Thursday, February 18, 2010

TV Show Idea: Investigating Psychics

There are a lot of paranormal themed television shows out there these days.  We have shows that investigate myths and legends, shows that look for monsters, shows researching UFOs (or at least we did...bring back UFO Hunters!!), and a whole bunch of shows looking for ghosts.

So what about psychics?  I think a show where investigators attempt to determine if a psychic has a legit ability or is merely a cold reader would be an interesting show.  

So here's how I think an episode would go.  First off, their would be a lead investigator who would be accompanied by a couple of assistant investigators.  At the beginning of the episode, the investigators would do an on screen interview with the psychic.  They would ask general questions about the psychic's background and ask the psychic to describe their method of psychic reading.  After this, the two assistant investigators would each receive an individual reading from the psychic (the lead investigator would never get a reading, I'll explain why shortly).  The two readings for the assistant investigators would be preliminary data.

After the two assistant investigators have their readings, a control subject would be brought in.  The control subject would be different for every episode.  The reason for this is because if the show was a success, there would be the potential for psychics featured in future episodes to base their reading on something from an earlier episode.  To help avoid this, the reading for the control subject would be the primary piece of evidence used in determining the legitimacy of the psychic.  The preliminary readings for the investigators would mainly be used to analyze the psychic's method.  

After the readings are complete, the investigators would analyze the data.  The analysis would focus on things such as accuracy, whether or not the psychic's claims could be confirmed, how generic the claims are, and the investigators would also try to determine whether or not the psychic was responding to facial expressions and body language.  To help eliminate the possibility of a cold reader taking queues from body language or a person's appearance, the control subjects may be asked to wear a generic 'uniform' and possibly even a mask.  Alternatively, the investigators may allow the control to wear they whatever want and behave however they want and then try to focus on whether or not the psychic is basing their reading on the control subject's behavior.  Additionally, the psychic would never meet the control subject until it was time for the reading to occur.  They would know nothing about the subject's heritage, background, age, or gender.

Now someone may say something like, "But eventually the psychics would be able to gather enough data about the investigators ahead of time to do a good cold reading and then just try to wing it with the control subject."  Well, this is why the lead investigator would never receive a reading.  If the show was successful, the assistant investigators would have to change each season.  Since the lead investigator never receives a reading, he would stay on as the 'face' of the show.  That way the show would be able to maintain a certain personality and tone and still be able to keep the data fresh and new.

Most episodes would focus less on predictions of the future and more on background readings.  Since predictions for the future would probably need some time to play out, it would be difficult to really verify whether or not the predictions were accurate.  Future predictions would probably be relegated to a season finale but filmed far in advance, so as to give the predictions time to play out.  Some episodes may feature psychometrists who read objects instead of people.

Ideally, it would be nice if the investigators would state whether they feel the psychic is legitimate or a cold reader, similar to how Mythbusters confirm or 'bust' a myth.  If the results of the data are somewhat ambiguous, they could just consider the psychic's ability to be plausible.  However, this method probably wouldn't work for a show like this.  If the investigators declared a psychic to be a cold reader and the cold reader has made a 'career' out of doing cold readings, the show could face lawsuits.  Realistically, the investigators probably wouldn't be able to declare their actual opinion of the psychic's credibility on air, they would probably just have to make a few notable observations and let the viewer decide for themselves.

Also, from an investigative standpoint, it would be better if the control subject went in first without TV cameras and without the psychic knowing the subject was the control subject.  But if it wasn't filmed, that wouldn't make for very interesting TV would it?  It's possible that the control subject could go in wearing a hidden camera, but after revealing the true purpose of the visit, the psychic may decline to appear on TV and the investigators would have just wasted their time.  And if they waste too much time, it would drain their budget and they wouldn't have anything to show.

As for a lead investigator, it would be really awesome if Josh Gates could fill that role.  J


  1. You know, they did actually have a show about that--it was kind of like a reality show where they tested them and kicked ones off each week. I didn't watch but a bit of one episode because it was too game show looking for me. I'd rather see a show that was where a university is testing psychics and filming through two-way glass and then get them to sign a release to be shown on the show. It would be very cool if a portion of the show involved them holding something and we have to guess what it is to test our own skills. I'd totally dig that!

  2. lol...I'm not surprised there's already been something similar. I don't watch much TV, and even as I wrote that post, I wondered if something similar had already been tried.

    I don't think I'd like the game show concept either.