Phillip Calvin McGraw (born September 1, 1950), best known as Dr. Phil, is an American television personality, psychologist and author who is the host of the psychology themed television show Dr. Phil. He gained celebrity status following appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
After graduation, Phillip McGraw joined his father, Dr. Joe McGraw, in Wichita Falls, Texas, where the elder McGraw had established his private psychology practice.
In 1983, McGraw and his father joined Thelma Box, a successful Texas business woman, in presenting "Pathways" seminars, "an experience-based training which allows individuals to achieve and create their own results. " Critics claim that many of the "phrases and the terminology and the quaint sayings" used by McGraw on the Oprah and Dr. Phil shows were originated by Box and presented by McGraw in this seminar. McGraw admits that the material from Life Strategies, his first best seller, is taken directly from the Pathways seminar. However, he has never mentioned Thelma Box or her contributions to his success in any of his books or TV shows.
In 1989, McGraw was sanctioned by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists for an ethical violation involving a 19-year-old patient and employee (see "Criticisms & controversies: Sanctioned for unethical behavior", below). Due to the sanctions, McGraw was unable to practice psychology independently. Friction between Phillip and his father increased to the point that McGraw seldom spoke with his father, and his contempt for him became obvious.
In 1990, McGraw joined lawyer Gary Dobbs, the son of McGraw's college football coach, in co-founding Courtroom Sciences, Inc. (CSI), a trial consulting firm through which McGraw later came into contact with Oprah Winfrey. Their first couple of years in business were not financially successful. On October 15, 1991, McGraw signed an agreement for the sale of his Pathways seminar stock for $325,000 without notifying either his father or Thelma Box of the impending sale. "There was a feeling of betrayal because Phil had compromised the integrity of the program. The accusation is that he reduced Box's asset value in the corporation by selling behind her back." Box founded her own seminars entitled “Choices”." Eventually, CSI became a profitable enterprise, advising Fortune 500 companies and injured plaintiffs alike in achieving settlements. McGraw is no longer an officer or director of the company.
In 1995, Oprah Winfrey hired CSI to prepare her for the Amarillo Texas beef trial. Winfrey was so impressed with McGraw that she thanked him for her victory in that case, which ended in 1998. Soon after, she invited him to appear on her show. His appearance proved so successful that he began appearing weekly as a "Relationship and Life Strategy Expert" on Tuesdays starting in April 1998.
The next year, McGraw published his first best-selling book, Life Strategies, most of which was taken from the "Pathways" seminar that was originated by Thelma Box. In the next four years, McGraw published three additional best-selling relationship books, along with workbooks to complement them.
By September, 2002, McGraw formed Peteski Productions and launched his own syndicated daily television show, Dr. Phil, produced by Winfrey's Harpo Studios. The format is an advice show, where he tackles a different topic on each show, offering advice for his guests' troubles.
McGraw shifted focus in 2003–4 to emphasize weight loss shows, books and products. His sisters Deana and Brenda and nephew Tony were among the featured testimonials on the Dr. Phil show. Within a few years, a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) probe and class-action lawsuit forced him to exit the weight loss business (see "Criticisms & controversies: Weight loss products", below).
In 2005, McGraw published another best-selling book, Family First, along with a workbook. He also signed a five-year extension of his syndication deal with his show's distributors, King World Productions, Inc. The deal will pay McGraw $15 million a year and keep the show in production through the 2013–2014 television season.
After son Jay's television show Renovate My Family (a clone of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition) was canceled at the start of its second season in 2005, following a renovated family lawsuit, McGraw and his son formed Stage 29 Productions. A week later, they announced a new show called Moochers (a clone of ABC's Kicked Out), and McGraw released his last book, Love Smart. However, the show was canceled before any episodes aired, and the book failed to achieve the success of his previous bestsellers.
In 2006, the Dr. Phil House (a clone of CBS's Big Brother) began airing as part of the Dr. Phil television show. Following a protest by neighbors, the house in Los Angeles was shut down, and production resumed on a sound stage in a studio back lot. McGraw reached the number 22 spot on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list, with income of $45 milion.
Another Stage 29 show, Decision House (a remix of the Dr. Phil House) aired from September through November, 2007 but was canceled due to poor reviews and dismal ratings. Ratings for the Dr. Phil show in 2007 began to slide. In May, viewership was close to 7 million people. However, by year's end, viewership was about 5.5 million people (#10 for syndicated TV shows, and just under Everybody Loves Raymond, Family Guy and CSI: Miami). By August 2008, viewership slipped to just over 4 million people. Two weeks later, the show slipped beneath the Nielsen top 12 syndicated TV shows, and has yet to resurface. McGraw's income fell by 1/3 to $30 million, and he dropped to the number 30 spot on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list.
