From the outset, you need to understand that I didn’t watch an episode of “The Dr. Phil Show” by choice.
Here’s how it happened. I took my car in for a safety inspection and an oil change, and my iPhone was dead. So there I was at the lube job place, and there were no magazines or other diversions to occupy my time. I had no other option but to watch the waiting room’s flat-screen TV.
With no remote control available, I was unable to escape Dr. Phil McGraw and his guest panel of brain-dead, morally repugnant miscreants swapping tales of infidelity, alcoholism and slug-like stupidity. If aliens with ray guns had intercepted this transmission, they would have concluded that humanity is a lost cause and blown Planet Earth to Kingdom Come. And they would have been right to do it.
I spent the whole time trying to understand the thinking of the people who volunteer to be objects of Dr. Phil’s derision. If I were having booze-fueled affairs with random strangers, the last thing I would want to do is show up on daytime TV to advertise the fact. Then again, we’re talking about people with the kind of judgment that leads to booze-fueled affairs with random strangers in the first place.
But these folks had camera crews follow them around to capture B-roll footage of them looking shifty in cutaway shots before commercials. Conceivably, they were asked to do multiple takes of shots recreating them doing sleazy things. Wasn’t there some point in that process that one of these people thought, “Hey, maybe I’ll just conduct my depravity in the privacy of my own home”?
Of course, they’re not the only ones engaged in questionable behavior. This kind of show remains on the air because millions of people like to watch it, which I don’t understand.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not claiming to be high-minded in my artistic tastes. It takes all kinds, I guess. Personally, I like superhero movies where grown men in tights and capes make things go boom, so I’m in no position to deride someone else’s viewing choices. But what could possibly be entertaining about watching terrible people discuss their self-inflicted misery? Perhaps people enjoy feeling superior to the worst specimens the human race has to offer. Or maybe it’s so bad, it’s funny. Or perhaps they just can’t live without a daily dose of Dr. Phil’s artificially folksy wisdom. But I doubt that very much.
The “Doctor” label attached to his name gives him a credibility that he doesn’t earn by means of his on air behavior. At least “The Jerry Springer Show” made no pretense of being anything other than a showcase for freaks. Dr. Phil pretends that he’s actually doing some good, and every now and again, he offered some obvious piece of advice like, “You know, you really need to be there for your children.” But does one really need a medical degree to think up stuff like that? One could open a fortune cookie and get thoughts more cogent than the kind of bon mots Dr. Phil delivers between copious commercial breaks.
I’m pitching this concept to producers, incidentally. I really think “The Stallion Cornell-Reads-Fortune-Cookie-Fortunes-to-Lowlifes Show” could be a huge hit. Plus, I’d probably get to eat a lot of free cookies. And it would be more fun to watch if you were trapped in a waiting room with nothing else on TV.
The moral of the story is simple: always keep your phone charged.