Phil McGraw wants to re-energize the parenting process. He wants to give parents some useful new tools for mobilizing the family against society's divisive and confounding forces. And he wants every mom and dad to realize raising kids must be Priority One.
The goal: "love in your heart and a really great plan," declares this guru of daytime TV in his first prime-time special, "Family First," which airs on CBS (WRDW-TV, Channel 12) Wednesday from 8 to 10 p.m..
On the program, Dr. Phil has much advice to impart: How to potty train your toddler in just a day (and even make it fun). How to raise your child's IQ with a few easy techniques.
He also pays a personal visit to a home where the parents are in such conflict the underage daughter's drinking and sexual activity somehow go unnoticed, while the son has gotten silent treatment from his disapproving father for a full year.
This family was chosen not for its extreme problems, says McGraw, but because it was all too representative.
"How in the world do you raise kids in this day and time," he posed in a recent interview with The Associated Press, "with 500 TV channels, the Internet, laser-lane living going from one activity to another?
"With so many influences on our children, we need to be the best, the most reliable, the most clarion influence in our kids' lives," he says. "But parents are spread too thin."
McGraw describes his special as "a wake-up call and a call to arms," and on the show he trumpets one great failing among frazzled parents: they lack a definition of success in child-rearing as well as a plan to achieve it.
Along with instilling your children with positive values, "you should help them uncover their authentic self," McGraw says - "and it differs from child to child."
This is not an optional policy, he adds, but essential and urgent for parents.
"I want them to realize everything their child will eventually be they are now becoming." And when problems go unaddressed, the worse they can become: The equivalent of a toy thrown in anger today might be drug abuse tomorrow.
"The older the kids get, the more their dysfunction is able to create chaos in their life - and yours," he warns.
The prime-time special and his new book ("Family First: Your Step-by-Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family") are setting forth on a mission of better parenting that McGraw will continue on his daytime show as "Dr. Phil" begins its third season (check local listings).
He has a strong message.
"But I really don't expect people to substitute my judgment for their own. I'm trying to raise their awareness and stimulate their thinking."
Other shows to look out for:
- "The Wire," HBO's richly absorbing drama about power and corruption in Baltimore, returns for a third season of 12 episodes Sunday at 9 p.m. Detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) remains at the center of the saga, but this Peabody Award-winning series is crisscrossed by numerous story lines and a crowd of fascinating characters. With a density that absorbs you, it's like a novel you don't want to put down, parceled out in hourlong installments.
- There'll be a new round of rose ceremonies as a new edition of "The Bachelor" puts another suitor on the search for Ms. Right. But this time, the field of 25 attractive bachelorettes get the chance to decide which of two hunky bachelors - Byron or Jay - will be the lucky guy who gets to woo them (and boot all but one of them off the show). "The Bachelor" premieres at 9 p.m. Wednesday on ABC.
- Here's a tragic Rose ceremony: There was nobody like baseball great Pete Rose, whose self-discipline and hustle won him fans, a fortune and legendary status for breaking Ty Cobb's all-time hit record. But in 1986, just a year after that record-breaking hit, Rose began his descent into disgrace that would lead to lifetime banishment from baseball for gambling on the game - including the Cincinnati Reds, the team where he was then both player and manager. How did it happen? "Hustle," a new film airing on ESPN, charts Rose's plunge. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich ("The Last Picture Show"), it stars Tom Sizemore as the man once hailed as "Charlie Hustle," and airs Saturday at 9 p.m.