Dear Reader, Get A Life

Today's talk show therapists and edgy advice columnists are bolder, and possibly more effective, than the genteel advisers of newspapers past.

By Pamela Paul, published July 1, 2003 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

You complain that your boyfriend lies to you. "Is this your 'victim story'?" Dr. Phil asks you warily.

Your boyfriend admits to lying. "Is this something you do because you're gutless?" Dr. Phil sneers at him.

You want some advice? "Tell him, 'I'm not taking this from you anymore!'" Dr. Phil commands.

Mr. Manners he's not. Whether you're overweight, overworked or undersexed, Dr. Phil--host of his own top-rated TV talk show, advice columnist in O, The Oprah Magazine, best-selling author and full-throttle public personality--knows what's best and he's not afraid to tell you. Dr. Phil issues counsel as marching orders, and despite fiery disapproval from the chattering classes and many in the mental health community, his readers, viewers and even chagrined on-air guests love him for it.

Dr. Phil, aka Phillip C. McGraw, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist turned courtroom consultant turned Oprah-anointed self-help guru, didn't create the demand for quick-fix media therapy--he answered it. Dr. Phil is a far cry from the earnest concern of Ann Landers or the measured cluck-clucking of Dear Abby and their hospitable brand of social guidance. Perhaps the death last summer of Eppie Lederer (aka "Ask Ann Landers") sealed the fate of the old-school advice columnist.

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