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Dr. Phil, you set us up. Obviously.


April 06, 2006|Teresa Strasser and JD Roberto | Special to The Times

WE'D really like to meet Dr. Phil.

Not because he's America's most telegenic therapist, but because he owes us $26: the cash we spent on his latest book, "Love Smart: Find the One You Want -- Fix the One You Got."

Admittedly, we had spent far too long in the self-help section at Borders doing research, and the fatigue of reading the same thing, over and over, was taking a toll. From "How to Survive Dating" to "Dating for Dummies," every book out there presents the same basic principles. So, it was with near giddiness that we grabbed "Love Smart," which promises to revolutionize dating advice. "It's time to do something different," screams the back cover, complete with a photo of Dr. Phil leaning confidently on a huge red heart.

It would only break your big red heart to read this shameless sack of homespun cliches ripped from the pages of every other book on the shelf.

Are you ready for some of Dr. Phil's startling revelations? It turns out "there is a huge difference between men and women." Didn't the Mars-Venus guy cover that pretty exhaustively in his 47 books on the subject? Also, you should "get out of your comfort zone." This one will blow your mind: "To women, intimacy means closeness." And hey, "It's time to stop being a bridesmaid and start being a bride." Here's another paradigm-shifting idea, "Looks matter."

There's no shortage of that old chestnut about how loving yourself is important, or, in Philspeak, "The first person you have to sell yourself to is you" and "It's time to be a winner." Thanks for clearing that one up. We thought people were attracted to self-loathing losers. If the "sport" is a biathlon of stating the obvious and reconstituting vague platitudes, Dr. Phil certainly wins.

The book isn't totally lacking in specific advice. He does tell singles "to go to places where you'll find interesting people." I guess that means it's a bad plan to hide in the closet with a tub of Chunky Monkey, hoping the FedEx guy is available.

Like most such books, his covers online dating and lets us know, "For the most part, people on online dating sites are regular people just like you." For real? Hang on while we boot up the Commodore 64 and wait for our dial-up connection to kick in. Wouldn't you bet $26 Dr. Phil thinks MySpace is a furniture store?

Here's where you realize one critical truth. You can't knock Dr. Phil's bestselling "Relationship Rescue" because no matter how you feel about his prose, the man's been married 30 years. But it's hard not to notice that being married 30 years means that the last time Dr. Phil went on a date was during the Carter administration. Unless his next book is "Cheating Smart," Dr. Phil's been out of the singles scene since the Bay City Rollers topped the charts and bell-bottoms skimmed the floor.

The most compelling sections of "Love Smart" are the statistics he pulls from other sources, including the fact that in the U.S. there are 100 million single people (a number perhaps originally mentioned by Dr. Phil's accountant, then multiplied by $26).

A good relationship really is elusive and important, which makes it even more maddening for Dr. Phil to use his celebrity and the promise of a new approach to bilk singles out of $26.

It's almost enough to make you want to buy Star Jones' book for $24.95. Then again, maybe it's best to stick to authors anointed by Oprah. They always tell it like it is.


JD Roberto is online at Teresa Strasser is online at Plans for their relationship book "Comb Your Hair and Leave the House" have been scrapped. Contact them at

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