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The Doctors


MichaelGL

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August 1963
Future Stars In "The Doctors " Cast By RUTH E. THOMPSON
"You'll find this series has the same kind of excitement that made early TV so yeasty," said one of my favorite actresses, Abby Lewis, who was guest-starring on "The Doctors" the day I decided to mosey over and ask why things were changing from a complete story every day to a five-part format.
I also wanted to find out why this NBC Monday through Friday (2:30-3:00) opus is credited with having "nighttime production values on a daytime budget." "Jerry Layton (the producer) sure knows talent and bless him, he does give pool actors a chance at stardom, a rare thing these days," Abby went on adding, "keep your eye on Richard Roat, believe me he's comer. Jerry always did know how to pick them, though. Lee Remick, Tony Perkins and Dina Merrill are some of the young actors I remember him giving breaks to back when he was doing 'Modern Romances.'
" Well, already I was getting more than I bargained for. The show is a star maker too, or rather it's producer is. Before my afternoon was over I also found out who works harder than sandhogs, farmers or business tycoons; it's daytime TV producers with actors running a close second.
"Why did we switch to a five episode format?" echoed Jerry Layton when I finally caught up with him in the carpeted viewing room where he was glued to a TV screen watching the dress rehearsal via closed circuit.
"Well, we realized this 'Eight Hours ' for Emily' was too good to condense, then other stories of the same value came along and we changed our pace." He sounded like a happy man as he went on, "Now we can get below the surface of the characters and into their motivation in the five-day treatment. Important to us, too, is that now we can develop secondary and tertiary relationships among the regular characters in the back ground running story."
The dress rehearsal for the first fiver was winding up and Layton picked, up his pencilled notes, threaded across the sets and into the already densely populated control room to confer with director Paul Lammers about desirable final changes. Assistants and engineers continued to push buttons, pull levers and go about their organized madness as three angles appeared on monitors of scene under way and five other monitors picked up every other group and setting. All stayed "in character" whether they were "on" or not.
This "first fiver" also introduced two new regular "stars: Ann Williams (veteran of the departed "Young Doctor Malone" series) who's playing a lady doctor and handsome James Pritchett as Hope Hospital's new Chief of Staff. "Isn't Pritchett  mighty young, though I grant he has the right air of authority" I asked Jerry Layton when we got back to the viewing room. "I figure," he said smoothly, "that you can get just as much emotion from a good looking face as from a plain one. It's not unheard of to have a post like that fairly young. Furthermore, in this series, it's imperative that the principals be young enough to make romance believable."
As if on cue Pritchett. as Dr. Matthew Powers, was explaining that he was a widower. Ann Williams murmured lifelessly that yes indeed she was married ..." but unhappily, notice," injected Layton. So that's it. Obviously this is a situation that will bear watching. Well on to this "nighttime quality" business . . . how does he get it? Simple it seems,in addition to ability, and long experience he just practically works himself to death. The taping would end at 4:00 P.M. Then he'd have half an hour to rest, providing he did it in a taxi because "rehearsing the next episode would start in a rehearsal hall fifteen blocks away from the RCA Studios at 4:30. "It'll be over at 7:30 P.M.," Layton said. Then he projects himself into the future a bit and starts casting the story upcoming three weeks hence. Next morning at 8 :00 he's back in the rehearsal hall. "Careful planning is one way we can do what we do on our budget without cutting production values. We use only three hours of studio and camera time here at NBC. The rest is done at Judson Hall. Also very important is that we keep fifteen full scripts ahead so no money is wasted storing away scenery that would have to be if carted back in a few days , . . and our units are so designed that we have 36 combinations available at all times. "Now watch," he alerted me. "If we wanted to cut corners we'd just have Roat appear at Abby's door, instead we bring him there. There are doctors and nurses in the corridor. See? And did you catch the orderly pushing a cart?" I did, also a bulletin board and a candy machine. "Now look around Abby's room," he said when Roat finally got there. "We don't have to have a heat lamp, pictures and a view from the window, but you'd miss them if they weren't there. principals"
 "We're not budgeted for names, though sometimes we are lucky enough to get name value along with talent. Jerome Cowan (whom Layton slightly resembles) has appeared for us. Tina Louise (heartbreaker of the week of August 12 with Roat the victim) is another. But luckily, all we require, really is talent . . . and I'm sure we have a crop of future big names rignt here in this group."
"I've just found out a producer's work is never done," running to catch up with Abby as Layton presumably ran for his taxi. "How is it with actresses these days?" "With me at least it's so busy I haven't had time for my exercise class," smiled Abby who has one of those perpetual angel faces that time doesn't touch. "You know I contend that life is a verb, 'to do' for an actress can never stop learning."
She should know. Fresh from New Mexico in the 1930s she landed immediately in the company of the legendary Walter Hampden who set her to cutting her teeth on Shakespeare. Then she "swang over" to Kaufman-Hart musicals, George Abbott comedy and TV. Not that she's said goodbye to theatre ! A couple of seasons back she and her distinguished husband, John Seymour, fifth generation member of a theatrical family, hit Broadway again with the charming but ill-fated 'Howie'." Yet with all this experience she's done what classically trained actors seldom do. At Kim Hunter's suggestion a few years ago she started studying method acting with Lea Strassburg. Among her class mates have been Marilyn Monroe ("We all just loved her") and Ann Williams. I am passing along three insights out of my "Doctors" day. If you're a young actor, try to get on a Jerry Layton show. If you want to be a producer, good luck. And if you want to have a fresh pretty face like Abby's, keep reaching for the future so fast that time can't catch you.
 
