Series / Dr. Phil

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"What gives you the right to imprison your wife in the basement?"
— Dr. Phil, addressing a typical guest

Dr. Phil is a reality/talk television show hosted by Phil McGraw. After McGraw's success with his segments on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Dr. Phil debuted on September 16, 2002. On both shows McGraw offers advice in the form of "life strategies" from his life experience as a clinical psychologist.

The show is in syndication throughout the United States and a number of other countries. The show's syndication contracts specifically state that if Dr. Phil is on another station, it cannot air at the same time as Oprah. Its eighth season premiered on September 14, 2009. The show is to be renewed through 2014, or twelve seasons. Occasional prime time specials have aired on CBS. The program has been nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award every year since 2004.

Since September 8, 2008, Dr. Phil has been broadcast in HDTV with a revamped look and a new theme written and performed by McGraw's son, Jordan. He also produces another show with Jordan, The Doctors, a medical talk show competing with The Doctor Oz Show. As with Oprah, both shows are contracted so that they can't air at the same time if on different networks.


This TV show provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Quite often. Even in cases where the kid is the one out of control, Dr. Phil often uncovers some form of abuse going on that either caused the problems or exacerbate them.
  • The Baby Trap: One episode had this as its main focus, and among the highlights was a guy who had sex with his wife while she was sleeping in order to get her pregnant, and a woman who stopped taking her birth control without telling her husband in order to get pregnant. Dr. Phil tore right into them.
  • Berserk Button: Dr. Phil once brought in the creator of the infamous Bumfights movies. Halfway during the intro package, he cut it off in disgust and threw the guy out of his studio.
  • Big Eater: Dr. Phil has dealt with several obese guests in recent years. In an inversion, one show also had him talking to grown adults who ate only one food day after day (i.e., French fries).
    • In at least two other inversions, Dr. Phil has featured anorexic or bulimic guests. This includes an entire special on eating-disordered boys, and a show featuring a woman so anorexic and bulimic that she could barely function onstage.
  • Bigot vs. Bigot: "The Dr. Phil House." A skinny girl who hates fat people living with a morbidly obese man who hates skinny people! A black racist living with a white racist! A redneck homophobe living with a butch heterophobe!
    • For the most part it was successful, except for the fat guy.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: At least twice. As per the norm, they were extreme versions of the trope. The show has had other out-of-control teens exhibiting some but not all of the extreme aspects of the trope.
    • One such example is Danielle, a 13-year-old guest who appeared in the September 2016 episode "I'm Done with My Car-Stealing, Knife-Wielding, Twerking 13-Year-Old". Danielle differs from many of the out-of-control teenagers who have appeared on Dr. Phil in her mannerisms, acting similarly to the out-of-control teens who have appeared on Maury (dressing provocatively, talking in a "street" accent, excessive smack-talk to the extent of cursing at her mom and grandmother on-stage). Among other thing, she has assaulted her mother, Barbara Ann, in the breast despite her having had breast cancer twice, has stolen cars (even absconding with $3 and car keys of a show make-up artist who was present during filming at their family's home, who expressed that she felt violated by being robbed by Danielle), has recreationally taken Xanax and smoked marijuana, stolen her mother's credit cards with balances totaling $6,000 (even buying a stripper pole at one point), threatened her mother with knives, was accused of framing Barbara Ann on a drug possession charge and even taunted her mother one time after coming home after stealing her mom's car by twerking in front of her facenote . It doesn't help matters that her mother, Barbara Ann, often reacts to Danielle's similar threats by engaging in verbal altercations and physically threatening her. Dr. Phil points out that she's [[Not So Above It All not as "street smart" as she lets on, as Danielle single-handedly admitted on-camera to premeditated grand theft auto, leaving the scene of an accident after crashing the make-up artist's car, theft and even implicating a friend in the possession of stolen goods, and surmises that Danielle puts up a tough veneer because she's been hurt many time in life. To get Danielle to go the rehab ranch they plan to send her to, Dr. Phil gives her a choice: either go to the ranch or the make-up artist will file charges against her for the crimes she committed during the week of the video shoot. She ultimately does go, but briefly puts up a fight backstage before she decides to head to the ranch.
  • Captain Obvious: At times. It should be obvious to anyone that it's not okay to beat your children daily.
  • Catch Phrase: "How's that working for you?" comes up quite a lot.
    • Lately, it's common to hear Dr. Phil say, "This is not an [X] problem, it's a family problem," especially in reference to teens and young adults who are considered out of control.
    • When Dr. Phil deals with a teen or young adult who exhibits outrageous behavior, expect to hear, "I don't ask why he/she/you does this. I ask why not."
    • "What were you thinking" is a fairly frequent staple.
    • "That's not okay" is semi-frequent, sometimes said with an air of You Have GOT To Be Kidding Me.
  • Confession Cam
