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  Peyton Place

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> Description 
Peyton Place was America's first truly successful primetime serial and one of the classiest television programs ever produced for American television. The series was the brainchild of veteran producer Paul Monash, who, impressed with the success of Britain's monster hit Coronation Street, 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 to create a portrait of life in a small Massachusetts fishing village. In many ways, Peyton Place 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 breathtakingly well-written and directed, while superbly acted by a cast of both veteran actors and talented newcomers.

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, who were often at odds with the changing values in the world around them and constant intrusion of secrets from the past.

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 The 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.

Peyton Place was an immediate hit for ABC-TV, with both of its twice weekly episodes finishing in the Top Twenty Shows for the 1964-65 season. It was seen in nearly 30 million homes each week, capturing an astonishing 40 to 50 % of all viewers watching television at that time. Ecstatic over its success, ABC added a third episode to its weekly lineup. Unfortunately, the tactic backfired. Unable to keep up with three weekly broadcasts, some of the audience began to stop watching altogether, and lower than average ratings for the third weekly show (airing Friday nights initially) pulled down its overall Nielsen rating.

Cast changes of popular performers also eroded the series' popularity. After two years, Mia Farrow decided to exit Peyton Place 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.

Show Description Credit: TV Tome
 
> Airing History & Information 
Last Airing Jun 02, 1969
Premiere September 15, 1964
Episodes 514
Network ABC
Format/Time Color / 30 Minutes
Country United States
Upcoming Airs Not currently airing
 
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