Premiering on the exact same day as rival "General Hospital," NBC’s "The Doctors" aimed to grab more eyeballs than there were in Port Charles with racier storylines and more cutthroat antics. And it worked – for a while at least. Ratings were strong by the late 60s, thanks to prime airtime between hit shows "Days of Our Lives" and "As the World Turns." But in the mid-70s, ratings began to fall and after 16 years in the same time slot the network began moving it around, shedding viewers with each adjustment.
When the show was canceled in 1982 it broke the record for the lowest level of ratings any soap had ever reached in the history of the rating system, and the last episode aired just a few months shy of its 20th Anniversary on New Year's Eve 1982.
April 1, 1963 – December 31, 1982
When the show premiered, it was not a serial and was never intended to be. Rather, each episode revolved around a singular medical emergency plot with a resolution. It soon switched to a weekly serial format, and by 1964, the 30-minute show had transitioned to a full-fledged Daytime serial.
"The Doctors" worked hard to beat its "General Hospital" rival. There, doctors worked together for the most part. But at Hope Memorial Hospital in the fictional New England town of Madison, the doctors were cutthroat and ruthless despite the show’s tagline that it was "dedicated to the brotherhood of healing." Murder, suicide, backstabbing, torment and drug use were commonplace in the halls at Hope Memorial.
The central character was Dr. Matthew Powers (James Pritchett), chief of staff. While he healed patients he was not all good. At one time he went on trial for murder. Another time, a nurse discovered he killed his rival and made it look like suicide. After much torment, she killed herself and he got away with murder, again. Another medical-focused storyline involved a youth serum.
"The Doctors" saw more than its fair share of celebrities on their way up the fame ladder. Alec Baldwin played Billy Aldrich for a few years before he was killed off, but other visitors to Madison included Brooke Shields, Carol Potter, Jonathan Frakes, Terry O’Quinn, Armand Assante, Kathy Bates, Ellen Burstyn, Ted Danson, Julia Duffy, Kathleen Turner, Ian Ziering, Kim Zimmer, Denise Nickerson and Hillary B. Smith.