The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Dr. Phil ends his show after 21 seasons to pursue prime-time TV

Phil McGraw, known as “Dr. Phil,” speaks at a ceremony honoring him with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in February 2020. (Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
3 min

The syndicated daytime television show “Dr. Phil” is ending after 21 seasons, sunsetting a decades-long mainstay in the tabloid talk show genre that has become a cultural touchstone for viral “clapbacks” between its titular host and his guests, as well as popular cringe-inducing internet memes.

Phil McGraw, the show’s host, “is choosing to exit” for “new ventures,” a news release from CBS Media Ventures said Tuesday. It added that the show will air original episodes through the current 2022-2023 television season, and that McGraw will pursue a “strategic prime-time partnership” aimed at expanding his audience in early 2024.

“While his show may be ending after 21 years, I’m happy to say our relationship is not,” Steve LoCascio, president of CBS Media Ventures, said in the release.

McGraw, 72, who started his television career by appearing on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in the 1990s, is known for interviewing high-shock-value guests, including a 28-year-old man engaged to a teenage girl and a woman who said she was convinced that she was both the daughter of the rapper Eminem and pregnant with the baby Jesus. He received a doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of North Texas but stopped maintaining an active license to practice years ago.

The show’s outlandish interviews have launched several viral internet memes, whether it be the elementary-schooler who slapped his mother in the face in a 2008 episode branded as “brat camp,” or the 2016 interview with a “car-stealing, knife-wielding, twerking” 13-year-old, whose call to fight — “Catch me outside, how about that?” — became a viral catchphrase that helped her launch a career as the internet personality and rapper Bhad Bhabie.

The show and its host have also received significant backlash in recent years. In 2016, McGraw was accused of being exploitative for interviewing “The Shining” actress Shelley Duvall as she appeared to be experiencing severe mental delusions. (Duvall later told the Hollywood Reporter, “I found out the kind of person he is the hard way.”)

10 hidden TV gems you may have missed (or forgotten about) in 2022

In 2020, McGraw was criticized for speaking negatively about coronavirus-related shutdowns despite his lack of related medical expertise. A year later, a Colorado woman also launched a lawsuit against ViacomCBS and McGraw, saying that he berated and pressured her family into sending her to a facility for troubled teens, where she was allegedly sexually assaulted. The lawsuit claimed McGraw’s team failed to disclose previous public allegations against the facility, but the case was later dismissed by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, according to the L.A. Times.

Since first appearing on air in September 2002, the show has been nominated for 31 Daytime Emmys and has won five PRISM awards for “accurate depiction of drug, alcohol and tobacco use and addiction,” the CBS news release noted. It added that the show has provided more than $35 million in resources to guests after they appeared onstage.

Representatives for “Dr. Phil” and McGraw did not immediately respond to interview requests.