It sounds like Jerry Springer stuck in a reality show, but it's not: It's the new Dr. Phil family. On Tuesday, Feb. 10, Dr. Phil McGraw welcomes the family with which he will spend every Tuesday for weeks to come. The family, whose last name and home are kept secret to protect them, is sure to provide a challenge to McGraw.
"On paper, it sounds very much like an over-the-top kind of thing," says McGraw. "But when you see this family, you will find out that it's not that way at all. They are very intelligent and educated people that ... I think are highly motivated to change. They are not outrageous people. Their lives are just spinning out of control."
To wit: The new family's wife and mother has been married three times and has five children by four different men. The last child, up for adoption, is the product of an affair with an African-American co-worker. The family is $125,000 in debt, and their church has been paying their rent for the past two years. Through all of this, the husband wants to stay with his wife, and that's not all, say Dr. Phil's producers.
"At the end of show one, just when we thought there couldn't be anything else wrong with these people, she drops a bombshell backstage," says executive producer Carla Pennington Stewart.
It's that unpredictability that makes this season's ongoing real-life storylines so compelling, says Paramount Executive Vice President of Programming Terry Wood. The show has seen some of its highest single-day ratings ever with its first family, who will still appear on Thursdays.
On Oct. 23, at Dr. Phil's urging, 15-year-old Alex considered giving her unborn baby up for adoption, meeting with potential parents. That show hit a 6.2 national household rating. On Oct. 30, Alex had her baby and decided to keep him, notching a 6.3 rating. And on Nov. 13, Dr. Phil's audience watched as the 15-year-old absentee father claimed his parental rights, also scoring a 6.3.