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60s Doctor Shows: The Birth of a Legend

While the world burned around us, television audiences in the 1960s turned increasingly to medical dramas to drown our sorrows. Apparently, we can take comfort in the misery of others — sounds about right for humans, huh? At any rate these 60s doctor shows helped set the stage for decades of hospital-based entertainment to come, including the birth of an absolute legendary series.

Medical Center

Set at an unnamed university hospital in Los Angeles, Medical Center was one of the first doctor shows to take on a large-scale medical setting and it did so with gusto. This series ran from 1969-1976, but its legacy is still felt today in TV’s most popular hospital dramas: Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Chicago Med, et cetera.

Doctors  Paul Lochner(James Daly) and Joe Gannon (Chad Everett) are the two heroes of this series, which focused on their personal lives as well as  their professional duties.

The series has a number of notable guest stars, such as 60s icon Robert Stack and the two-time Academy Award winner Ernest Borgnine.  Actors in recurring roles include Robert Sampson (1970-74) and John Saxon (1971).

Marcus Welby, M.D.

Marcus Welby, M.D., starred Robert Young as a well-intentioned and kindhearted general practitioner who practices in Santa Monica, California. The show ran from 1969 to 1976 and helped set the standard for doc shows to come.

In fact, you still hear references to Dr. Welby today when older generations speak about bedside manner (or lack thereof) of current medical professionals.

Aside from Welby himself, the main characters included his daughter Sandy and young Dr. Steven Kiley (James Brolen), Welby’s partner who also provided some tension in clashing with his mentor.

Indeed, Welby was progressive and even experimental in his approach to treating patients, even though he was much older than Kiley. Kiley himself, on the other hand, took a very conservative approach.

General Hospital

Debuting on April 1, 1963, General Hospital is the 60s doctor show that may just never end.

Although General Hospital was not the first soap opera ever, it certainly played an important role in helping to define the genre, as well as the medical drama itself.

GH was also one of the shows that helped make soap operas a staple at a time when society wasn’t used to watching television all day long; as such, it held more of its original audience for years and years than most shows are ever able to even dream about.

General Hospital takes place at General Hospital – an American hospital located in fictional town Port Charles (a suburb of New York City), where many plots focus around character drama rather than medical mysteries or experiments.

Over the years, the soap opera has featured many famous characters and a story arc involving Luke Spencer, Laura Webber and Dr. Steve Hardy which was one of the longest running dramas in the history of television — and probably the world.

So, will General Hospital ever come to an end?

Well, hardly anything lasts forever, but GH has weathered countless storms over the years, witnessing the demise of other soaps like All My Children, One Life to Live and Guiding Light.

Maybe General Hospital will ride off into the sunset someday, too, but it’s still midday for the classic doctor show right now.

Dr. Kildare

Dr. Kildare aired from 1961 to 1966 and starred Richard Chamberlain as Dr. James “Jimmy” Kildare, an intern at the fictional large metropolitan general hospital called General Hospital.

The premise: The show followed Dr. Jim Kildare’s adventures in his internship year of training under medical supervisors who teach about ethics for 60s doctors.

Ben Casey

Ben Casey aired from 1961 to 1966 and starred Vince Edwards as the title character, neurosurgeon Ben Casey.

The premise: 60s doctors show following Dr. Matt Casey’s adventures in his internship year of training under medical supervisors who teach about ethics for 60s docs.

(Like 60s Doctor Shows? Then you might like our article on 70s Doctor Shows, click here. Or how about 80s Doctor Shows, click here.)

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