Joyce Brothers, a former academic psychologist who long before Drs. Ruth, Phil and Laura was counseling millions over the airwaves, died on Monday at her home in Fort Lee, N.J. She was 85.
Her daughter, Lisa Brothers Arbisser, confirmed the death.
Dr. Joyce Brothers, as she was always known professionally — a full-name hallmark of the more formal times in which she began her career — was widely described as the mother of mass-media psychology because of the firm, pragmatic and homiletic guidance she administered for decades via radio and television.
Historically, she was a bridge between advice columnists like Dear Abby and Ann Landers, who got their start in the mid-1950s, and the self-help advocates of the 1970s and afterward.
Throughout the 1960s, and long beyond, one could scarcely turn on the television or open a newspaper without encountering her. She was the host of her own nationally syndicated TV shows, starting in the late 1950s with “The Dr. Joyce Brothers Show” and over the years including “Ask Dr. Brothers,” “Consult Dr. Brothers” and “Living Easy With Dr. Joyce Brothers.”
She was also a ubiquitous guest on talk shows like “The Tonight Show” and on variety shows like “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.”
She was a panelist on many game shows, including “What’s My Line?” and “The Hollywood Squares.” These appearances had a fitting symmetry: It was as a game-show contestant that Dr. Brothers had received her first television exposure.
Playing herself, or a character very much like herself, she had guest roles on a blizzard of TV series, from “The Jack Benny Program” to “Happy Days,” “Taxi,” “Baywatch,” “Entourage” and “The Simpsons.”
She also lectured widely; had a call-in radio show, a syndicated newspaper column and a regular column in Good Housekeeping magazine; and wrote books.
Dr. Brothers arrived in the American consciousness (or, more precisely, the American unconscious) at a serendipitous time: the exact historical moment when cold war anxiety, a greater acceptance of talk therapy and the widespread ownership of television sets converged. Looking crisply capable yet eminently approachable in her pastel suits and pale blond pageboy, she offered gentle, nonthreatening advice on sex, relationships, parenting and all manner of decent behavior.
RIP Dr. Joyce and thank you for all your years of insightfulness .