  • Dating Service Disaster: He has featured several women who are victims of dating website scams. Many of them are variations of the typical 419 Scam, with the women sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to men who they have never met or seen, or even talked on the phone with. These women typically are complete idiots, with Dr. Phil having to show them that the guys are scams through basic things they should've been able to figure out.
  • Domestic Abuse: Occurs as much if not more than Abusive Parents. One November 2015 episode featured a husband who repeatedly spanked his wife with a wooden spoon out of the belief his religion condoned it. While the abused party is often the woman, Dr. Phil has interviewed abused males, and couples where it goes both ways.
  • Double Standard: Dr. Phil seems to think it okay for women to fight for their lives if necessary, but for men to "run away" from women. Even if they're trying to kill them. If a man fights back, even to defend himself, he's an abusive monster.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Dr. Phil compared a man who has lots of piercings and body modifications to his other guest that episode, a drunken idiot who does extreme sports for no reason and constantly breaking his limbs for funzies.
  • Ill Girl: The parents of an extremely lazy, irresponsible twenty-year-old tried to use this trope as an excuse for her behavior. Dr. Phil called them on it, pointing out that there was little to no medical evidence for the litany of problems the parents claimed their daughter had. Some cases where a child is mentally ill play the trope straighter.
  • It's All My Fault: Dr. Phil's advice essentially boils down to making the guests realize this about themselves, in that whatever problems they are having, they, and they alone, are to blame.
    • In episodes with unruly and out of control children (sometimes adult children, that still live at home), Dr. Phil almost always places the blame on the parents. When one guest called him out on this, saying that he'll blame her because "he'll blame the parents like he always does" (she was a frequent watcher of the show), he was less than pleased. And indeed, he still blamed her for her child's problems.
  • I'm Not a Doctor, but I Play One on TV: Dr. Phil's license to practice expired in 2006.
  • Happily Married: Subverted in one episode where Dr. Phil spent an episode talking to a couple who have been together for years but don't want to get married, citing this trope as reason that they have a problem. Even when they said they are perfectly happy just being together, Dr. Phil would just keep asking "Well then why aren't you married?". It turns out not everyone feels the need to get married.
  • Once an Episode: Recent seasons have made sure that every show he puts in a word for his newest book at the time, like the Life Code or The 20/20 Diet. Published by his son Jay's publishing company. Also, not one episode goes by without him mentioning "my and my son Jay's company" Doctor on Demand, or his wife Robin's latest business venture.
  • Point-and-Laugh Show: Has generally turned into a Jerry Springer "for moms" format.
  • Pushover Parents: Fairly common. Most of the time when there is a problem with parents and children and they aren't Abusive Parents, they are the opposite extreme and do absolutely nothing to discipline their child.
  • Reality Show Genre Blindness: The guests often don't seem to grasp the fact that their private problems are being broadcast to millions of people; you'd think all the cameras and the giant studio audience would give them a hint.
    • There have been some rare examples where the guests points out that they are being humiliated to "boost ratings". An example of it being a 2006 episode where a father fails a lie detector test after being accused of molesting his daughter. The father only brings it up because he is caught in his lie. Dr. Phil promptly tells him to "get off his high horse."
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Occurs at times when a guest is particularly abusive or obnoxious. Toned-down versions also occur, such as when Dr. Phil is confronted with a guest who responds to his observations with, "Yeah, but..."
  • Spinoff: From The Oprah Winfrey Show.
  • Straw Misogynist: One episode focusing on sexist husbands featured a man who, while on camera, goes on long tirades to his guest's face about how she as a woman is just not as good at anything as men are. But then subverted with the other husband. He's described as being sexist and mean to his wife, but in all fairness his wife's complaints just make it sound like he came home tired from work a lot and just wanted to watch TV to unwind now and then with their rat terrier on his lap.
  • Talk Show
  • The Unfavorite: This sometimes happens in episodes featuring broken families. Often, one child will be labeled as out of control or destructive, even "a devil." While the minor in question does have serious behavior issues, it's often the case that the parents favor siblings over that minor. Skylar is one example from Season 16; she had uploaded a profile to a sugar baby website, gotten three DUIs, and been in a boatload of other trouble while her twin sister Shaylen was an honor student with a good reputation. Yet her parents felt it was okay to constantly belittle Skylar, invade her privacy, and ridicule her attempts at getting treatment.
    • Preston is another example; his destructive behavior looks a little different when you know that, though Preston is 15, his dad still spanks him with a belt, over every little thing. In contrast, his brother Adam is held up as what Preston terms "the golden child," whether or not this label is always valid.
  • What Were You Thinking?: Pretty much one of his catchphrases.

Alternative Title(s): Doctor Phil

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/DoctorPhil