In this, his first series, self-help guru and motivational speaker Tony Robbins takes one fraught family and helps them get back on track. The premiere focuses on the Aliotos, a young California couple. Frank Alioto suffered a devastating neck injury on their honeymoon, and is confined to a wheelchair.
THE LONG ISLAND ANGLE
There's a very good one here, but you'll have to tune in to next week's episode. The second episode features Bohemia's Ron and Marie Stegner, parents of Jeremy, 14, Brendan, 10, and Jamie, 7.
Stegner was a longtime operations manager for Cablevision (which owns Newsday) in New York, then left and piled the couple's savings into a recruiting franchise. The money was lost, and their marriage became troubled. Enter Robbins, about a year ago (Stegner had attended his seminars).
In one extended part of the episode, Robbins forces the couple to patch up their marriage by spending a week at a homeless shelter in Los Angeles. Jobs are ultimately secured: Ron becomes a manager with Uncle Jack's Steakhouse chain, and Marie becomes consumer health advocate for Maid Brigade.
THE STEGNERS SAY
In an interview last week, Ron said "the truth of the matter is, our relationship is really good - my wife and three kids. It's really solid, and that was perhaps the main objective, [but] financially, we're still struggling." Marie adds: "It was a very good experience. I don't know what they focus on in the show, but I stayed as a stay-at-home mother, and they set me up with a job where I can work from home."
Their episode was taped over nine months last year.
There's an "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" vibe here because - surprise - "Extreme Makeover" is tied to the production, along with Robbins. It's an upbeat, glass-half-full hour with some tough love from Tony, who also dispenses sound couples therapy advice. But the hour also feels facile, and rushed. With Ty Pennington happily barking orders, a house can be built in a few weeks. But can Robbins rebuild an entire family's life?
Next week's Stegners are perfect subjects for a show like this; they're genuine and relatable. Problem is, their trip back to the Promised Land doesn't feel entirely convincing.