Calls it a career after 21 seasons
Dr. Phil McGraw announced Tuesday evening that he’s leaving his successful syndicated talk show after 21 seasons to focus on other projects, including developing prime-time programming and forming a “strategic partnership” in the daypart.
As first reported by Deadline, Dr. Phil is exiting as his contract with CBS Media Ventures ends after this current season (2022-23). A clinical psychologist, McGraw – like Dr. Memhet Oz did after him – became famous after weekly appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show led to a spinoff launched by King World in 2002.
King World was purchased by CBS in 1999 – months before Viacom acquired the network it was spun-off from. The syndicator and Viacom’s Paramount Domestic Television were separate companies under the CBS banner until they merged together in 2007 under the CBS Television Distribution name, renamed CBS Media Ventures in 2021. During his time on the air, CBS and Viacom split in 2005, then reunited in 2019 as ViacomCBS and rebranded last year as Paramount Global. Despite all the changes, Dr. Phil spent its entire run shot on Stage 29 at Paramount studios – home to the former Arsenio Hall and Marilu Henner talk shows. His Stage 29 production company was also based at Paramount, who produced the since-canceled The Doctors and Daily Mail TV.
Locally, Dr. Phil spent 18 of its 21 seasons at CBS 2 (WBBM-TV) on a CBS O&O deal. For its first three seasons, Dr. Phil aired on NBC 5 (NBC-owned WMAQ-TV.) His show also had a second run at Weigel’s WCIU and WMEU for over a decade, often scheduled in primetime.
“I have been blessed with over 25 wonderful years in daytime television,” McGraw said. “With this show, we have helped thousands of guests and millions of viewers through everything from addiction and marriage to mental wellness and raising children. This has been an incredible chapter of my life and career, but while I’m moving on from daytime, there is so much more I wish to do.”
In the Deadline story, CBS Media Ventures is repackaging old episodes of Dr. Phil for next season and beyond with new wraparounds, guest updates, and new intros by McGraw. It’s a tactic currently used by NBCUniversal’s now out-of-production Maury and Jerry Springer talk shows (without new intros, wraparounds, etc.) in order to keep the time periods in their possession and have a presence as more and more stations are buying less first-run syndicated product. CBS is reportedly offering the package at the same license fee it did when new episodes were being produced, but is facing initial resistance from stations as a rerun package could pose a ratings drop as many stations use Dr. Phil as a news lead-in, CBS 2 included.
However, CBS has aired repeats of Judge Judy since the program wrapped production in 2021 as Judy Sheindlin exited for a similar show at Amazon and remains one of syndication’s top-rated programs. Judy is still used as a news-in in numerous markets, including CBS stations in New York and Los Angeles. But CBS’ local newscasts in top markets continue to trail their ABC and NBC counterparts and other local news competitors as well. A year ago, CBS 2 dropped Judy to launch a new 4 p.m. newscast.
McGraw had been the top-rated talk show after Oprah Winfrey’s show ended, but in recent years slipped to second place behind Live With Kelly and Ryan. The show was recently criticized for pandering more to conservative audiences, featuring controversial personalities such as Tomi Lahren, Andy Ngo, and Ben Shapiro. The show was also a subject of a Buzzfeed investigation, exposing the show’s behind-the-scenes atmosphere as one of “fear, intimidation, and racism”. A lawsuit brought against the show by a teen guest who alleged she was sexually harassed at a Utah troubled teens camp featured on the show in October 2019 was dismissed last year as McGraw and CBS are now seeking attorney fees from the victim.
McGraw was also criticized for his appearance on Fox News at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, challenging lockdowns administered by state governments.
In addition, McGraw said this: “I am compelled to engage with a broader audience because I have grave concerns for the American family, and I am determined to help restore a clarity of purpose as well as our core values.”
As the daytime talk show genre has shifted away from what Dr. Phil was offering lately, his “retirement” makes a lot of sense.