Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Love stupid?

So, last night our hero does Larry King for the umpteenth time to talk a little bit about poor Natalee Holloway and a little bit about the tragedy of missing kids in general and a little bit about whether or not we should call Christmas "the holidays"--but mostly he wanted to talk about his brand-new book, Love Smart: Find the One You Want--Fix the One You Got. (Yes, in the great blogosphere, a book title normally would be linked. But I can't quite bring myself to help promote yet another glossy, self-derivative product from The Clan McGraw. If you think you need this book, I'm afraid you'll have to find it on your own. You won't have too much trouble, since it's already No. 25 on Amazon as I write this.) McGraw says that Love Smart is intended to give his vast audience some realistic guidance in matters of the heart. It's a curious platform for someone who--as noted in SHAM and elsewhere--had burned out of psychotherapy (until Oprah found him) because, among other reasons, he considered himself "the worst marital therapist in the history of the world."

Of course, for Phil McGraw to go boldly where he has no special acumen is nothing new--and the evidence is more convenient than ever. Just a few days ago the point came to light with stunning clarity in the form of a series of emails, by McGraw's own hand, that became the latest focal point of that Los Angeles trial over his endorsement of the ill-fated Shape Up! line of (so-called) nutrition bars and nutraceuticals. In his emails to CSA Nutraceuticals, distributors of the bars, McGraw conceded that he has "no expertise" in the field of nutrition. (Hmmmm. Is that the impression one would've gotten from his 2004 best-seller, The Ultimate Weight Solution?) While it's true that in those same emails McGraw urged CSA to use "the STRONGEST of disclaimers," he still went ahead and put his face on the bars--disclaimer or no disclaimer--and touted them in public without so much as a grace note of caution. Indeed, McGraw's attorney, Bill Dawson, said in a written statement that his client insists the products were "properly described," as marketed. Dawson also dismissed the claim as "pretty silly."

Among other things, the lawsuit contends that there are serious problems with the nutritional breakdown of the nutrition bars; that popping up to 22 pills a day (at a cost of over $100 a month) does not constitute "changing your behavior to take control of your weight" (which was the overarching promise of the Shape Up! plan); and that two different Shape Up! products, which supposedly were customized to the dietary requirements of two different body types, contained almost identical ingredients. Overall, the lawsuit labels the products, and the marketing campaign for same, "deceptive and fraudulent." CSA reportedly agreed to withdraw the embattled product from shelves after the Federal Trade Commission began making noises about an investigation.

To his credit, King did ask his guest about that nasty lawsuit business, and McGraw replied, at his folksy best, "You know, I did this as a charitable endorsement.... A couple of lawyers put together a lawsuit." People, I'm no great fan of lawyers. But putting together lawsuits is what lawyers do when celebrities like McGraw trade on their immense (literally) credibility by putting their mugs on dubious products. As for the "charitable" thing, while it's true that McGraw's arrangement with CSA channeled his end of the deal to a foundation that targets childhood obesity, the larger point may be the cozy relationship between McGraw and CSA president Gary Dobbs. The two men, after all, were partners for years in Courtroom Sciences Inc.; that's where Oprah first hooked up with McGraw. So even if one concedes that the good doctor himself may not have stood to reap a windfall from Shape Up!... Is it so far-fetched that he would've tried to help an old pal cash in on his celebrity?

Click here, by the way, for another interesting take on the whole Dr. Phil/Shape Up! mess. And now I'm going to go have a Milky Way, which, at least, is an honest candy bar...


Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's also not too far-fetched to imagine the whole Shape Up! product thing as a nice tax write-off for the good doctor.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe fatso's book is No. 9 on Amazon now. What a joke on the rest of us!

acd said...

I know. It's sad, isn't it? But people will keep buying it, in their hopeless state of desperation. I mean, sure, who doesn't want to find the love of their life? But if you're not having any luck in that area, I'm willing to bet that a book by "the worst marital therapist in the history of the world" ain't gonna get you any closer to finding Mr. or Mrs. Right. Even if he did have some good advice, it most certainly wouldn't apply to everyone and every relationship. My opinion: You can't orchestrate love. Some of us have been lucky enough to find that special someone. For those who haven't yet found love, Dr. Phil isn't going to be the one to get you there--unless you fall in love with Dr. Phil, in which case, well, never mind.

Incidentally, I found it interesting that one of the reviewers praising Dr. Phil's book on Amazon said, "This book is full of common sense." If it's common sense, then why do you need to buy the book? And why did it have to be written in the first place? Oh, that's right, because people will buy it anyway, and endlessly add to the author's fortune. Maybe the key to self-improvement isn't reading the self-help books, but writing them.

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