Skeptics all over the US are aflutter over tomorrow’s premiere of Phenomenon on NBC, a collaboration between Emo-gician Criss Angel and semi-retarded phoney spoon bender Uri Gellar. It’s a “reality” show that seeks to find the next great . . . something. Mentalist? Psychic? Nobody seems too sure. There’s a laughably over-the-top TV promo for it that asks “Do you believe . . . in special powers?” And it has Uri Gellar looking baffled as he walks by a road sign and it BENDS. Ha ha ha! I can’t even imagine the amount of work they had to put into that promo to dramatize a guy who pretends to bend cutlery with his mind.
The reason why skeptics have been so interested in this show is because Criss is a skeptic who admits there’s no such thing as real psychic powers, and Uri Gellar is still living in a dream world where people actually believe he uses mental energies to do something completely useless. A lot of people have been rightfully worried that Criss will let the show turn into Uri’s Sideshow of Idiocy.
The other day, I got this e-mail from a listener of SGU who happens to be a bit of an insider:
An interesting bit of information from the Phenomenon TV show production, is that there was originally a big concern about Criss Angel on the show. Some upper end producers have voiced their concern that he is so ruthless and intolerant for putting up with people who make false claims of supernatural ability, that he was going to ruin the ‘back and forth’ of the show (between he and uri gellar).
As it has turned out, he is actually very kind to the participants, in the ways that he points out they are not real. But the problem has now become, according to the producers, that Uri is the one they are afraid is going to compromise the show. It seems Uri’s actually not convinced any of the people have true powers. Of course none of them do, but the feeling is that he was expecting to discover real powers, and is having a hard time ‘acting’ like he believes they may have them. Or in some cases, he just won’t go along with their act and points them out as frauds.
Interesting psychology for poor Uri.
Very interesting, indeed! I’ve been watching the videos on NBC’s web site, and it looks like all the tricks that are being performed are standard stage magic, except one guy who claims to be able to talk to the dead. Apparently, he’s so bad that he can’t even convince poor, deluded Uri that he’s for real.
All in all, I’m not worried. Criss repeatedly states that no one has paranormal powers and the point is to find a mentalist (magician), not a psychic. The nail in the coffin, though, is that Banachek is associated with the show — watch a video of him talking about sideshow geeks, mentalism, and Project Alpha. Project Alpha was a hoax set up by James Randi to have two magicians infiltrate a study of psychic powers in order to expose their dreadfully poor controls, and it’s a fascinating story. You can read all about it on Banachek’s site.
If any of you are watching the show tomorrow, post your reviews here!