Pat Croce, a Fortune 500 motivational speaker and former owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, has switched gears. He has left his cushy, familiar life in Philadelphia to tool around the country in a Winnebago, visit ordinary Americans and bring them his brand of self-help.
"I don't know the word failure," Croce says. "I expect success, I expect the best, and your efforts tend to meet your expectations."
Sony Pictures Television hopes Croce's vision bears out this fall.
Production on the half-hour strip Pat Croce: Moving In
started a few weeks ago, and the show premieres Sept. 13. Croce and crew cruise Southern California and beyond in search of people with problems.
The show was sold on a barter-only basis, with the syndicator and the station each getting 3½ minutes of ad inventory. Croce
is cleared on 188 stations, covering 97% of the country, including all of the top 60 markets.
Arthur Smith produces the show. He used to run Fox Sports Network and has morphed into an independent reality producer, with such shows as Fox's The Swan
and Paradise Hotel
under his belt.
"I didn't think a talk show would take advantage of who Pat is," Smith says. "That's how we ended up with this idea: What would happen if the world's greatest motivational speaker moves into your house?"
Whether Croce is the world's greatest is yet to be determined, but he does influence people. He's adept at getting them to face their fears; they may jump out of an airplane or take mambo lessons. Croce tries to show—not tell—them how to achieve their dreams.
"This is not a show that [viewers] will be in tears over," says Melanie Chilek, Sony senior vice president of development, who has been working for years to launch a reality show.
"We watch television in daytime because we want to be entertained. Pat is a complete ball of energy, which is one of the qualities we responded to about him," she says.
After a long day of shooting, Croce shares his own broadcast philosophy: "I wouldn't do this if I didn't embrace change. I have challenge-deficit disorder. If there's a chance that I can make an impact, do good and have fun, I'm doing it."