Jillybean's Blog

{January 28, 2015}   What I Learned, by Proxy…From Dr. Phil

I wasn’t a guest on the show.

I didn’t need to be.

I was a person who ran with a feeling…with an opening in my schedule.


It was a fluke, really.  In the way that an opportunity can be borne of circumstance if you subconsciously make the most of a random day off from work.

This opportunity presented itself while washing the dishes last Tuesday.


My DVR offered it up.

Robin McGraw’s voice subtly offered an invite…as I squeezed my dish sponge to rinse under a noisy faucet.

“If you’re in the Los Angeles area…”

I paused.

“Wait…I’m always in Los Angeles!”

“Get your free tickets on Dr. Phil dot com…” she said.

I twisted the dish towel…marched to my computer…

I typed.

“Maybe…Maybe I’ll go…”


Two days later I was a confirmed guest on the Dr. Phil show.  I officially had an ‘appointment.’

While Dr. Phil’s advice is primarily designed to target (very brave) guests, ready and willing to publicly air dirty laundry in the hopes of finding legitimate guidance, I was surprised by how much I’d learn by just being there.

On a whim, on that random day off…


It’s strange being an audience member of a television show when you work in TV.  It’s like being a ‘tourist’ in your own town.

Yet there I was, a loner who somehow, managed to score a ‘special ticket’ on arrival.

It was perhaps due to my being alone.

It was akin to being a single rider at an amusement park…you get to cut to the the front of the line by virtue of ‘single status.’ It’s like a consolation prize for being brave enough to forgo the security blanket of companionship…I was escorted to the front of the line.

A Paramount employee, gatekeeper to Studio 3…Studio thirty-whatever.…soon approached.

“Oh, so you’re alone?” he said.…louder than I preferred.

“Yep, just me.”

I gracefully grinned.
I am way more used to this question than I would like to be.

“So, you’re sure your party is all here?  Ha ha….”

He looks around…seeing if anyone else will share his uncomfortable laugh.

I wait a beat.

A slightly awkward silence ensues.

“Ahem.”  I smile.  “Yes.  Just me.”

“Gah-raiiiight,” he hands me a ‘special ticket.’  “Here you go.”

Little did I know this gesture would eventually grant me some solace for enduring mild embarrassment in front of a crowd of strangers.

Lesson #1 — Single rider status still has its benefits after the age of 35.


I was seated early…and in the front row.  Everyone next to me knew something I didn’t. They were excited.

I was clueless.

I pulled a book out of my purse while everyone pulled out cosmetic compacts and lip gloss.  They checked their hair…their lipstick.

I circled unfamiliar vocabulary words with a mostly unsteady pen.

Was I missing something?

My seat-mates primped and preened.  A stage manager warned us not to yawn or pick our nose too much because we would be on camera often, without warning.

“Oh,” I think.  “Maybe I should put this away.”

I continued to read, then glanced up to acknowledge excited gasps and giggles from all directions.

Cameras emerged from backstage.  These cameras excited the best, brightest and most self-conscious of the group.

But not me.  I saw cameras at work every day.

Yet their excitement elicited a renewed personal appreciation for the unvarnished magic of television…a magic of which a decade in the business can slowly rob you.

Is this is how people feel when they visit me on the set?  Am I missing a thrilling side-world by being blinded by the “taking-it-for-granted” curse?

Lesson #2— Perspective is somewhat a panacea in the realm of faltering gratitude.  Reclaiming what the day-to-day eventually steals while whittling away enthusiasm and respect for mystique is essential to fulfillment.


So, you can’t take a cell phone in the studio.

Rather than check my phone in with a staff member, I left mine in the car.  I wound up lasting six full hours without a cell phone.
Spoiler alert:  I survived.

Bigger spoiled alert:  I was very happy for those hours.
I didn’t even know what time it was until we were released at 2pm.  I read my book.  I sipped coffee.  Among the chaos of visiting strangers from all over the world, I relaxed in the comfort of not having a clue as to what was going on on the outside.
When I had the urge to check my phone to justify my lack of desire to manufacture small-talk (of which I’ve had more a knack at a younger age), I buried myself in literature.  No one interrupts a person engaged with a book.

Side note:  It was comforting to see other readers besides me —- with actual books — unfazed by flashing smart phones.  Maybe this next generation isn’t so bad after all…

Lesson #3 — You’re not the only one thirsty for knowledge in your spare time.  A phone is not necessary to save you from the discomfort of the unfamiliarity of strangers.

I’ve heard Dr. Phil say on prior episodes, “Family is the most important thing to me in this world…I take my role as husband and father very, very seriously…I also respect you and your family.  I don’t do a TV show here.  I talk to people, they turn it into TV when I’m done.  I have a tremendous respect for your family….”

Lesson #4 — Wisdom comes from experience.  Passion comes from dedication to it.  Not everyone is a sell-out in the entertainment business, thankfully.

I’ve written a great deal about heroes in graduate school and elsewhere.  I love heroes.  I pray for heroes.  I hope that that the heroes I buy into actually live up to a fraction of which I give them credit.

People are still out there who feel as we do.  We alI left the show today hoping we were in the presence of a modern day, normal, fallible yet, respectable human hero.


I come home.  Lily’s thrilled to see me.  (She’s my hero in so many ways.)

I’m thrilled to be surrounded by familiarity.  I pour a drink.

I debrief with family.

The truth is, I could have succumbed to the potentially exploitive nature solicited by the experience of such precious intimacy with Dr. Phil’s guests.  I had not yet gone through the work of everyday friendship for the privilege of the intimacy I’d just experienced with them.

It felt almost like a one-night stand.  I didn’t deserve to run off with this level of ‘knowledge’ of their personal lives…but I cherished it, whether or not they would ever know or sense my reaction.

I barely knew them.
But we shared a moment.

And, just as with a one-night stand, his guests and I will probably never see each other again.  We were sure to walk way with no choice but to learn something greater about life from one another.

I could have learned, or could have forgotten everything, chalking it up to “what happened on that show.”

Yet, I felt for these people.

I was satisfied to leave knowing Dr. Phil would ensure their healing.

I approached this experience looking to be entertained, even somehow informed.

I left with something else.

I left feeling grateful for my own life.

I left feeling grateful for the people who have chosen to make a living assisting lost souls.

I’ve seen professionals strive for much less.

I also learned that everyone in an audience claps loudest when they believe people will change for the better.

And what better way is there to spend a random day off?


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