Listen to this story



A face nobody should trust

Why The Age of TV Therapy Needs To Come To An End

Harmful viewing is getting costly

Television personality and self-described psychologist, Dr. Phil McGraw is currently embroiled in a real-life controversy that will hopefully serve as a prime example of why the age of TV therapy needs to be shut down for good.

Former guest Todd Herzog is accusing staff of the Dr. Phil Show of appallingly taking advantage of his alcoholism by ensuring he was fed vodka and Xanax right before his scheduled appearance back in 2013.

According to Herzog, he accepted the invitation to fly out to Los Angles for the taping and he was allegedly sober when he arrived at the studios. But things took a sobering (pun intended) turn when he not only discovered a bottle of vodka in his dressing room, but was also offered pills that were supposed to “calm down his nerves.”

While speaking to The Boston Globe, Herzog aptly summed up the terrifying session with Oprah’s former protégé:

“You know, I get that it’s a television show and that they want to show the pain that I’m in.” “However, what would have happened if I died there? You know, that’s horrifying.”

Of course — the show denies the incident ever occurred and issued a statement that basically makes Herzog seem like an unreliable source due to his obvious impediment.

“Unfortunately, addicts often lash out at the very people who are trying the hardest to help them break the cycle of addiction. Although terribly unfortunate, this is an understandable part of the behavior of addicts on their journey to recovery.”

The spokesperson for Dr. Phil also reiterated the commitment and mission of the show to expose the ugliness of addiction while also providing guidance to those who qualify.

“None of this will deter the Dr. Phil show from it’s commitment to continue to educate and inform the public about the worsening epidemic of addiction."

There’s no doubt that Dr. Phil and his henchmen will try everything possible to keep the reputation of their thriving enterprise stain-free, but it’s hard to ignore the strong possibility that Herzog and others who validate his allegations may actually be stating the facts.

The accusers will have a very imposing journey ahead when it comes to facing off against the good doctor and his principled reputation, which he’s already using as leverage against his less dignified patients.

“Deception, dishonesty and denial are hallmarks of addiction. It tears families apart and certainly creates levels of complexities when we produce these important shows.”

But there is nothing necessarily complex about the notion that a celebrity with a hit show and a bank account worth millions is being riddled with accusations stemming from fraudulent activity.

The term “celebrity doctor” is often used to describe the likes of McGraw and his equally prominent counterpart, Dr. Drew Pinsky. Iyanla Vanzant is a well-known lawyer-turned-life coach who is also another “Oprah discovery,” benefitting from that association with the launch of Iyanla: Fix My Life, on OWN in 2012.

There’s no secret that the lure of television with all the perks and expectations serves as the ultimate legitimizer by the general public, who will basically do whatever it takes for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

And that’s the part that frankly stinks to the high heavens.

These so-called professionals are using their platforms to service their selfish needs at the expense of the vulnerable, who are too starry-eyed and naive to recognize how their being woefully exploited.

There’s no sensible way to defend the tactics of those who hide under the badge of notoriety while, fooling innocent bystanders into believing that the services provided are delivered with the best of intentions without a hidden agenda.

Iyanla’s popularity soared after her show became an instant hit due to her signature brand of “tough love,” which is unleashed on folks who invite her to their home. Some are troubled unknowns who don’t mind the invasion of privacy for the reward of being publicly “healed.”

There are some celebrities in the mix and the most memorable ones are rapper DMX and former actress Maia Campbell. DMX, whose birth name is Earl Simmons, has weathered multiple arrests, stemming mostly from his tragic dependency on drugs. His appearance on Fix My Life proved to be as disastrous as one can imagine when you consider the glare of camera lights capturing the growing restlessness of an unwilling participant.

Maia Campbell, best known for her role on TV shows like South Central and In The House with LL Cool J and Debbie Allen didn’t fare that well either, when she invited an old family friend to help Fix her Life. Campbell has basically spent the better part of her adult life battling drug addiction and her handicap has been documented via shared videos that depict her at her worst.

Maia and Iyanla performed well for the cameras

Despite the promise to do better, Campbell has returned to her crippling habit, and her proposed mentor got paid in full for providing suspenseful entertainment, disguised as an intervention.

Dr. Drew Pinsky was born to be a celebrity and after dabbling in various facets of the industry, he settled for the lucrative market that gives media personalities the freedom to branch out accordingly. His specialty lies in creating TV shows that serve as “rehab” portals for celebs that are almost beyond rescuing.

Beware of the “celebrity whisperer”

From Celebrity Rehab to Sex Rehab to the hellhole of Sober House, during his heyday, Pinsky worked hard to cover the gamut of profitable exploitation by honing in on the most dramatic cases. Dr. Drew avidly showcased just how bad things can get. Based on its infamous track record, VH-1 was the reliable host of all the choreographed chaos and mayhem.

The messiness was real, but the attempt at issuing life saving measures was clearly formulated to benefit viewers more than the famous addicts. Actor Jeff Conaway who played the role of Danny Zuko’s best bud, Kenickie in the 1978 film version of Grease, lost his fight against substance abuse in 2011, after extensive appearances on at least two of Dr. Drew’s outlets.

This observation isn’t aimed at blaming the “doctor to celebs,” who conveniently distanced himself from Conaway’s demise by insisting that the troubled actor died “from pneumonia with sepsis.” But an autopsy later revealed that Conaway “died of various causes including pneumonia and encephalopathy attributable to drug overdoses.”

The truth is that anything that is produced for a studio audience or viewers at home most certainly contains elements that are embedded to ensure optimal output. This practice is the main reason why “reality TV” is a myth or an expression that allows for maximum flexibility.

It’s righteously irresponsible to give people with ordained credentials the power to dupe fragile victims with dishonest motives that rarely provide the relief they would ordinarily receive in a more sedate setting.

Dr. Phil’s latest headache should be the catalyst for a thorough examination of similar outlets that are evidently doing more harm than good and even worse, costing the participants more than they’re able to afford, both mentally and physically.

It’s time to dispense with the insulting pedigree of TV doctors and leave the profit making to The Kardashians, who aren’t risking people’s lives with the dramatics of their mega-family empire.

Dr. Phil on the other hand almost killed someone in the name of ratings and guarding his pot of gold.

That isn’t therapy. It’s attempted murder. It’s also really bad TV.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store