 
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8 hours ago, jam6242 said:

Wow, didn’t know (or remember) that Texas got a two-hour finale.  The Doctors had to say goodbye in 30 minutes, after helping lift NBC to the top in the 70s.

I think CRCO was not an NBC affiliate and took Texas on a one day delay hence the need to play the final two episodes back to back. The 4 pm timeslot seems a bit odd.

Maybe someone can confirm this.

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Was it Lucy Johnson who supposedly didn't think Scott Defrietas was "hot" enough? 

 

Bleh.

 

I loved Sale of the Century. I'm sorry it replaced The Doctors though.

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10 hours ago, DRW50 said:

I loved Sale of the Century. I'm sorry it replaced The Doctors though.

 

I thought it was Betty White's Just Men that replaced TD. It only lasted about 13 weeks, but it was on long enough for Betty to win an Outstanding Game Show Host Emmy.

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Posted (edited)

Just finished watching the first episode of the Doctors—which really seemed to be entitled “House Of Hope” and NOT “TD.” The set was entirely different (and I dare say bigger and more expensive-looking, but was probably a drab gray- and green-painted set being that it was taped/filmed in B&W). The “leading man” was Dr. William Scott and was (IMO) a basis for the later character of Dr. Nick Bellini (although we know Gerry Gordon played his role much bigger than Jock Gaynor played his). Dr. Jerry Chandler almost reminded me of a Dr. Matt Powers-type: friendly and supportive. The hospital chaplain, Reverend Sam Shafer, seemed to also show shades of Matt Powers: wise, helpful, the “elder statesman” (even though he wasn’t that old). Psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Hayes was wallpaper in this first episode. They could have had a floor director read her lines and it wouldn’t have mattered. It doesn’t seem she lasted on the show much past the summer of 1963. It appears she stopped acting on TV for the most part after TD, so maybe it was her decision to leave?

 

The day’s stories were kind of forced. I can see how this might have worked in primetime on a show where a well-known actor(s) recurred as the doctors, but...TD (or HOH as they called it) on daytime needed a lot more drama besides anonymous patients.

