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The show is in syndication throughout the United States and a number of other countries. Its tenth season premiered on September 12, 2011. Occasional prime time specials have aired on CBS. The program has been nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award every year since 2004. Since September 2008, Dr. Phil has been broadcast in HDTV with a revamped look and a new theme written and performed by McGraw's son, Jordan.
The program is recorded before a live studio audience in Stage 29 on the Paramount Pictures lot in Hollywood, California. It is recorded from August through to May with a break in December for the holiday season. Reruns of earlier episodes of the series began broadcasting on the Oprah Winfrey Network in January 2011. On October 25, 2018, it was announced that Dr. Phil had been renewed for four additional seasons, taking the show to May 2023, or the end of its 21st season.
The show covers a wide variety of topics including weight loss, financial planning, errant children, gift suggestions, autistic children, unhappily married couples, rebellious teenagers, mothers who dress far from their age, mothers who refuse to attend weddings, children being stars and their parents' rights, the emotional benefits of controlling, dysfunctional families, mothers who refuse to give their married sons money, and support for charitable causes. Radio personality and former child star Danny Bonaduce came to the show twice in a year to discuss his failing marriage (and later divorce) with second wife Gretchen.
On several shows children and/or adults have taken polygraph tests, usually done by retired FBI agent Jack Trimarco. The show is generally serious in tone, leavened with humor from time to time. It has its occasional tense moments and often trashy scenes, like that of The Montel Williams Show, but without melees or aggressive fights on stage, in contrast to The Jerry Springer Show or The Steve Wilkos Show. McGraw is noted for often bringing families back on multiple shows for follow-up "therapy" sessions in his segment called "Dr. Phil Family."
Generally the program is filmed and guests appear in studio, but in 2006 the Dr. Phil House began as an occasional series. McGraw and his production staff invite guests to a special house wired with numerous cameras and microphones. There, his staff monitors the conversations of the guests he is trying to help, and intervenes when necessary in order to prevent physical violence. McGraw also provides on-the-spot advice and counseling to the "house guests". McGraw's wife Robin sits in the studio audience for almost every show and, at the end of the show, walks off the set with him.
In a show that aired on May 2, 2005, twin sisters Jocelyn and Crystal Potter appeared. Crystal claimed to want to work in the adult industry together with Jocelyn, who rejected the idea as repulsive. Brothel owner Dennis Hof was interviewed and stated that the two could make half a million dollars per year in his establishment. The sisters' testimony proved to be less than truthful: beginning in 2002, they appeared as the "Potter Sisters" in numerous pornographic films together, and in 2003, they even appeared together with Hof in the porn film Goin' Down At The Bunny Ranch. The show received much criticism due to perceptions of hypocrisy, because even though McGraw was an outspoken critic of pornography, his own son Jay McGraw was married to Erica Dahm, a Playboy Playmate (December 1998), who was notable for performing with her two identical triplet sisters.
The Dr. Phil House was set in an actual house within the Wilshire Park neighborhood in Los Angeles. It received numerous complaints from neighbors about the disruption caused by filming crews, the guests, cables and production trucks clogging the neighborhood and the constant traffic caused by filming. After the Los Angeles City Council revoked film permits, in September 2006, Dr. Phil stopped filming there. However, "Peteski" Productions, the show's production company, which drew its name from the nickname of one of McGraw's sons, retained ownership of the house. The Dr. Phil House later moved to a studio back lot, and the interior of the house shown in the program became that of a sound stage and ceased to be that of the actual house.
In 2006, a confidence scam was discovered, involving a psychic shop that fraudulently represented Dr. Phil. The three Texas women running the scam, Ann Theresa Stevens (aka Nancy Evans), Serena Stevens (aka Betty Ann Lee), and Cher Evans, had set up a phone line that they claimed was run by the director of Dr. Phil. By telling customers that they could have a phone conversation with McGraw for $750 an hour, they scammed Dr. Phils viewers out of thousands of dollars.
On December 12, 2006, the show featured a segment on Bumfights, and attacks on the homeless across America. McGraw discontinued an interview, before asking any questions, with Ty Beeson, producer of the video series, who had styled himself in a manner similar to Dr. Phil. Beeson was escorted off the set by uniformed Paramount Studios security guards as the studio audience clapped and cheered.
On September 14, 2016, 13-year-old Bhad Bhabie and her mother Barbara Ann Bregoli were interviewed for the segment "I Want To Give Up My Car-Stealing, Knife-Wielding, Twerking 13-Year-Old Daughter Who Tried To Frame Me For A Crime" to discuss Bhabie's behavior, which included stealing a crew member's car while the episode was being filmed. When Bhabie became irritated at the laughter that the audience exhibited at her expense, she responded to it by saying, "Catch me outside, how about that". Her pronunciation of this phrase became a viral Internet meme "Cash Me Ousside Howbow Dah", and Bhabie became known as the "Cash Me Outside Girl". On February 10, 2017, Bhabie reappeared on the show with her therapist, but without the studio audience, due to the events of their previous appearance. Her first appearance on the show, and the catchphrase it spawned, would inspire a single based around the clips that was recorded by DJ Suede The Remix God, which entered the BillboardHot 100, Streaming Songs, and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts in its March 4, 2017 issue. The song in turn led to a series of dance videos that were uploaded onto YouTube.
On October 20, 2018, 16 year-old Treasure and her mother Monique were interviewed in the episode "My African-American Daughter Believes She is White" to provide therapeutic intervention with her belief that while being born African-American, she identifies as "white". Treasure made various claims to substantiate her belief that transracial identity is a norm.
Dr. Phil Now
Episodes under the Dr. Phil Now banner usually feature current events in the news with McGraw's viewpoint, often with an interview with the subject involved, which may include a suspect in a true crime case, the parents in a contentious child custody battle, or a celebrity subject. These episodes often feature more urgent music, and often feature McGraw originating the segment from the master control room of KCBS-TV with a bank of monitors tuned to various news networks and local news stations to give a more news-like feel to the episode.
McGraw's advice and methods have drawn criticism from psychotherapists as well as from laypersons. McGraw said in a 2001 South Florida newspaper interview that he never liked traditional one-on-one counseling, and that "I'm not the Hush-Puppies, pipe and 'Let's talk about your mother' kind of psychologist." In 2004 the National Alliance on Mental Illness called McGraw's conduct in one episode of his television show "unethical" and "incredibly irresponsible". McGraw's critics regard advice given by him to be at best simplistic, and at worst, ineffective.