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Phil McGraw, America's TV shrink, plans to end 'Dr. Phil' after 21 seasons

Phil McGraw, pictured here at a 2016 premiere, plans to end his long-running daytime TV show to take on a new prime-time partnership.
Jemal Countess
Getty Images
Phil McGraw, pictured here at a 2016 premiere, plans to end his long-running daytime TV show to take on a new prime-time partnership.

Phil McGraw, America's controversial TV therapist, is ending his reign as a king of daytime television.

After 21 years of dominating ratings, Dr. Phil will stop producing new shows following its 2023 season, CBS Media Ventures announced on Tuesday.

But McGraw himself won't be going too far. The 72-year-old plans to announce a "strategic, prime-time partnership [with CBS Media Ventures], scheduled for an early 2024 launch, which will expand his reach and increase his impact on television and viewers," according to the release.

McGraw noted that he's compelled to expand his audience because he has "grave concerns for the American family" and is "determined to help restore a clarity of purpose as well as our core values."

'Dr. Phil' has attracted criticism for exploiting mental illness

Since its premiere in September 2002, Dr. Phil has doled out snarky, straight-shooting advice to guests ranging from feuding couples and addicted adults to grieving celebrities and dangerous criminals.

The show's shock value has produced a steady drumbeat of controversies, often framed by the perception that Dr. Phil exploits mental illness for cheap TV thrills.

McGraw has repeatedly interviewed a woman who said she was both the daughter of the rapper Eminem and pregnant with the baby Jesus. A meme-ified 2016 guest teen who tried to challenge the audience to a fight ("Catch me outside, how about that?") leveraged her virality to kickstart a successful rapping career.

The formula works for keeping television audiences intrigued. Roughly 2 million viewers tune in for the hour-long shows, which run mid-afternoons Monday through Friday, making Dr. Phil the second most-watched daytime show on air. The series and its host have been nominated for 31 Daytime Emmys.

McGraw holds a doctoral degree in clinical psychology, but he stopped maintaining an active license after he started appearing regularly on The Oprah Winfrey Show in the late 1990s.

His lack of current psychology credentials made headlines in 2016 after Dr. Phil aired an interview with The Shining's Shelley Duvall as she appeared to be experiencing mental delusions.

Multiple employees of Dr. Phil said guests are often manipulated into a vulnerable state to make for dramatic television, according to an investigation by Buzzfeed News. In one case, an employee was instructed to withhold a guest's prescribed medication to ensure she looked unstable in front of cameras.

McGraw's lack of medical expertise also surfaced in April 2020, after he appeared on Fox News to say, without evidence, that the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns would be more fatal than the virus itself.

CBS says it will continue to air old episodes of 'Dr. Phil' with new wraparound content

Phil McGraw and his wife Robin attend a ceremony honoring the <em>Dr. Phil</em> host with a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in 2020.
Amy Sussman / Getty Images
Getty Images
Phil McGraw and his wife Robin attend a ceremony honoring the Dr. Phil host with a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in 2020.

In its press release announcing the show's end, CBS Media Ventures said Dr. Phil provided more than $35 million in free health and wellness resources to guests off-camera.

The series has also won five PRISM awards for "accurate depiction of drug, alcohol and tobacco use and addiction," and McGraw has been recognized by the American Psychological Association for raising awareness of mental health issues, CBS says.

McGraw, a Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame inductee, has expanded his media brand by launching two podcasts and authoring nine books. He also executive produced a legal drama, So Help Me Todd, based on his early career as a forensic psychologist.

CBS Media Ventures says it will continue to offer its stations reruns of Dr. Phil with new content such as intros by McGraw and guest updates.

"Phil is a valued partner and member of the CBS/King World family, and while his show may be ending after 21 years, I'm happy to say our relationship is not," said Steve LoCascio, president of CBS Media Ventures.

"We plan to be in the Dr. Phil business with the library for years to come and welcome opportunities to work together in the future."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.
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