Self-help guru Tony Robbins has been handing out advice to CEOs, celebrities and sports figures since the eighties. His books and infomercials have been around for so long now, his very name has become a pop psychology buzzword--a cultural reference point for all things motivational. (Proof of this: In the 2001 movie, Shallow Hal, Robbins is the mysterious elevator passenger who hypnotizes Jack Black's character, making him see the inner beauty in a fat-suit-clad Gwyneth Paltrow.)
So when I heard about his new network TV show, Breakthrough with Tony Robbins (NBC, Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET), my first thought was…"Why now?" Why didn't he do a show years ago, back when he was meeting with Princess Diana and Bill Clinton, and his books were flying off the shelves? And at this point, what can he offer that he hasn't already offered?
In a recent interview with Hollywood.com, Robbins actually cleared that up. He said that he has, in fact, been "approached numerous times about doing a reality show through the years. He warmed to the idea as the economy got ugly. On a 'Today' show appearance, he found himself with three minutes to impart wisdom on how to cope. He wanted a better way."
No doubt the recent successes in self-help TV shows have nudged him on, too. Nowadays, you can find a "motivational show" for anything—from raisings kids, to planning a wedding, to kicking drugs, to losing weight. A few of the producers on Robbins' show came from shows like these. According to hollywoodnews.com, "he has two executive producers from 'The Biggest Loser' and one from 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition' with him on 'Breakthrough.'”
The first episode of Robbins's six, one-hour shows focuses on Frank and Kristen Alioto, and it's hard to imagine a more tragically compelling, TV-ready story. On their wedding day, they jumped into a pool, where Frank broke his neck. Confined to a wheelchair, with Kristen as his caretaker, he's been depressed and frightened ever since. Robbins intercedes by flying them to Fiji and talking them though a series of challenges to restore Frank's confidence and Kristen's hope.
Whether this is a comeback for Tony Robbins—or just a new conquest in his professional empire—doesn't really matter. If the show catches on, we'll have Tony Robbins on prime time, indefinitely. And if it tanks, well, those infomercials of his are still alive and kicking.
Does a show like Breakthrough with Tony Robbins appeal to you?
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