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The Doctors is a soap opera which aired on NBC 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 Englandmarker.

From anthology to serial

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 Chief of Staff Matthew Powers (played by James Pritchett).

Storylines

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's 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.

Awards and production

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 1980, NBC took over production in-house.

Broadcast history

The Doctors became very popular in the late 1960s when it was featured in advertisements for NBC's 90-minute serial bloc. The show flourished when it was placed 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. Upon its 1963 debut, The Doctors succeeded an 18-month-long early effort by entertainment mogul Merv Griffin to establish a daytime talk show. It spent nearly 16 years in that timeslot, an extraordinary feat for daytime shows of its day, especially when it is considered that among its victims in the ratings were long-running favorites such as CBS' House Party with Art Linkletter and, later, ABC's Dating Game. Broadcasting's longest-running soap opera, CBS' The Guiding Light, went up against it more than once as well.

From the late 1960s until the mid-1970s, The Doctors was among the higher-rated soap operas of the day. In 1973-74 the show peaked at fourth place, behind CBS' As The World Turns and fellow NBC serials Days of our Lives and Another World.

However, after 1975, the show's popularity went into terminal decline: eighth place in 1975-76 and 11th place from 1976 through 1980, before falling to the bottom of the pack by 1982. This can be traced in part to ABC's expansion of One Life to Live in 1976 and CBS' promotion of Guiding Light to an hour in length in late 1977. However, its own network, NBC, inflated the adjacent Another World to 90 minutes in March 1979, bumping The Doctors ahead to 2 p.m./1 Central, alienating many longtime followers. A year and a half later, in August 1980, Procter and Gamble spun off Texas from Another World, requiring The Doctors to move again, this time to 12:30 p.m./11:30 a.m. Central.

As if facing the youth-oriented Ryan's Hope on ABC and the stalwart Search for Tomorrow on CBS were not enough, in March 1982, to accommodate the move of the latter to NBC, the network essentially left the show out to pasture at 12 Noon/11 Central, where daytime's most popular game, Family Feud, ran on ABC, and where CBS stations in the Central Time Zone ran the first half of The Young and the Restless, by this time a major phenomenon in its own right.

In addition, the 12-12:30 half hour was commonly pre-empted for local news on some NBC stations. This proved the fatal blow to The Doctors, as it fell to a 1.6 in the Nielsens for the 1982-83 season (which remains to this day the lowest seasonal Nielsen rating of any network television soap opera in history), and NBC had no choice except to cancel a show that fell a mere three months shy of its 20th anniversary.

Cast

The five core characters during the series' run were:

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

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