Joyce Brothers

1 minute read
James Poniewozik

Dr. Joyce Brothers, who died May 13 at 85, was one of the first examples of a public figure who had a career of, by and through TV. Before it was commonplace for psychologists, advice givers and sundry gurus to have syndicated shows and accompanying media empires, Brothers used an improbable electronic-age career to brand herself as a pop-culture counselor and people’s academic: an approachably brilliant woman who knew more than you did about anything and everything, including your own mind. Her surprising fame, combined with her Ph.D. in psychology, led her to a string of TV advice shows and print columns through the ’50s and ’60s. It was the time in Cold War American culture when therapy and psychology were breaking into popular consciousness in everything from the comedy of Bob Newhart to the panels of Peanuts, and the country was ready for a chipper counselor to the masses.

Brothers’ sitcom therapy may not have always been dignified, but it was demystifying. Her message was that all people could benefit from knowing their own brains, and she spread that message by believing that having a brain was no reason not to be a TV star.

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