KW, Par bet Oprah’s followers find ‘Phil’

The 'Dr.' is in on new syndie talker

Author and litigation consultant Dr. Phil McGraw is known for solving problems.

Now, even the syndie biz is looking to him to provide what it has long needed: a hit.

“Dr. Phil” is the one series debuting this season with which syndication specialists are having a hard time finding fault. If anything should work, this is it.

For one thing, the skein has an “Oprah” pedigree: McGraw’s tough-talking Tuesday appearances on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” produce boffo ratings, and Winfrey’s Harpo Prods. created the show.

“We’re dealing with someone who has been pre-sold to the daytime audience over a long period of time,” says Joel Berman, president of Paramount worldwide TV distribution. “During that time he’s learned very well how to do TV.”

With extensive promotion and a historically strong launch lineup, many observers say they expect “Dr. Phil’s” debut ratings to triple those of other frosh programs.

“Dr. Phil” distributor King World and producer Paramount have invested heavily in the show. With production and promotion costs, its first year pricetag is about $30 million.

Meanwhile, King World has secured weekly license fees north of $1 million.

The biggest challenge facing the show is translating McGraw’s Tuesday “Oprah” presence into a five-day-a-week series of its own.

“We’ve hired the best people to produce this show,” King World topper Roger King says. “We’ve been working on that for a year and have spent millions of dollars doing it.”

The show will incorporate counseling elements McGraw is known for on “Oprah” as well as new ones such as mock trials of issues that intrigue him.

“I’m not doing makeovers, and I’m sure as hell not doing fashion shows,” McGraw says. “I have every intention of being faithful to that phrase: Make sure you dance with who brung ya.”

Whatever the topic, McGraw promises he’ll continue to take positions on things. “I’ll never ask people to substitute their judgment for my own, but you’ll never doubt where I stand, either,” he says.

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