‘Dr. Phil’ Is Ending After Years of Scandals. ‘Good Riddance,’ Critics Say.
Weiss Eubanks/NBCUniversal/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
After 21 seasons of sensational programming focused on everything from delinquent offspring to rampant drug addiction to extramarital affairs, Dr. Phil, the hit daytime talk show helmed by Dr. Phil McGraw, will wrap up after its season in course according to the host’s choice, Variety reported Tuesday. .
It’s the end of an era for the authoritarian TV star with a Southern accent, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology but is not a licensed therapist. For years, the show has drawn in throngs of viewers (and continues to average 2 million viewers per episode) with McGraw’s pointed interviews with troubled guests, which could be as hilarious as they are appalling, despite the fact that the show itself is a constant magnet for lawsuits, scandals and criticism.
One of the host’s early controversies involved Britney Spears at the height of her mental health struggles midway through the year; in January 2008, McGraw was allowed to visit her while she was hospitalized with a nervous breakdown. He later made public statements about the visit that alienated Spears’ family and left them to berate McGraw for betraying their trust. In response to criticism that he was trying to insert himself into the story for entertainment purposes only, McGraw canceled a planned episode of Dr. Phil about Spears’ situation.
More recently, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, McGraw has come under fire for questioning the need for social distancing to prevent the virus from spreading.
“The fact is we have people dying, 45,000 people a year die from car accidents, 480,000 from cigarettes, 360,000 a year from swimming pools, but we’re not shutting down the country for that,” McGraw had said. on Laura. Ingraham’s Angle of Ingraham. “But yet we are doing it for this and the fallout is going to last for years as people’s lives are destroyed.”
Legal battles abound
These off-screen antics are just the tip of the iceberg, as McGraw is no stranger to lawsuits stemming from his divisive show. In 2021, a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted on a Utah ranch sued McGraw and ViacomCBS for negligence after the host recommended she be sent there on an episode of Dr. Phil. The show was also sued for defamation by Surinamese brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, two suspects in the Natalee Holloway disappearance case.
The story continues
In another lawsuit, Shirley Rae Dieu alleged that during a taping session at Dr. Phil House for an episode that eventually aired in 2007, she was held against her will and “forced to be in the same room as a completely naked man alive as he exposed his entire naked body, genitals and all.
“All of Shirley Rae Dieu’s allegations are baseless,” Dr. Phil’s attorneys responded in a statement. “Once Ms. Dieu expressed her discomfort and the producers found there was nothing they could do to help her, they called a car service to take her home.”
Celeb Docs failed us during COVID. Leave them in 2020 where they belong.
Behind the scenes manipulation
And then there’s the show itself, which has long been criticized for going too far in the pursuit of entertainment by exploiting the vulnerable and taking advantage of their problems to boost ratings.
In 2022, BuzzFeed spoke to a dozen current and former Dr. Phil employees who said they experienced a miserable work environment where they were encouraged to inflate racist stereotypes on screen and, in one case, to ensuring a guest was not properly medicated prior to their appearance. then she would look unstable. McGraw’s personal attorney refuted the allegations, dismissing them as clickbait.
A rambling 2016 interview with reclusive actress Shelley Duvall was resoundingly condemned, and Todd Herzog, a recovering alcoholic and former Survivor winner, alleges his drunken appearance on Dr Phil in 2013 was designed by producers who he says gave him Xanax and put handfuls of vodka in his dressing room. A psychologist affiliated with the show denied Herzog’s allegations.
“A cautionary tale”
According to pundits and critics who spoke with The Daily Beast, the end of McGraw’s show is long overdue.
“Dr. Phil’s legacy is a cautionary tale,” addictions activist Ryan Hampton told us on Wednesday. “It wasn’t just his attitude and his approach, which was all we were taught not to do. He never really approached a situation with compassion.
‘dr. Phil’ employees say brutal workplace culture is worthy of ‘nightmares’
“What really annoyed me was the exploitation of these stories and the exploitation of people in crisis to sell sponsor products,” Hampton continued. “It was well known that if you wanted to increase your admission rates to your treatment center in Malibu or sell your virtual reality treatment program rooted in zero science, all you had to do was make a sponsorship with Dr. Phil. From my community, it’s good riddance.
That sentiment was echoed on Tuesday by Taylor Cole Miller, assistant professor of media studies at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, who tweeted on Tuesday, “Dr. Phil tapes I went to were manipulative, contrary to the ethical and representative of bad television. production practices for a show that aims to be intellectually honest and moral.
Speaking to The Daily Beast, Miller explained: ‘At a taping I attended we had a Michael Jackson dance, people were excited and happy and I even got a stress ball. in the shape of Dr. Phil’s heart. This episode was about teenage suicide. When it was done, they moved us to different locations in the studio to record a second show, and the dancing continued. We thought: maybe this will be a lighter episode. The second episode was about teenagers who severely abused their parents.
“The sudden crash of being criticized with such heavy subject matter after being produced for being silly and dizzy felt either extremely psychologically manipulative or utterly incompetent,” Miller continued. “My educated guess is that this type of production is intentional on Dr. Phil, as the quick juxtaposition between these feelings will elicit a more emotional response.”
Indeed, the consensus among critics is that taking McGraw and Dr. Phil off the air is a net positive, even if his next move is, chillingly, still up in the air.
“I think it’s probably a good thing for the community that he’s not streaming anymore,” psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Sugar, who has criticized McGraw in the past for his comments about Spears, told The Daily Beast. “Although I shudder to think of what he might do instead.”
Learn more about The Daily Beast.
Get the Daily Beast’s biggest scoops and scandals straight to your inbox. Register now.
Stay informed and get unlimited access to The Daily Beast’s unrivaled reports. Subscribe now.