'The Dr. Phil Show' Ends Two-Decade Long Reign Of Daytime TV Terror
The last time I saw an episode of "The Dr. Phil Show," I was sitting in a nail salon with foils wrapped around my fingers, watching transphobic bag of dicks Matt Walsh whine about how he doesn't like the way people who are not him define the word woman. Before the show broke to commercial, a disembodied Phil McGraw asked "Do you think cancel culture has gone too far? You could be a guest on one of our next shows!"
I spent the rest of the time imagining what I would say were I to call in and explain to the producers how the show they were airing at this very time was proof that it had clearly not gone far enough.
Twenty-one years after it first premiered, "The Dr. Phil Show" is going off the air, and I can't say I'm mad about it. Not because Dr. Phil is not a licensed doctor, not because it was a trashy talk show — I've got a bit of a soft spot for trashy talk shows, particularly when they include incredibly bad "makeovers" — but because within the last few years it has become a platform for rightwing nonsense, frequently of the "Wokeness has Gone Too Far!!!!" variety. Just last week an episode aired called "The Demise of Guys" featuring Rollo Tomassi, a weird misogynist who calls himself the "Godfather of the Manosphere," and some other guy I've never even heard of who called himself a "sexual energy coach."
A particularly weird episode of the show centered around cultural appropriation and featured two Prager U hosts, Will Witt and Amala Ekpunobi explaining why people who were mad about cultural appropriation — or who simply thought that it was not great of TikTok lifestyle influencers to rebrand agua fresca as "spa water" — are ridiculous.
In another episode, Tomi Lahren talked about how cancel culture has hurt her, personally. Oddly enough, neither she nor Dr. Phil mentioned the time she got fired from The Blaze for saying she believed abortion should be legal.
Other titles from this season's shows have included:
S21 E75 · Defunding the Police: A Failure or a Fallacy?
S21 E70 · Was the Pandemic Mismanaged? What You Desperately Need to Know
S21 E69 · School's Out! From "Saints" to Sex Workers
S21 E35 · Slut Shaming or Asking for Modesty?
S21 E28 · Parents Battle over "Woke" School Curriculum
S21 E22 · You Said It ... Now You're Canceled!
S21 E20 · Transgender Athletes
S21 E18 · Has the Body Positivity Movement Gone Too Far?
There was also the time when Dr. Phil exploited actress Shelley Duvall's psychological issues for ratings. That was cute. And the time he publicly whined about people taking COVID seriously when people die of other things all the time. And the time he claimed that the lockdowns were more harmful than the virus itself.
My personal favorite, however, was not a political episode, but one of the increasingly rare human interest story episodes — one in 2020 in which a mother claimed her missing daughter was tortured and killed by "gang members" who wanted to get high off of her adrenochrome.
As you hopefully know by now, adrenochrome is not a thing you can get high off, but rather oxidized adrenaline of the same variety you might find in an expired EpiPen.
While there was certainly some pushback on the mother's claims, clips of the show were hailed by QAnon weirdos who were thrilled to see their nonsense validated.
The disappointing thing is that, looking at the various topics discussed on the Dr. Phil show, a few of them really are interesting topics and issues that are worthy of public discussion. Just, you know, not with Dr. Phil.
McGraw, who has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology but has not had a license to actually practice since he started appearing on "Oprah" in the 1990s, says the reason he is quitting daytime is because he's got his eye on primetime. He says he has "grave concerns for the American family" and that he is "determined to help restore a clarity of purpose as well as our core values" — but it seems pretty unlikely that anyone actually wants or needs that.
"The Dr. Phil Show" ending is the end of an era, not just of his show, but of the daytime talk show centered more around interpersonal and social issues than celebrity interviews and news. It would be nice if there were a less toxic way to do that kind of show, in order to show healthy ways of resolving dilemmas or to talk about issues people are facing that are not otherwise getting enough attention, but sadly we haven't really seen it yet.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse