Peyton Place

ABC (ended 1969)




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Peyton Place

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Peyton Place was America's first truly successful primetime serial. The series was the brainchild of veteran producer Paul Monash. Impressed with the success of Britain's monster hit Coronation Street, Monash wanted to import that UK series; however, ABC executives felt that US audiences would not cotton to the thick British accents and kitchen-sink drama. Monash countered with a slightly revamped version of Peyton Place, which had been a wildly popular novel by Grace Metalious and subsequent Hollywood film starring Lana Turner and Diane Varsi. While the book and series centered on the pious, hypocritical behavior of New England residents, the TV series eschewed most of that lasciviousness and told the story of life in a small New England village. In many ways, the TV program resembled a dramatic version of The Andy Griffith Show, featuring a recurring cast of warm, sympathetic characters who lived, loved, and died in a quaint town. Like the former series, Peyton Place was remarkably well-written and superbly acted by a cast of veteran actors and talented newcomers, several of whom were rewarded with Emmy nominations for their work. By far, the most popular performers were Mia Farrow, Ryan O'Neal, and Barbara Parkins playing, respectively, confused young adults Allison MacKenzie, Rodney Harrington, and Betty Anderson. Before the program went on the air, Monash consulted with veteran soap producer Irna Phillips who had created and wrote top-rated daytime serials As the World Turns and Guiding Light. Phillips made several crucial decisions that ensured a long, healthy run for Peyton Place. First, she switched core character Michael Rossi's profession from high school principal to town doctor. This gave him a logical reason to participate actively in the lives of all Peyton Place residents, not just the school-age teens. Secondly, Phillips wisely dropped the novel and film's incest story involving Selena Cross. While this plot played well in the film and book, it was highly inappropriate for an evening network drama. After two years, Mia Farrow decided to exit the story to seek fame in films and concentrate on her highly publicized marriage to Old Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra. At that point, Barbara Parkins' Betty, who originally had been slated to die after the first twelve episodes, became the central character in Peyton Place intrigue. Subsequent ingenues like Leigh Taylor-Young and Joyce Jillson were brought in to help replace Allison's innocence, but none of these characters ever truly captured the imagination of PP's audience. Finally, in 1968, Dorothy Malone and Tim O'Connor were given their walking papers as Connie and Elliot Carson. That fall, Leslie Harrington and Martin Peyton were also disposed of. In its final season, Peyton Place attempted to recapture Nielsen popularity by restoring its original formula. Barbara Rush and Elizabeth "Tippy" Walker were brought in as the Mackenziesque mother/daughter duo Marsha and Carolyn Russell. Also, in a nod to the "relevance" campaign of the late 60's, the soap added an African-American neurosurgeon and his confused son to the cast, but these changes were unable to stop the slide in ratings. By the winter of 1969, Peyton Place ceased its two-episode telecasts, airing just once once a week. With abysmal ratings, the series quietly left the air in June 1969, leaving all loose plot threads untied. Although the series enjoyed only a modest five-year run, it proved that primetime soaps could be enormously successful, and it paved the way for similar hits such as Dallas, Dynasty, Falcon Crest, Knot's Landing, and Melrose Place. Peyton Place also set records. At 514 episodes, it ranks number two in the production of more episodes than any other dramatic series in primetime history, second only to Gunsmoke which accumulated over 600 episodes. Additionally, every single episode of Peyton Place was an original telecast, giving it the most consecutive, original episodes of any television program in US primetime history. NBC launched a daytime soap opera entitled Return to Peyton Place in 1972. Although several actors from the original primetime show appeared, the soap failed to satisfy viewers who hoped the daytime version would conclude the previously dangling storylines. In fact, the character of Allison Mackenzie was heavily featured on the daytime soap (played by Kathy Glass and later Pamela Susan Shoop) even though she had mysteriously vanished on the primetime series. In 1977, NBC aired a reunion TV-movie entitled Murder in Peyton Place. A few former characters appeared, played by the original actors. Then in 1985, with nighttime soaps suddenly in vogue, NBC produced Peyton Place: The Next Generation, another attempt at reviving the infamous serial. Unfortunately, both TV movies were for the most part unfaithful to the parent program's narrative and didn't perform well enough in the ratings to launch a new weekly series. Peyton Place Broadcast History: September 1964 - June 1965 Tuesday/Thursday 9:30-10:00 pm (Eastern Time) June-October 1965 Tuesday/Thursday/Friday 9:30-10:00pm (ET) November 1965-August 1966 Monday/Tuesday/Friday 9:30-10:00pm (ET) September 1966-January 1967 Monday/Wednesday 9:30-10:00pm (ET) January-August 1967 Monday/Tuesday 9:30-10:00pm (ET) September 1967-September 1968 Monday/Thursday 9:30-10:00pm (ET) September 1968-January 1969 Monday 9:30-10:00pm (ET) Wednesday 8:30-9:00pm (ET) January-June 1969 Monday 9:00-9:30pm (ET) Nielsen Ratings Top 25: #9 Thursday episode 1964-65 #20 Tuesday episode 1964-65


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  • Ed Nelson

    Ed Nelson

    Dr. Michael Rossi (episodes 1-514)

    Warner Anderson

    Warner Anderson

    Series Narrator (all episodes) / Matthew Swain (episodes 1-111)

    Barbara Parkins

    Barbara Parkins

    Betty Anderson (episodes 1-514)

    Christopher Connelly

    Christopher Connelly

    Norman Harrington (episodes 1-514)

    Ryan O'Neal

    Ryan O'Neal

    Rodney Harrington (episodes 1-501)

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