Made as the USA's answer to Coronation Street and based on Grace Metalious' novel, Peyton Place, with its tales of sexual intrigues became the first prime-time soap opera on American television. Set in a New England town, the story (which had already been filmed in 1957 for the big screen-Lana Turner starred) concentrated on the lives of its inhabitants, amongst who were Constance MacKenzie (Dorothy Malone) and her illegitimate daughter, Alison (Mia Farrow), who was romantically linked to Rodney Harrington (Ryan O'Neal), the son of a wealthy mill, owner and his wife of two occasions, Betty Anderson (Barbara Parkins).
Linking the stories together was dashing young doctor Michael Rossi (Ed Nelson), whose work took him into the homes of all the characters. The series made major stars of most of the cast, not least of all O'Neal and Farrow (whose character wandered off on a foggy night, never to be seen again - which many commentators cite as the beginning of the decline of the show). Other stars during the shows run included Leslie Nielsen, Lee Grant, Wilfred Hyde-White and Lana Wood (sister of Natalie). The series tackled a number of previously taboo (for television) subjects such as sex and infidelity and as such it was broadcast at 9.30pm Eastern/Pacific time in the USA.
The early stories were adapted from the 1956 novel and the time setting updated from the 1940s to the modern day, although a dispute over certain characters meant there was a delay of almost two years before the pilot was filmed and the series reached the small screen. Nevertheless, Peyton Place, broadcast twice a week proved to be an instant hit with viewers and by 1965 it was given an extra episode.
The series was purchased by ITV in 1965 at a cost of £30,000 but unlike its inspiration, Coronation Street, Peyton Place was unable to maintain both its script or production standards and eventually viewing figures became so low that it was axed. At the time, Dr. Rossi was on trial for murder, a finale that Dutch viewers found so unbearable that they flew the cast out to Holland to film an alternative, happy ending. There have been several attempts to revive the series, a 1972 daytime offering Return To Peyton Place starring different actors and a couple of TV movies starring several members of the original cast Murder In Peyton Place (1977) and Peyton Place: The Next Generation (1985). Selected episodes from the series have been released on DVD since 2009.
The series is mentioned in 'Haper Valley PTA', a hit single for country singer Jeannie C. Riley in 1968.
Published on January 18th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.