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Dr. Joyce Brothers: Her 5 Most Surprising TV Moments

Today, when we’re feeling in need of advice or reassurance about our inner woes, we’re accustomed to turning on the TV and watching someone such as psychologist Phil McGraw or physician and addiction expert Drew Pinsky elicit epiphanies from troubled people right in front of the camera, and in the process dispense advice to millions. But it was Joyce Brothers, who died on May 13 at age 85 in Fort Lee, N.J., who invented the role of the TV psychologist in the 1950s and first got us to trust in a celebrity mental health expert.

240-joyce-brothers-tv-psychologist-legacyFor a society that had developed a stiff upper lip to cope with the collective traumas of the Great Depression and World War II, Brothers was a perfect fit. An upgraded version of Ann Landers, with a Ph.D. from Columbia University to buttress her common-sense adages, her succession of TV advice programs (beginning with The Dr. Joyce Brothers Show in 1958) and bestselling books provided viewers with a much-needed license to open up and confront their feelings and inadequacies.

Brothers, nearly always, persuaded us to have faith in self-insight’s transformative power to solve problems. The New York Times wrote in 1971 that she “monitors the nation’s emotional barometer through her mass practice over the airways and in print.” A 1981 Baltimore Sun profile of Brothers put it more succinctly: “A nation cries on her shoulder.”

Like Woody Allen’s fictional character Zelig, Brothers also had the knack for popping up in the most surprising places. Here are five such moments:


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Photo: Paramount/Everett Collection