Phil McGraw, better known as Dr. Phil, had a prime time special last Tuesday. Because my wife is a fan, we recorded the program and watched it last night. The show was nothing more than a night time version of his syndicated show, focusing on relationships. He talked to Jonathan and Victoria from the latest season of The Amazing Race (quite possibly the most distasteful game show/reality show participants ever, right up there with Beth from the Real World: Los Angeles), gave dating advice to a successful woman who is searching for Mr. Right, and counseled an engaged couple, Corey and Mary, who are having doubts about going through with the marriage.
The couple in question had issues. She had banished him to the basement because she felt he was invading her space. He had come up with a sexual contract to make sure the amount of nookie didn’t decrease after the marriage. While watching the introduction, I decided there is no way they should get married, since they were both insane.
So Dr. Phil goes into his shtick, which is supposed to be no nonsense common sense. He pulls Corey aside and, with good reason, derides his idea of a sexual contract. Phil also critiqued how Corey proposed to Mary (in the front yard, while mowing the lawn). Not a four star Dr. Phil reaming, but a strong rebuke to the way he interacts with his fiancée.
Then, it was Mary’s turn. And it happened. Or I should say, it didn’t happen. Phil doesn’t give Mary his patented ‘marriage is not 50%-50%; it is 100%-100%’ speech. He doesn’t give her the ‘what were you thinking!?!’ regarding her throwing him out of the bedroom and into the basement. He gently says she should not stand for anything less then exemplary treatment. I nearly spit out the snack I was eating. Once again, Phil bashes the man and treats the woman with kid gloves.
I may have seen one episode of Oprah when Dr. Phil was a regular. But, from what I have been told, he became a hit by giving people the unvarnished, straight answers to their questions. He got his own show, and did basically the same thing. At some point during the first season (yes, I was watching), some one got to him and told him he had to hammer the men more because women were his audience. And he listened.
Now, I’m not one to knock the hustle Dr. Phil has going. Yes, he is as safe as kindergarten scissors. Yes, most of what he says is common sense. Unfortunately, there are some stupid people in this world that do not have enough common sense to come out of the rain. They need Dr. Phil to tell them it isn’t a good idea to cheat on their spouses, or eat their way to a visit from Richard Simmons, or drop out of school to begin a career dancing on the pole. And the rest of us need Dr. Phil and his rotating freak show guest list to feel superior to. Everybody wins.
I’m funny in how I deal with entertainment. My suspension of disbelief threshold is pretty low. I know the teary eyed teen begging her mother to put down the booze and be a parent on the WB drama went right to her trailer after the scene was over. I just ask performers to try to hide the fact they are after my time or money. Don’t make it obvious. And Dr. Phil is making the nuts and bolts of his show obvious to me.