ProSieben has just shown the commercial disguised as a documentary “The phenomenon Uri Geller” – as “preparation” for the first edition of the casting show “The next Uri Geller – Incredible phenomena live” on Tuesday at 20:15 to find a “successor” of the “world’s most famous mystifier”, as ProSieben titles (and I translated).
Successor in which regard, anyway? Making a fool of himself when the conditions differ from the preparations? Speaking about pretended real supernatural powers without even rudimentarily trying to prove them in a respectable, reliable way? Instead suing critics in most ridiculous ways? Stefan Niggemeier has a nice list (in German) in his comment for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, and also the topic page of the GWUP (German; cf. CSI (ex-CSICOP)) has extensive information including descriptions of tricks as well as several (English) videos including James Randi’s “classic”.
Stefan Niggemeier ends with (in my translation):
“That ProSieben has bought the format regardless, drivels about “extrasensory, supernatural, inexplicable” phenomena, calls the ten contestants “chosen ones” and, like so many others, attends to this icky impostor: That is the only inexplicable phenomenon of Uri Geller.”
Well – that’s ProSieben, private TV, and the hunt for ratings…
Speaking of “Mystifier”: The GWUP Blog (German), too, wondered about this choice of words, since “mystify” means doch bewilder, dumbfound, flummox, baffle, blot out, obliterate, veil, hide, obscure etc. (TheFreeDictionary) – more in the GWUP Blog and via OneLook.
Now back to this about 45 minutes long “documentary”: No-one expected that it came even close to the extensive German article about this “media reality satire” at Telepolis, anyway. Rather that you get what was actually shown…
Geller himself said at the beginning (my re-translation): “Some believe it’s a trick. Some believe it’s a gift. I always want to stay mysterious.” Sure. No wonder. He’s surprised himself how long the hype around him is lasting…
You get to know something about his beginnings, his vita – childhood stuff like a “strange light” or clock changing tricks, together with statements from one-time companions; family; first appearance on German TV in 1974; things like that. His “ego trip”, the addiction to fame especially in the 70s, bulimia – oooh, the poor guy. Knowing other celebrities. Dowsing-rod search for treasures of the soil. Millionaire. Work for secret service and police, about which he’d rather remain silent. Juwelry designer. Author of 16 books. A great guy, ain’t he?
Sarcasm aside. Added to that, by the way, many short clips of several show hosts and the like who probably just didn’t have anything better to do at the time, which seems to be a must everywhere today. And, of course, basically only positive, non-skeptical, admiring statements.
About his debacle in Johnny Carson’s show? Just briefly showing the un-bent spoon and basically using it as basis to explain his following publicity and the realization “There is no such thing as bad PR”. Other critical voices? Very scarce, just some doubtful, inadequately reliable tests, one of which (with a pig?) alledgedly scared him off so much that he doesn’t want anything to do with science anymore. How useful…
Comparison with magic tricks? None. Only a few times, the words “mentalist” (who in the target audience knows what this means?) or “magician”, but rather without connection or with regard to the casting show. Scientific explanations as e.g. the GWUP or CSI offer? Zero. On the contrary, alledgedly scientists have been arguing for 40 years whether these are tricks or not.
Had I expected anything different? Certainly not.
“Marvel instead of understanding”, the ProSieben trailer said (my translation). Probably mandatory for the show – preferrably not even trying to understand, it seems to me. Should I really watch that show?
Addendum: Ratings of this “documentary”: 0,79 million (6,0% market share) of all viewers aged 3 or older, 0,59 million (9,5%) aged 14-49. (source: ProSieben teletext)