Can we talk about the best new soap to hit the air in ages?
It’s smart, it’s funny and the characters are so well drawn, played by fantastic actors.
Okay, so perhaps “new” isn’t accurate.
We have to go back to the future – circa 1967-1968 – for the origins of this show.
I’m talking, of course, about the vintage episodes of The Doctors that have been running on RetroTV since late last year.
I expected to have a twinge of nostalgia when I saw these old episodes, though I was too young to see the years in question (I wasn’t even born yet!) and only caught a handful of Doctors episodes in later years.
What surprised me was how truly smart and contemporary the episodes were. THIS is the kind of smart, engaging drama many of us are looking for today, and it’s ironic that we have to look back nearly 50 years to find it.
And at this point, I can wait no longer to say it.
OMG ELIZABETH HUBBARD.
Can we please talk about how truly, abundantly amazing her performance as Althea is in these episodes?
What a fully formed, strong persona Althea is, navigating her career and dealing with drama in her life, with Nick, her colleague and love. I would gnaw off my right arm for a character this well drawn, this authentic on any soap today.
It’s a magnificent performance, and Althea in 1968 is everything that, say, Meredith Gray is in 2015 — minus the sometimes debilitating self-doubt. Althea knows she’s good, and the equal of any man at Hope General.
She is, in turns, strong, funny and heartbreakingly vulnerable.
And her friend Maggie (played in early episodes by Bethel Leslie, and in episodes after 1968 by Lydia Bruce) is delightfully droll and sarcastic. Maggie’s shade game is TOTALLY on point.
Here’s a series of episodes from 1971 that feature Hubbard AND future soap royalty Anna Stuart as Toni Ferra, who becomes involved with ridiculously handsome Dr. Mike Powers, as played initially by the late Peter Burnell, and then by Armand Assante.
Yes, some of this is probably a little too dry for today’s soap viewers.
But it’s these kinds of small, intimate scenes that, when layered together, build a character and a storyline. Many of today’s shows skip the buildup and only set off the fireworks – and wonder why we’re increasingly numb to the explosions.
There’s a lot that new web soaps and a new online soap, a la Netflix, Hulu or Amazon – could learn from this era of The Doctors.
Names and faces: Longtime soap fans will catch a few familiar names. The executive producer of the episode posted above is Allen Potter, who would later go on to become Guiding Light’s EP during the Marland era (and whose falling out with Douglas Marland led to Marland’s resignation from the head writing position at GL).
An early episode featured James Noble, who would later play Governor Gatling on ABC’s Benson, as Althea’s analyst.
Here’s a piece from We Love Soaps earlier this spring about a very special episode of The Doctors.
Aren’t the “in color” bumpers for the show fun?