Late in 2007, McGraw began promoting his upcoming Dr. Phil Show extension, The Doctors, which launched in Fall 2008. The show is hosted by television personality and ER physician Dr. Travis Stork (The Bachelor). Other experts were to include various personalities who have appeared on the Dr. Phil show over the years: Dr. Lisa Masterson, an obstetrician/gynecologist; Dr. Andrew Ordon, a plastic surgeon; Dr. Tara Fields, a licensed marriage and family therapist; and Dr. Jim Sears, a pediatrician. However, Dr. Fields was subsequently dropped from the show. These doctors appeared on the Dr. Phil show throughout the 2007–08 season so that McGraw could instruct them on "how to give articulate medical advice while being scrutinized by a studio audience in Los Angeles." Jay McGraw (Dr. Phil's eldest son) is executive producer of the new show. By it's second week (ending September 21, 2008), the show had a 1.3 rating.
In January, 2008, McGraw visited celebrity Britney Spears in her hospital room. The visit and subsequent press release by McGraw drew criticism from the Spears family and from mental health professionals (see "Criticisms & controversies: Britney Spears intervention", below).
On April 13, 2008, Dr. Phil was embroiled in controversy again when a producer for his show secured $30,000 bail for the ringleader of a group of eight teenage girls who viciously beat another girl and then videotaped the attack. She had been booked at the Polk County (Florida) Jail on charges that included kidnapping and assault. Producers of the show made plans to tape a one-hour show devoted to the incident and sent a production assistant to Orlando to help book guests for the show. However, when news broke that Dr. Phil posted bail for her, the outcry caused the show to cancel their plans. "In this case certain staffers went beyond our guidelines," said Theresa Corigliano, spokesperson for the Dr. Phil show. "We have decided not to go forward with the story as our guidelines have been compromised.
McGraw announced the formation of the Dr. Phil Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood obesity, on October 22, 2003. The Foundation also supports charitable organizations that help address the emotional, spiritual and monetary needs of many children and families.
McGraw's first marriage and subsequent divorce was not publicized until a 2002 Newsweek cover story. The "secret first wife of Dr. Phil" was ex-cheerleader and homecoming queen Debbie Higgins McCall, who married McGraw in 1970. According to her, Phil was domineering and would not allow her to participate in the family business, a health spa. Instead, she was confined to domestic duties, which included lifting weights to improve her bustline.
McGraw had multiple affairs with other women. McCall stated, "When I confronted him about his infidelities he didn't deny these girls and told me that it had nothing to do with his feelings toward me, to grow up, that's the way it was in the world." The relationship ended when she left him in 1973.
McGraw soon began dating a 20-year old college student, Robin Jo Jameson, whom he married almost three years later. The day of the wedding, she dropped out of school, quit her job and became a stay-at-home wife. Three years later, she became a stay-at-home mom when son Jay was born in 1979. Jay remained an only child until age 7, when Jordan was born in 1986.
Jay McGraw has partially followed in his father's footsteps, publishing books aimed at teenagers based on McGraw's books and working for his father's production company, Stage 29. Three months after Dr. Phil was scammed on his "Bad Influences" show by the infamous twin porn stars, Crystal and Jocelyn Potter, Jay McGraw became engaged to Erica Dahm, one of the famous Playboy Playmate triplets. Dr. Phil, who has been an outspoken critic of pornography, was Best Man at the wedding, which was held at his home in Beverly Hills.
In The Suite Life of Zack and Cody episode "Ask Zack," when Darlene takes Shirley's (a.k.a. Zack) advice to date Zack, she tells him that she can open up to him, to which Zack responds, "just think of me as Dr. Phil with hair". Dr. Phyllis, an obvious parody of McGraw, is mocked when Drake and Josh in Drake & Josh go to Dr. Phyllis to patch their relationship after a big fight. The parody was also used in a Brandy and Mr. Whiskers episode. A Muppet character called Dr. Feel appears on Sesame Street.
McGraw appeared in the opening scene of Scary Movie 4, spoofing the horror film Saw. In April 2003 he also appeared in an episode of Frasier - "The Devil and Dr. Phil" - as himself in which he was an old friend of Frasier Crane. He is also featured in a halloween episode of the The Simpsons in season 18.
The show was spoofed during a scene where R.J. and the forest friends flip channels on the HDTV set in the film Over the Hedge. McGraw is parodied in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories on its soundtrack as the host of a show called "Heartland Values with Nurse Bob."
McGraw has stated that his favorite Dr. Phil joke was told by David Letterman: "He was introducing some new books coming out, and he held up one by Dr. Phil with the title More Advice I Pulled Out of My Ass (seen here). I thought, That's pretty funny. I liked that."