'Dr. Phil' Raises Eyebrows After Filming Amid COVID-19 Production Pause

Craig Mathews/ Paramount Television/CBS

Insiders are raising eyebrows about Dr. Phil. The syndicated series kept production running amid widespread pauses and shutdowns in Hollywood on other films and TV shows.

Production ramped up Jan. 4 after the holiday break in Los Angeles, at a time when the city was plagued by record-high COVID-19 numbers, hospitalizations and record-low ICU capacity. Disney, Warner Bros., Universal and Netflix all pushed back filming schedules due to the surge, as did CBS, home to Dr. Phil. Sources close to the show say they were concerned to see it resume while other shows and competitors proceeded with caution. Per an earlier report in THR, CBS resumed filming last week on All Rise and Bob Hearts Abishola as well as CBS Studios projects NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, Why Women Kill, SEAL Team and Diary of a Future President.

However, the production period the week of Jan. 4 included nearly all staffers working from home as shooting did not get up and running until the week of Jan. 11, similar to other productions of its kind.

Adding to concern on Dr. Phil was that some talk show guests traveled in from outside Los Angeles, and it’s unclear if all who did observed a quarantine period before or after visiting. The L.A. County Public Health Department issued a mandatory directive Dec. 30 discouraging travel for nonessential purposes (filming has remained an essential business in the city) while advising a mandatory quarantine period of 10 days for anyone traveling “by air, car, train, or any other means, directly or indirectly from a point of origin outside the Southern California region.”

Per county health guidelines, quarantine is not mandated for personnel of a film or media production operating in the county when traveling here solely for the purpose of employment on a film or media production, and per intel received by THR, show guests qualify for special consideration which places them under the production and thus, exempts them from a mandatory quarantine.

A Dr. Phil spokesperson tells THR that the show’s “production schedule remained intact during the pandemic and continues to follow the guidelines set by the CDC and L.A. County.” A source added that any guests who appear in-person and onstage are tested three times to ensure everyone’s safety. To date, there have been zero COVID-19 positive cases on Dr. Phil. 

Jan. 21, 5:01 p.m.: Updated with information about staffers working remotely and information about categorizing guests as being exempt from mandatory quarantine periods.

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.