Dr. Joyce Brothers
One of pop culture's most renowned psychologists, Dr. Joyce Brothers pioneered the field's presence in the media during the late 1950s and enjoyed decades of fame as a TV personality. Her onscreen appeal was apparent when she debuted as a contestant on the game show "The $64,000 Question" (CBS, 1955-58), and it wasn't long before she was hosting a series of her own programs, which tended to offer relationship advice, among other topics. She also had a regular long-running column in Good Housekeeping and an extended stint as a syndicated newspaper columnist. Although Brothers became popular for her insight and intellect, she was happy to send up her psychologist persona over the years, with featured guest spots in various film and television productions, both as herself or a fictitious likeness. She died in 2013 after decades of amiable ubiquity.
Born and raised a New Yorker, Joyce Bauer grew up with lawyers for parents, and pursued psychology diligently in the latter part of her academic career, ultimately receiving a Ph.D. from Columbia University. Marrying med student Milton Brothers, she had a daughter and initially focused on motherhood, but her quiet life as a homemaker was upended when she decided to audition for the hugely popular game show "The $64,000 Question" in 1955. Given the typically male-oriented topic of boxing, the petite Brothers managed to impress audiences with her knowledge of the sport, and she claimed the grand prize of the competition, paving the way for future television appearances. After serving as a boxing match commentator, Brothers finally shined in her own field of expertise with a run of TV shows that had her addressing the problems of everyday people in a thoughtful and accessible manner.
By the early 1960s Brothers was a household name, with regular columns in publications such as the women's magazine Good Housekeeping. Appearances on various TV programs followed, with Brothers turning up on "The Merv Griffin Show" (NBC/CBS, 1962-1986), "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (NBC, 1962-1992) and "The Smother Brothers Comedy Hour" (CBS/ABC, 1967-1970), among others. During the 1970s, she dabbled in acting, with featured parts on episodes of popular series such as "Love, American Style" (ABC, 1969-1974) and "Police Woman" (NBC, 1974-78), though almost always as a psychologist or other kind of doctor. In addition to becoming a semi-regular on the quippy game show "Hollywood Squares" (NBC, 1965-1980), Brothers appeared in the feature films "The King of Comedy" (1982), directed by Martin Scorsese, and "The Lonely Guy" (1984), starring Steve Martin.
In the subsequent decades, there were few major TV shows that Brothers didn't pop up on, with her always-welcome personality even making a prestigious animated cameo on "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ) in 1993. Following the death of her husband, Brothers penned Widowed (1992), a poignant look at life after a spouse has passed on. Never one to slow down, however, Brothers continued offering up sage advice and making various film and TV appearances, branching out to portray a judge on a 2001 episode of the drama "Felicity" (WB, 1998-2002), while playing her wise self in the comedy "Analyze That" (2002). Largely retiring from the screen after the mid-2000s, Brothers kept a somewhat lower profile in her senior years. She died on May 13, 2013 at age 85. Remembered for her good-natured manner and keen observations, Brothers influenced numerous media personalities that followed in her footsteps, including Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Dr. Phil McGraw, though no one managed to duplicate her unique blend of elegance, empathy and perceptiveness.