A 22-year-old Lakeville newlywed is contending in a lawsuit that a "Dr. Phil" national TV spinoff tricked him into appearing and discussing the blemishes on his penis, then airing a rerun of the episode over his protests.
Tyler Bowling, who is suing the producers of the CBS-distributed daytime show "The Doctors," his dermatologist and others, at first agreed to be on the show in Hollywood in exchange for having his pearly penile papules (PPP) removed for free in a brief laser-surgery procedure.
"I felt like I was violated," Bowling, who was married in July, said in an interview Monday. "It was really embarrassing, and the procedure didn't really even work."
"The Doctors" debuted nationally in September 2008 and airs Monday through Friday on KARE-11 at 3 p.m. Its executive producers are by Phil "Dr. Phil" McGraw and his son Jay McGraw. Many of the doctors on the show have been on "Dr. Phil." The medical professionals discuss various issues with people who are too embarrassed to consult their own doctors.
Bowling said he has had PPP since he was about 11 years old. The whiteish bumps are non-contagious, harmless but unsightly.
In an effort to have the bumps removed, Bowling in January 2009 contacted dermatologist William Groff in La Jolla, Calif. The next month, Groff's office told Bowling that he could have the procedure (which runs several thousand dollars) at no charge if he agreed to appear on "The Doctors."
Bowling said he was told that he had to come to Hollywood that day. The suit said Bowling was assured by the doctor's office that the show was on an "all-medical network" and would only be seen by students studying to be physicians. He said he was told that only "older people and doctors watch. So, I thought, all right."
But after speaking with a producer for the show, he learned "The Doctors" is viewed nationwide. As he had second thoughts, the producer "proceeded to cajole, assuage and persuade [Bowling] that appearing was 'no big deal' and that no one would see the episode," the suit reads.
Once at the studio, Bowling said, he met Dr. Groff for the first time and only then realized that the show includes an audience.
"We only had a five-minute conversation," Bowling said. "I wanted to back out, but he kept telling me that it would help everyone with PPP. I just didn't have time to think."
The doctor immediately said there was a 99.9 percent chance of being cured, Bowling said. The segment was shot, and Bowling had the laser surgery done off-set. The episode aired in March 2009.
Then "they called me and said we need you to sign some papers to rerun you on a different episode. I said, 'Don't put me back on the show, please.' It was an 'embarrassing moment' show" taken from previous episodes, Bowling said.
Bowling said that despite his protests, his segment was re-aired a few months later and can still be found on several Internet sites.
Bowling added that he had to travel back to California at his own expense to have Groff redo the procedure. Even after a second try, Bowling said he still has the bumps.
Representatives for the Emmy-nominated show and the doctor have declined to comment on the suit, saying they have yet to read it. The papers were filed in court last week and are being served his week, said Bowling's attorney, Walter Batt.
Bowling is suing for "relentless embarrassment and harassment by acquaintances and individuals whom [Bowling] doesn't even know in public, by telephone and by electronic communications," according to the suit. He is seeking unspecified compensation for monetary or emotional damages.
The suit also cites the "strain on his marriage from such extreme, nefarious and outrageous conduct" by the defendants.
"My wife really doesn't mind," he said. "It's just embarrassing. I was looking forward to it being cured."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482