In 2005, Matt Maniscalco and his mother, Josie Maniscalco, hopped on a plane to Los Angeles for an appearance on a special Mother’s Day episode of the television show Dr. Phil. Fast forward 16 years and the two were able to participate virtually in the show’s 20th-anniversary special. It will air Oct. 26.
It all started 16 years ago when Matt Maniscalco, then a student at Florida State University, saw a Dr. Phil commercial that asked viewers to submit essays answering why their mother was worthy of the title “Mother of the Year.”
Matt gave it a shot.
“It was blunt, it was real and they picked it up,” he said.
Soon after, he received a call from the show’s producer: The Maniscalcos had won a trip to Los Angeles, where they would be filmed for the show. Matt anticipated he would be recorded reading the letter, his mom would receive a round of applause, and that would be it. Instead, Josie Maniscalco was crowned “Mother of the Year” and given a brand-new 2005 Mercedes SUV.
Now they’re among Dr. Phil guests who are taking part in a 20th-anniversary celebration that shares updates on some of the show’s popular guests.
“I think they chose us because my mom was working her butt off working two jobs,” Matt said. “Sixteen years later, I’m the president of an insurance agency.”
In 2005, Josie Maniscalco was working in the DeLand High School cafeteria by day and at Target by night to help put Matt through college. Before Matt left for college, the family enjoyed watching television together, especially Dr. Phil.
“It was a really good show to be a part of,” Matt said. “That was my first taste of giving. I always said if I made it to the point of my life where my family was comfortable, I’d make that one of my goals.”
Now that he is president of the Page Insurance Agency in DeLand, Matt and his family are comfortable. About 10 years ago, he was able to buy his mother, now 70, a home in Orange City where she could enjoy her retirement. No longer working two jobs, Josie Maniscalco helps look after her two grandchildren during the day.
A lot has changed for them, but all the while, Dr. Phil has remained on the air. The Maniscalcos are included, although they weren’t able to travel to L.A. this time. Not a problem for Dr. Phil.
“They sent us a briefcase with a laptop, lighting and audio equipment,” Matt said.
The Maniscalcos participated in real time via the internet; they were brought on to reminisce about their experience nearly 20 years prior.
“It was really nice to close that chapter in my mom’s book of this,” Matt said.
He meant it literally, too. Josie Maniscalco has a scrapbook of photos and memorabilia from their trip to L.A. in 2005. She recently got the scrapbook off the shelf to add photos of their trip to Las Vegas earlier this year for her 70th birthday, and now she’ll be able to add photos from her latest foray onto television.
“It was a great experience, I can’t believe it,” Josie said.
But most of all, she was proud of her son: “He’s good to me, and he’s a good kid, a good man,” she said.
The Dr. Phil episode featuring Matt and Josie Maniscalco will air locally at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 26, on FOX 35, WOFL.