'Doctors' in the House

New talk show grows out of Dr. Phil
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Dr. Travis Stork once used the power of TV to try to find love. Now he's using it to teach people about their health.

“When people come to the ER, they are sick. But my passion is health, not illness,” says

Stork, a Colorado-based emergency-room doctor who starred in the eighth season of ABC's The Bachelor. “This is a unique opportunity for me to not only help educate people so they can avoid a trip to the ER, but also to use a lot of skills I developed in the ER. I hope to walk away from each show having taught viewers something. There's nothing in my life that I could be prouder of as a doctor.”

CBS decided to go with a unique daytime format—five doctors talking about health issues—after sifting through all the feedback received by The Dr. Phil Show.

“I just listened to our viewers,” says Jay McGraw, Phil McGraw's son, who created and is executive producing The Doctors. “We go through the mail and look at what people are asking about on the Website, and so many of them are medical questions.

“We are putting together a story-based show that's going to be rich with entertainment as well as content,” says McGraw. “We're probably going to spend six out of seven segments actually dealing with an issue, like being in the field delivering a baby or doing an operation. We're really going to get down to business.”

“For me, it's a great passion to be able to do a show where we touch on a part of the medical community that isn't already being done on TV,” says Terry Wood, CBS TV Distribution's president of creative affairs and development. “Most people in this country can't really afford to be in therapy. Phil changed that and said 'You can watch my show and get the kind of information that your insurance probably can't get for you.'”

Like ABC's The View, the show will feature a multi-host panel, although the doctors will keep their chat focused strictly on the health issues of day. Stork, as an internist and a generalist, will serve as moderator.

Joining Stork are four other experts in their field. Dr. Lisa Masterson, who also has appeared on CBS' Oprah, CNN and other TV programs, will handle women's issues such as pregnancy, childbirth and fertility.

Renowned pediatrician Jim Sears will tackle kids and parenting issues. Sears comes from a family of child-care specialists: His father and brother are practicing pediatricians, and his mother is a nurse. The Sears have penned a popular series of parenting books.

Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon will take on all questions regarding physical appearance, such as face lifts, Botox, breast reconstruction and liposuction, as well as answer questions regarding ear, nose, throat, sinus and cleft palate problems.

Finally, Tara Fields, as the panel's resident counselor, will have plenty of opportunities to weigh in. Fields is a licensed marriage and family therapist from San Francisco.

“We're going to start off every show with a bit of light-hearted discussion back and forth,” says Stork. “We're argumentative and we often don't agree with each other. But that gives the viewer the ability to relate to our different personalities.”

By this month's NATPE convention, CBS Television Distribution expects to have the show sold in 97% of the country. At presstime, clearance levels were in the low 90s, according to Joe DiSalvo, president of domestic television sales at CBS Television Distribution.

“What I think station managers saw right away is a combination of a show that is going to be both entertaining and informative,” says DiSalvo. “This is a show that is very advertiser-friendly and it's a great news lead-in. It's also a format that isn't on television right now.”

ANOTHER BIG HIT?

CBS hopes The Doctors will be its next Dr. Phil-like hit, helping stations fill their early fringe-time periods, compete against afternoon shows such as Oprah, Warner Bros.' Ellen and CBS' Judge Judy, and bring women age 25 to 54 into stations' early news.

Because Dr. Phil was spun off from Winfrey's show, there's a clause that he can't compete in the same time periods against her. But no such restrictions apply to The Doctors.

But in New York, the country's No. 1 market, The Doctors will air on CBS-owned WCBS at 9 a.m., replacing repeats of Entertainment Tonight and The Insider.

Swapping repeats for first-run programming isn't necessarily the most economic choice, but one that WCBS and its sister stations hope will attract high-quality viewers who appeal to advertisers.

“We had a nice little focus group and people responded well to the show,” says Peter Dunne, WCBS' general manager.

“We already have great relationships with our affiliates,” says McGraw. “Some of them recommended using specialists from their markets, for example. We plan to really listen to our station partners.”

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