 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)


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.

Awards and production

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." The iconic theme song, which stayed with the program through 1981, was composed by in-house musician Robert Israel at Score Productions and debuted with the episode which aired on May 24, 1971.[3]

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.[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 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.

Broadcast history

Original series run

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 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 revocations of the veteran serial that year that 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 back 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 March 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 in March 1982 The Doctors was moved back another half hour to noon/11:00 Central. 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 NBC moved Texas to 11:00 a.m./10:00 Central to give The Doctors a lead-in and to try and drive the ratings of the consistently low-rated serial up.

The moves did not work. 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 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, 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; that show would end in March 1989.

Ratings History

For historical ratings information, see List of U.S. daytime soap opera ratings


1962–1963 Season

1963–1964 Season

  • 1. As the World Turns 15.4
  • 8. The Doctors 3.4

1964–1965 Season

  • 1. As the World Turns 14.5
  • 8. The Doctors 7.5

1965–1966 Season

  • 1. As the World Turns 13.9
  • 9. The Doctors 6.6

1966–1967 Season

  • 1. As the World Turns 12.7
  • 8. The Doctors 7.6

1967–1968 Season

  • 1. As the World Turns 13.6
  • 5. The Doctors 9.7

1968–1969 Season

  • 1. As the World Turns 13.8
  • 5. The Doctors 9.3

1969–1970 Season

  • 1. As the World Turns 13.6
  • 8. The Doctors 8.6


1970–1971 Season

  • 1. As the World Turns 12.4
  • 7. The Doctors 9.4

1971–1972 Season

  • 1. As the World Turns 11.1
  • 5. The Doctors 9.3

1972–1973 Season

  • 1. As the World Turns 10.6
  • 5. The Doctors 9.3

1973–1974 Season

1974–1975 Season

  • 1. As the World Turns 10.8
  • 6. The Doctors 9.0

1975–1976 Season

  • 1. As the World Turns 9.4
  • 8. The Doctors 7.3

1976–1977 Season

  • 1. As the World Turns 9.9
  • 11. The Doctors 6.9

1977–1978 Season

  • 1. As the World Turns 8.6
  • 1. Another World 8.6
  • 11. The Doctors 6.5

1978–1979 Season

1979–1980 Season


1980–1981 Season

  • 1. General Hospital 14.0
  • 13. The Doctors 3.8

1981–1982 Season

  • 1. General Hospital 13.8
  • 15. The Doctors 3.3

1982–1983 Season

  • 1. General Hospital 11.4
  • 14. The Doctors 1.6 (Final Season; ended December 31, 1982)


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.

Retro TV started off their reruns of The Doctors in September 2014 with the episode which originally aired December 4, 1967.[7] As of December 2019, episodes airing date from April 1979. The Doctors is distributed by SFM Entertainment, which has 4,865 episodes available for syndication, only 290 episodes short of the entire run.[8] As of July 2018 Retro was running the series 7 days a week, but from 3 different periods of time, with Monday thru Friday one time frame and Saturday & Sunday each different times in the series as well.

Proposed spin-off

House of Hope was a proposed spin-off of The Doctors in 1970. NBC Daytime picked up Somerset, the Another World spin-off, instead.

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:

  • Hillary Bailey as Kit McCormack, R. N. (1982)
  • 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 (1975-1976), as Dr. Mike Powers,
  • Ellen Burstyn as Dr. Kate Bartok (mid-1960s).
  • Chris Calloway as Ivie Gooding (1982)
  • Paul Carr as Dr. Paul Summers (1976-1977)
  • Zaida Coles as Anna Ford (1968–1970)
  • Geraldine Court as Ann Larimer (1973–1975, 1976–1977)
  • Augusta Dabney as Theodora Van Alen (1980–1981)
  • Ted Danson as Dr. Mitchell Pearson (1977)
  • Nancy Donohue as Nancy Bennet (1968–1969)
  • Mark Goddard as Lt. Paul Reed (1982)
  • Dorothy Fielding as Sarah Dancy Powers (1977–1979)
  • Julia Duffy as Penny Davis (1973–1974, 1975-1977)
  • Jonathan Frakes as Tom Carroll (1977–1978)
  • Jock Gaynor as Dr. William Scott (1963–1964)
  • Gil Gerard as Dr. Alan Stewart (1973–1976)
  • Katherine Glass as Mary Jane "M. J." Match (1978–1981)
  • Gracie Harrison as Greta Van Powers #5 (1980-1981)
  • Kathryn Harrold as Nola Dancy Aldrich (1976–1977)
  • Earl Hindman as Roy Griffin (1974)
  • Patrick Horgan as Dr. John Morrison (1970–1974)
  • Alvin Ing as Dr. Chiang (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, 1971–1972, 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 (1972–1973, 1975–1982)
  • 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 (1972–1973)
  • Carol Pfander as Nurse Kathy Ryker # 1 (1970–1971)
  • 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)
  • Richard Sanders as the Bartender (1974)
  • 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 (1971–1976)
  • Robert Frank Telfer as Luke Dancy (1976–1982)
  • Marie Thomas as Lauri James (1975–1976)
  • 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 (1977)
  • Ian Ziering as Erich Aldrich (1981–1982)
  • Kim Zimmer as Nola Dancy Aldrich (1979–1982)

Dianne Kirksey as Bobbi Duvall (1981)

Among the guest stars on The Doctors were Johnny Carson as himself, Don Imus as himself, Judy Collins as Judith Howard, Tony Randall as himself, and Brooke Shields as Elizabeth Harrington.

Main crew

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, James Lipton and Eugenie Hunt.William T. Anderson (Lighting)

Head writers

  • 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–November 1969
  • Ira Avery, November 1969 – April 1970
  • Ira Avery and Stanley H. Silverman, April – September 1970
  • Eileen and Robert Mason Pollock, September 1970 – 1975
  • Robert Cenedella, August 1975 - Early 1976
  • Margaret DePriest, 1976
  • Douglas Marland, 1976 – 1977
  • Mel Brez and Ethel Brez, Late 1977 - April 1978
  • Linda Grover and David Cherrill, 1978 – 1979
  • Elizabeth Levin and David Cherrill, 1979
  • Ralph Ellis and Eugenie Hunt, 1979 – 1980
  • Lawrence and Ronnie Wencker-Konne, 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

  • 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

Daytime Emmy Award wins

Drama series and performer categories

Category Recipient Role Year
Outstanding Drama Series 1971, 1972 & 1974[9]
Lead Actor James Pritchett Dr. Matt Powers 1978[10]
Lead Actress Elizabeth Hubbard Dr. Althea Davis 1974[9]

Primetime Emmy Award wins


  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. May 24, 1971 theme
  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". Retrieved September 28, 2014.
  7. Newcomb, Roger (December 22, 2014). "Retro TV Adding Primetime Airing of 'The Doctors' Starting Tonight". Retrieved December 23, 2014.
  8. "SFM Entertainment :: Doctors, The". SFM Entertainment. 2016-10-09. Archived from the original on 2016-10-09. Retrieved 2017-07-29.
  9. "Daytime Emmys – 1974". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2013-02-22.
  10. "Daytime Emmys – 1978". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2013-02-22.
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