1 9 7 6 – 1 9 8 1 (Australia)
1396 x 30 minute episodes
The Australian night-time soapie The Young Doctors debuted at 7.30 pm on Monday 8 November 1976 on the Nine Network with an hour-long opening episode, followed by 30-minute episodes each weeknight.
It had a shaky start, with gloomy predictions from critics and low ratings and the Nine Network dropped the show after the first 13 weeks.
But the Grundy Organisation (who produced the series) persevered – and it came back, eventually running five nights a week until 1981.
The cast featured a great smorgasbord of gorgeous babes, which no doubt greatly contributed to the show’s success (primarily among young male viewers) since the acting, scripts and sets were all of the extremely dreadful variety.
So you could tune in to either ogle beautiful blonde Lynda Stoner or actually try to follow the ridiculous plots recounting the lives and loves of the young staff at the Albert Memorial Hospital – with plenty of white-coated slap and tickle among good-looking young people in the big city hospital.
Sex scenes were not permitted by the producers, however, just kissing. Accordingly, the emphasis was on romance and relationships, while divorce, sex, and medical or social problems were all off-limits for this deliberately lightweight early evening serial.
On the other hand, bombings, shootings and invasions by dangerous knife-wielding psychopaths were all permissible ways of removing regular characters or rearranging relationships.
The medical staff seemed to suffer chronically from weddings, frequently from separations, but never from divorce.
The main characters included the hospital superintendent Dr Brian Denham (Michael Beecher), whose wife Laura (Joanna Moore-Smith) was having an affair with another doctor, head surgeon Dr Raymond Shaw (Alfred Sandor).
There was a clutch of young resident doctors, swinging their stethoscopes and waggling their syringes, and a bevvy of nurses headed by Sister Scott (Cornelia Frances, pictured), a steely disciplinarian.
Among the doctors, there were the ambitious one, the over-confident one, one destined to make a tragic mistake, the playboy, and the naive female doctor (Dr Henderson) who found herself in emotional situations she couldn’t control.
Female viewers experienced hot flushes watching the men and warm sympathy watching the nurses. They even liked bosomy nurse Jojo Adams, played by Delvene Delaney, known for her comedy sketches on The Paul Hogan Show.
When pop star Mark Holden joined the cast to play fun-loving young medic Greg Mason and Spanish-born Tony Alvarez joined as Dr Tony Garcia, the producers seemed to have performed heart surgery on all the fans – even though no one in their right mind would trust either of them with an Elastoplast.
The most popular ‘oldie’ on the show was Gwen Plumb as gossipy kiosk lady Ada Simmonds. And perhaps the favourite young woman was sweet, sincere Sister Tania Livingston, played by Judy McBurney. She married Dr Garcia.
The Young Doctors has the dubious distinction in Australian television drama of never winning any award whatsoever.
Doors and walls wobbled, boom mics came into shot, and virtually everything that ever happened took place in one operating theatre, one patient ward, one L-shaped hallway, a couple of offices, at Ada Simmons’ kiosk or in the wine bar across the road.
Nonetheless, it ran for 1,396 episodes and – until this record was eclipsed by A Country Practice in 1991 – The Young Doctors had been the longest-running drama serial in the history of Australian television.
The show also featured Judi Connelli, Lyn James, Judy Lynne, Rebecca Gilling, Joanna Moore-Smith, Margaret Nelson, Karen Peterson, Susanne Stuart, Ros Wood and Bartholomew John.
Comedian ‘Ugly’ Dave Gray made his debut as a dramatic actor as Bunny Howard, the debt-ridden alcoholic who ran the bar across the road from the hospital (Bunny’s Place). Rock singer Doug Parkinson also got his first acting role as Mac, the nasty manager of a country and western singer. So did Darryl Cotton as ill singer Aaron Shields.
Bunny was memorably killed off behind the bar by a heart attack after 65 episodes – so Gray could join the nightly quiz show Blankety Blanks.
Model Kim Wran overcame being known only as the NSW Premier’s daughter to become disaster-prone Caroline Jamison, and Karen Pini – the 1976 runner-up in the Miss World contest – played Nurse Sherrie Andrews.
Dr Brian Denham
Dr Raymond Shaw
Sister Tania Livingston
Dr Graham Steele
Orderly Dennis Jamison
Sister Grace Scott
Nurse Jo Jo Adams
Dr Greg Mason
Dr Tony Garcia
Dr Gail Henderson
Nurse Sherrie Andrews
Nurse Virginia Mason
Dr Russell Edwards
Dr Jim Howard
Nurse Liz Kennedy
Ugly Dave Gray
Nurse Maggie Gordon
Sister Eve Turner/Steele
Dr Susan Richards
Dr Mike Newman
Dr Peter Holland
Dr John Forrest
Dr Ben Fielding