Fox-owned television stations in eight markets, including New York and Los Angeles, are launching a two-week run of CBS Television Distribution’s Breakthrough with Dr. Steve Perry on Monday.
The talk show, which was shot in Los Angeles, stars Perry, an educator who also has written a best-selling book, Push Has Come to Shove: Getting Our Kids The Education They Deserve – Even If It Means Picking a Fight, and has been a guest on such networks as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, OWN and Al Jazeera as well as on talk shows such as Oprah and Steve Harvey.
Perry was first contacted by Elaine Bauer Brooks, executive vice president of development at CBS Television Distribution.
“We were really looking for someone who has a strong voice and has something important to say that they are passionate about,” Brooks said of Perry. “I felt like education and working with kids was something that might be inspiring to people. Once I started looking into that, I quickly came across Dr. Perry and realized that he checked all of those boxes.”
“I see all the makings of an incredible public brand. We’re talking about a man who defies odds, who gets his head and heart set on something and won’t stop until he makes it happen,” Brooks continued.
While Perry himself readily admits he has no experience as a talk-show host, he’s excited to give it a shot: “That I could do something that could really change people’s lives — I’m all for that. That’s what I do now.”
That means that Perry will talk to people about topics such as relationships, dating, marriage, parenting, depression, suicide and other issues that regular people face in their day-to-day lives.
“My real job is working with families,” he says. “There’s no way to work on the front lines in urban settings and not deal with some of the most guttural real issues that there are. Period.”
When Perry first got to set, he called a meeting of the crew — and quickly learned that many more people work to produce a TV show than he ever realized — and told them “we are going to change people’s lives for real. If this show works, and I believe it will, we’re going to put something together that’s really going to move people.”
While Breakthrough with Dr. Steve Perry is a “fresh spin on a conflict resolution daytime talk show,” according to Brooks, there won’t be any chair-throwing or paternity tests.
“We’ll see multiple topics and issues in each episode and Dr. Perry will have a lot of interaction with both his viewers and the studio audience,” she says.
Breakthrough with Dr. Steve Perry airs on Fox’s WNYW New York at 2 p.m.; KTTV Los Angeles at 1 p.m.; KTXH Houston at 5 p.m.; WAGA Atlanta at 2 p.m.; KUTP Phoenix at 8 p.m.; WJBK Detroit at 2 p.m.; WOFL Orlando at 2 p.m.; and WJZY Charlotte, N.C., at 10 a.m., starting Monday, Jan. 7 and running through Friday, Jan. 18.
The Fox Television Stations have been testing first-run shows for years and recently Frank Cicha, senior vice president of programming for the station group, has been saying he would like to test shows year-round in order to constantly be offering fresh, new programming to viewers.
That said, winter tests of first-run shows haven’t worked as well as summer tests thus far, and there have been far fewer of them. Shows such as a talker starring Fran Drescher, which Fox and Debmar-Mercury tested around Thanksgiving 2010, and last March’s The Raw Word with Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, which aired on Sinclair Broadcast Group stations, failed to break out. Like Dyson, Perry is looking to tap into the African-American audience that indexes highly in daytime.
While Perry lacks TV host experience, he’s had a long career working with and counseling children and families.
In 2005, Perry founded and became principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., with the goal of providing high-quality education to children in poverty, giving them the opportunity to go to college.
Since its founding, U.S. News and World Report has named Capital Prep one of the top schools in the country, having sent 100% of its predominantly low-income, minority, first-generation high-school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006.
With Capital Prep successfully launched, Perry went on to start Capital Preparatory Schools, a nonprofit organization that opens and operates charter schools in New York and Connecticut. Three schools are currently open in Harlem, Conn. and the Bronx.
Perry himself overcame his own childhood of living in poverty in Middletown, Conn., earning a master’s degree in social work and a Ph.D. in education.
He was the focus of CNN's “Black in America” series, and now serves as an education contributor for CNN and MSNBC, a columnist for Essence Magazine, and host of TVOne’s docudrama Save My Son.
He’s also been featured in multiple shows on the Oprah Winfrey Network and is an education advisor to Oprah Winfrey, Sean “P-Diddy” Combs and Bishop TD Jakes.