Is this the shape of daytime TV in the post-Oprah age?
Casey Anthony's mother telling Dr. Phil McGraw that seizures may have led her daughter to cover up 2-year-old granddaughter Caylee's death for weeks, while husband George looks on in disbelief?
As a new flood of daytime talkers debut on television following the Queen of All Media's departure, what seems most obvious is the tabloid-fueled subjects they're willing to excavate while trolling for Winfrey's old fans.
On Monday, Anderson Cooper interviewed relatives of troubled pop star Amy Winehouse about her July death, while Wendy Williams will give Charlie Sheen more airtime Monday to explain how his appetites lost him TV's best-paying gig.
But the best (or worst?) example came Tuesday in the first installment of McGraw's two-part interview with the Anthonys, Orlando-area parents already excoriated by critics saying they moved too slowly to challenge their daughter's thin lies about Caylee's disappearance.
Cindy Anthony did little to change that analysis, suggesting a host of excuses for her daughter's actions. In one example, she insisted a smiling Casey Anthony participated in a "hot body" contest while her daughter was presumably dead to help out a friend.
The one possibility Cindy Anthony wouldn't entertain: McGraw's suggestion that her daughter might be a "unconscionable psychopath."
Turns out, Cindy Anthony had practice making excuses: George Anthony admitted he and Cindy nearly divorced in 2006, after the family learned he had secretly racked up $30,000 in gambling debts.
By the time Casey admitted her daughter had been missing for 31 days — claiming a mysterious "Zanny the nanny" had kidnapped her — the Anthonys hadn't seen their grandchild in a month, had never met her nanny, didn't know who the child's father was, suspected Casey was stealing money from them and hadn't verified her claims that she worked for Universal Studios, which turned out to be false.
George Anthony left little doubt he doesn't share his wife's uncertainty about Casey's guilt.
"There's some things Cindy and I don't agree (on)," George Anthony said. "I could not be out celebrating and having a good time (while Caylee was missing)."
McGraw bottom-lined Cindy Anthony as a woman "desperate" to find any excuse for her daughter.
Then, he offered an odd spasm of self-righteousness, saying he would never interview Casey Anthony because her actions said enough. More likely, he couldn't afford the hefty price tag Anthony's lawyers want for interviews.
Despite McGraw's efforts to look noble — saying he donated money to a charity the Anthonys have founded instead of paying them directly for an interview — the host is obviously wading in the muck to nab headlines and win viewers.
The interview's second part is scheduled at 4 p.m. today on WTSP-Ch. 10.
I wonder what his old mentor Oprah would think of all this.