By Adam B. Vary
December 13, 2006 at 12:00 PM EST

OK, hold on, let me get some gum to take the pungently bitter taste this YouTube clip from yesterday’s episode of Dr. Phil has just left in my mouth. In fact, let me spare you the experience of watching it yourself, and recreate it for you here:

First, Dr. Phil emphatically warns the audience that the footage they’re about to see is unpleasant and inappropriate for children. Then he runs the package in which the creator of a series of videos called Bumfights, Ty Beeson, brags about the magnanimity of capturing homeless men — as we see for ourselves in multiple clips from the Bumfights videos — fighting with each other, ripping out their rotten teeth, banging their heads into walls, and generally behaving in a completely sub-human way.

Then, as if that wasn’t awful enough, just as the package seems to be concluding, we hear Dr. Phil say, “Stop the tape, stop the tape.” He turns to Beeson, now sitting on the stage, and says, “I don’t want to talk to you. That’s despicable. You can go.” — as if he had only just seen the footage for the first time. Meanwhile, the moment Dr. Phil begins condemning Beeson and telling him to get off the stage, Beeson — who shaved his head, tacked on a fake-looking mustache and dressed in a suit to look exactly like Dr. Phil — goes into a rant about how Dr. Phil exploits people on his show too.

As some production staff escort Beeson off the show — with a camerajust coincidentially waiting backstage to watch him walk off — I couldonly marvel at what a mutally beneficial circle-jerk of exploitationthis whole enterprise was. Beeson gets free publicity — he gets his videos shown on Dr. Phil!— and Dr. Phil gets to look morally righteous as he declares, after”just” watching that footage, that he “refuse[s] to publicize that,” and that it’s an “insult to my intelligence and theintelligence of my viewers for somebody to stand up and say ‘I’m tryingto help people by doing this!'” On that last part, I really couldn’tagree more.

Now, you’d be right to complain that, by bringing this whole sorry state of affairs to your attention, I am myself indirectly publicizing both Bumfights and Dr. Phil,all so I can look morally righteous in my own hissy fit of reprobation.Of course, I didn’t invite Dr. Phil to create this manufactured episodeon his show just so I could slam it, nor, for that matter, did Iseek out homeless people and goad them into acts of abject humiliationto make a quick buck and win some easy fame (or infamy). I guess I’mjust trying to do what I can only assume was Dr. Phil’s originalintention: to call attention to responsible parents that videos likeBumfights exist, and to keep them far, far away from the curious eyesof the adolescent boys Beeson is clearly targeting. Except I also feel the need to call shenanigans on a show (and a host) that invites Beeson to spew his muck on its air, castigates him for it, and then tries to pretend that it somehow remains squeaky clean. At least Springer has no illusions about where he lives.

OK. Now I gotta find some more gum.