Dr. Phil’s freak show

I heard a former soap star talking about the cancellation of All My Children, one of two long-running soap operas which are scheduled for the high jump.

He said he couldn’t believe there would be life after Eric Kane.

Susan Lucci has played that part for more than 40 years, and now she is being put out to pasture along with a cast that many of us grew up with. I haven’t watched the show for years but I still hold great affection in my heart for Eric, Adam, Tad and all the gang.

They helped me through high school. Then they helped me cope with motherhood.

The fellow was asked why he thought that soap operas were becoming extinct and I thought his answer was interesting.

He said it’s because people used to tune in for the scandals and the intrigue, something that wasn’t in their everyday lives.

Now that reality television has taken over, the soap writers couldn’t possibly match what was happening in real life.

I thought about this today watching the Dr. Phil Family, a family that the television doctor has been trying to help for seven years. He started working with the family when Alexandra, the daughter, was 15 and pregnant with her first child. Since then, in spite of Dr. Phil’s good counsel, Alex has had two more kids and she’s addicted to meth. She hasn’t seen her kids for more than two months, even though her own mother is caring for them.

On today’s episode, Alex refuses treatment for her drug addiction, something Dr. Phil says, finally after all this time, is a deal breaker.

Since she’s refused treatment, he is cutting his ties with her. No more high-priced trips to Los Angeles or to the beauty parlor. No more limo rides.

Her seven years of fame are up. Things have changed since Warhol’s day.

We’ve heard all of this before from Dr. Phil — the threats, the cajoling –and yet he keeps bringing this young woman back, parading her in front of the world as the loser she is. She makes good television, that’s for sure.

But she’s become a modern-day freak show, on display with Dr. Phil as the carnival barker.

Alex was back today and gave Dr. Phil the public bird.  This was a story that could have been told in one episode, but the show dragged the story out over two weeks for ratings. 

This was not a “teachable moment”, it was exploitation. The Dr. Phil crew had Alex’s mother stalking her, putting a birthday present on her lawn while the cameras rolled. They hooked the parents up with a lawyer — Dr. Phil paid, of course — to ensure there was no confidentiality while they went after permanent custody of the children.

The producers gave Alex a new hairdo and makeup in the process.

This was not a woman who looked like a meth addict to me. This was a woman who was looking for attention.

And Dr. Phil was giving it to her, full throttle.

Hey, it’s not Dr. Phil’s first rodeo.

Remember Ted Williams, the homeless man who Dr. Phil had tried to help a while back?

Dr, Phil got huge numbers counselling Ted. Again, he put Ted and his estranged wife and all his kids up in a swank Hollywood hotel. Ted used. The kids used.

It was all captured on camera.

Then Dr. Phil sent Ted to rehab and he hasn’t been back on the show since — at least to my knowledge. Ted has been whooping it up on the dime of Dr. Phil and other celebrity stalking shows, and so far Ted has not turned his life around.

These stories may have a germ of the truth, but they are heavily produced for maximum advertising dollar.

At least soap operas never hurt anyone, nor were they ever intended to exploit vulnerable people.

Unfortunately, soap operas aren’t as profitable as freak shows.


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