 

Had I been watching NBC on Monday, April 1, 1963, for this, I can’t say I would’ve been back on Tuesday. I have to admit, it is tough to look at what we saw today (S1, E1) as a soap opera. It tried to be dramatic, but I wouldn’t say it started with a traditional soap base. It was an anthology of stories (the first day? apparently being encapsulated) run daily through the course of each week. It wasn’t until sometime later in 1963 or early ‘64 that someone clearly felt it wasn’t working/sustainable and they decided to plan the shift to a traditional, ongoing soap-style format. So who knows what “cliffhanger” might have been on the first day of the soap-structured TD? It wouldn’t necessarily have been shocking as it WAS still 1964, but it must’ve been enough to keep people interested due to the changes.

Edited by DanMan869
Site combined my posts so I decided to edit it to read like just one post.
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I'm still looking forward to seeing it. A daily anthology was a pretty ambitious undertaking, and if they hadn't changed the format when they did cancelation would have been inevitable. I'm looking forward to seeing the original cast.

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1 hour ago, DanMan869 said:

Just finished watching the first episode of the Doctors—which really seemed to be entitled “House Of Hope” and NOT “TD.” The set was entirely different (and I dare say bigger and more expensive-looking, but was probably a drab gray- and green-painted set being that it was taped/filmed in B&W). The “leading man” was Dr. William Scott and was (IMO) a basis for the later character of Dr. Nick Bellini (although we know Gerry Gordon played his role much bigger than Jock Gaynor played his). Dr. Jerry Chandler almost reminded me of a Dr. Matt Powers-type: friendly and supportive. The hospital chaplain, Reverend Sam Shafer, seemed to also show shades of Matt Powers: wise, helpful, the “elder statesman” (even though he wasn’t that old). Psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Hayes was wallpaper in this first episode. They could have had a floor director read her lines and it wouldn’t have mattered. It doesn’t seem she lasted on the show much past the summer of 1963. It appears she stopped acting on TV for the most part after TD, so maybe it was her decision to leave?

 

The day’s stories were kind of forced. I can see how this might have worked in primetime on a show where a well-known actor(s) recurred as the doctors, but...TD (or HOH as they called it) on daytime needed a lot more drama besides anonymous patients.

 

Had I been watching NBC on Monday, April 1, 1963, for this, I can’t say I would’ve been back on Tuesday. I have to admit, it is tough to look at what we saw today (S1, E1) as a soap opera. It tried to be dramatic, but I wouldn’t say it started with a traditional soap base. It was an anthology of stories (the first day? apparently being encapsulated) run daily through the course of each week. It wasn’t until sometime later in 1963 or early ‘64 that someone clearly felt it wasn’t working/sustainable and they decided to plan the shift to a traditional, ongoing soap-style format. So who knows what “cliffhanger” might have been on the first day of the soap-structured TD? It wouldn’t necessarily have been shocking as it WAS still 1964, but it must’ve been enough to keep people interested due to the changes.

I really enjoyed it. I was surprised to not only hear the original theme song from the Retro reruns, but also to see Robert Mandan guest starring in the premiere. The sets were pretty impressive. I found it challenging caring for the characters. I didn't know them so I wasn't invested in their stories. What really bothered me was a line toward the end of the episode involving Mandan's character asking the doctors about he and his wife having a child. The doctor's response -- in light of the events in this episode -- made me cringe.

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I thought everyone was a bit nonchalant about little Debbie's death.  I did enjoy the episode though.  I thought Fred J. Scollay stood out among the regular cast (no surprise).  Nice surprise seeing Robert Mandan.  Not sure daytime TV was right for Jock Gaynor, though he did have presence.  Was impressed with the sets.  Hope we see more of the early episodes.

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Thanks for the comments.

The daily format was a huge undertaking. Perhaps the thinking was that viewers(housewives) could be able to watch and not worry about missing episodes - which would inevitably happen when little Timmy had a doctors appointment etc.

As for the sets, maybe once the show went to a serial they needed more sets for the extra characters and the studio couldn't hold them all,so they decided to shrink the hospital sets?

At least TD held on longer than Ben Jerrod on NBC which debuted the same day.

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