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Op/Ed: Dr. Phil's Show is a Joke

By Paul Bright     Jul 23, 2007 in Entertainment
Dr. Phil is a very smart man. Phil McGraw has some real-life advice on how to handle everyday conflicts amongst your family, friends, and even within yourself. But why does his show have to be so horrible?
I admit: I used to be a Dr. Phil fanatic. I thought Dr. Phil’s brand of advice-giving was totally revolutionary, logical, and offered not just solutions, but ways to reach those solutions that were practical and to the heart. But then Dr. Phil became a brand.
And then Dr. Phil became a TV show. And then Dr. Phil became a branded TV show that made blatant displays of undeserved nepotism.
Dr. Phil as a brand is more than just books. It’s cool to give advice to big people on how to lose weight and tell them to focus on the “why” you are eating so much part of it. But do we have to make our own nutrition bars? Our powders? Snacks? And yes, I agree that if you are happy with your weight and you are still reasonably active, it’s ok to give weight loss advice. But I hardly think you should be peddling snack bars. Stick to the books, Dr. Phil.
His melodramatic talk show is even worse. I enjoyed watching him on Oprah when he was doing Dr. Phil Tuesdays. People would bring up stuff from the audience, he would put a spin on it, throw some numbers (think of the 10 defining moments of your life, 5 people you hate, and 4 people you never got to kiss, 3 guys who fixed your plumbing, 2 women that like your dress), and the magic light bulb would come on. I thought it was neat to put cameras in a “normal” family’s home or even an entire town. But when I started seeing all the pre-production in the episodes, it became clear: people are going to be on the show to be on TV and not for help.
There was an episode that aired centered around kissing cousins. Two people were dating and found out later on that they were 1st cousins but still decided to continue the relationship. The boy’s sister completely disapproves. In season one, that would have been three people talking about it, Dr. Phil bringing in a geneticist to dispel the kissing cousin myth, and Dr. Phil giving them helpful advice on how to rebuild and continue to bond. Nowadays the film crew goes to the house, filming the sister leave mean notes to the girl cousin. They cut scenes of the girl cousin reading notes and looking disappointed. It had scenes of the two siblings arguing with complete camera-switching as if it were a movie. Dr. Phil became Dr. Maury Povich.
From here on out every show was pre-production like he said “hey, this family likes to fight. Let’s get ‘em to fight at home so America can really see what an argument at home is.” He started up with the whole “you’re here for an intervention” chain of shows with that heroin addict Brandon and his completely clueless parents. If I were Dr. Phil, some of my episodes would be cut in half with “didn’t you read my book? I’m on my 4th season and your own my show and you clearly haven’t read my books!”
Finally, the fact that his whole family gets to ride off the Phil fame is almost sickening. His son has no television charm. Jay might be a capable counselor, but please keep him off the tube. His Extreme Makeover: Home Edition knock-off series was unbearable. You know you need help when you have to put Playboy triplets on to get people to watch, even though you are supposedly remodeling a family from top to bottom, inside and out. Jay just doesn’t sell. And what dynamic has his wife, Robin, added to the show other than she’s a female with a calm voice of reason? When she’s on, everything becomes soft light and an obvious ploy to say “yes, he’s gruff, but Dr. Phil’s woman has a different perspective.” However it is too obvious and empty.
Like I said, I just can’t watch the show anymore. I still think in a lot of ways the man makes sense on paper, where he belongs. His books do offer good advice, but he doesn’t need to be on TV.
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