Guilty pleasure or no, most of us probably agree that Dr. Phil is not good television. But a YouTube user named Bill Smith discovered something important about the show: When you edit out all of the dialogue, constructing the episode strictly around the awkward pauses that comprise a surprisingly large amount (two minutes, nine seconds!) of an episode’s runtime, it becomes downright sublime television.
Smith had previously cut together a similar experiment using clips from Judge Judy, but the Dr. Phil segment is a magnum opus of weird television editing on YouTube: the silent stretch of reaction shots place Phil’s bug-eyed, open-mouthed gaze alongside the disapproving glare of an angry father; the disappointed eyes of a controlling boyfriend who seems to be unable to change; the tense head-shaking of a mother who’s devastated by what’s unfolding before her; and the tearful emotions of a pregnant young lady who had to go on television in order to get her life straightened out. Everybody looks like they’re straining to say something, and the fact that they never do is the stuff that fills museums.
Sometimes, truly, the storytelling is all in the reactions.