Although I confess to not paying regular attention to the daily ins and outs of "Dr. Phil," the show's PR offensive appears to indicate that it's doing more dumpster-diving in the tabloids lately than I can ever remember. After expressing remorse over that Britney Spears flap of a while back, the program has recently indulged in the unsavory courting of (and multiple episodes featuring) the so-called "Octo-mom," Nadya Suleman. Now, it's piggybacking on the Chris Brown-Rihanna story in its pitch for an episode about domestic violence, issuing "10 Warning Signs That You Might Be in an Abusive Relationship."
Things are tough all over, but if this is the direction in which the program is heading, why not rename it "Dr. TMZ?" Others have already noted the show's drift (see this recent Forbes.com piece), but there's an aura of desperation in it that seems particularly unsavory given the plain-spoken niche the host has occupied.
That said, I realize there are people who might need semi-professional help to extricate themselves from watching the show. So here are five warning signs that you might be in an abusive relationship with "Dr. Phil" (the series, not the guy):
— You keep watching even when you know it's really, really bad for you.
— You are thinking about having a litter of children — or trying to balloon your weight up to 500 pounds — just so you can meet him.
— You begin speaking with a Southern drawl and saying things like "That dog won't hunt," even though you are not from Texas.
— You find yourself emotionally paralyzed and uncertain how to behave in your personal relationships without first tuning in to receive Dr. Phil's advice, even though he says pretty much the same thing every day.
— Your mood abruptly changes when you realize the show is in reruns.
Should these conditions persist, try turning off the TV. Or go back to watching just "Oprah."