Media Alert: _Contact: Communicating with the Dead_--ABC does Fox.

Jack Briggs

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All I know is what I read in the blurb listing in TV Guide. ABC, a network that came precariously close to dumping its prestigious Nightline news-analysis program in favor of entertainment (had it been able to snare Dave Letterman from CBS), is now stooping to a new low.

Tonight, the struggling network is broadcasting something called Contact: Communicating with the Dead.

According to the TV Guide description, a famous "psychic" is going to dazzle audiences (and, most likely, a much-too-large viewership) by attempting to communicate with the deceased relatives of celebrities. (Why celebrities' loved ones? Are they more interesting?)

In this age of rampant pseudoscience and fuzzy-think and weird New Age beliefs and nonsensical UFO-abduction claims, what was once a prestigious, sober-minded network is combing through barrel's bottom in a cheap effort to lure ratings. And the network is apparently borrowing from the Fox TV playbook: going for the lowest common denominator and giving us the Weekly World News in living color. It's on the level of the "alien autopsy" and "faked Moon landing" specials.

And I can say all that without even having watched the special.

This is an alert to the skeptics among you. It might be of interest to see firsthand how manipulative this thing is, as well as how credulous and gullible the participants are.

There is sure to be an in-depth report on Contact in the next issue of Skeptical Inquirer.

What new lows are to come to us from ABC in the coming months? No, wait. Let me try to devine the answer. *searches for Tarot cards*

Meanwhile, everyone might be interested to know--and I'm not making this up--that the cover story in the latest Weekly World News is headlined "Scientists Find Noah's Ark on Mars!"

Funny. I thought a manned landing on Mars was at least another twenty years away. Where have I been?
 

MickeS

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ABC is also currently running the very Fox-esque docu-soap "The Bachelor", a guy choosing a wife from 25 hopeful aspirants.

I think it's gotten pretty decent ratings too, so expect more...

/Mike
 

Peter Apruzzese

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They will go to any lengths to get ratings, it seems. Does anybody now think that Paddy Chayefsky's NETWORK was too far out?
 

RobertR

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There is sure to be an in-depth report on Contact in the next issue of Skeptical Inquirer.
Which I will strongly welcome. Skeptics need to debunk this garbage at every turn (I get REALLY annoyed at people who have a "leave the poor harmless snake oil salesmen alone" attitude).
 

Mark Pfeiffer

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Isn't this being tied in with the Robert Blake case, that they're going to contact his murdered wife? Or am I confusing this with something else? What a shame. And that jokester John Edward has been steadily receiving a higher profile too. Yeesh.
 

AllenD

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Mark,
I think you're right. Where was this so called psychic when they needed him last year. Of course the show comes out after good ol' police work ties RB with the murder.
 

Ike

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I'll be watching this with much interest. These psychics piss me off to no extreme...do they not realize these are real people? Do they not get that saying you are talking to someone's dead mother, when we know for sure you are just pulling a magic trick, that it has some emotional pull to it? That this was someone's mother/brother/sister/father/grandfather, and that obviously they haven't coped with it, otherwise they wouldn't be going to a psychic? Ugh.
 

Alan Benson

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I too am disgusted by the rash of psychics and charlatans being paraded across our TV screens these days, making profit off of people's pain and desire to believe. Both ABC and the SciFi channel should be ashamed of themselves--but in truth, I'm afraid it's only the beginning of such crap...
 

Ken Seeber

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Jack, you've inspired me to go home after work tonight and start re-reading my copy of "Why People Believe Weird Things." I may even try to work in Carl Sagan's "Demon-Haunted World" before Memorial Day if I have time.
 

Jack Briggs

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You go, Ken. Do it! It always helps to go back to the inspirational writings of our finest minds.

Alan, always nice to see a right-thinking newcomer among us. Welcome! You'll enjoy the conversations among the skeptics of Home Theater Forum. Look forward to reading your posts.
 

Nick Graham

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Well, I missed it, but I kind of wanted to see it just to watch Bret Hart totally kill his credibility. All his rants against Vince McMahon kinda seem hypocritical when he takes money to join in this kind of crap.
 

Will_B

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Alien encounters is a legitimate experience of great depth and importance to our culture, one that requires sensitivity and depth. But television tends to present the subject in superficial point/counter-point style. A related problem with point/counter-point is that it enables the producers to skip the "research" step entirely. They don't carry the exploration in any new or interesting direction since they're content to use the most obvious talking heads (and indeed, are entirely resistant to branching out to get any talking heads from different disciplines that could offer different, possibly significant insights). And I think this reliance on non-research leads to the unfortunate situation where producers have NO HESITATION in mixing B.S. fiction with truth -- because they assume it is all the same junk. The result? Some parts of the public think there's nothing to it, because all they've seen is crap on tv. I appreciate that these specials are made in very short time, but it does a disservice to the viewer who may be expecting real knowledge.
As part of my job in a psychology-related organization I've been in contact with a few producers of such programs, and the only program that was any good was one made in Japan for Fuji tv. American programs do not include anything that requires the slightest bit of intellect. I've seen the raw interviews and the selections they pick, and the contrast is enormous.
One program I had nothing to do with at all that was actually fabulous was a BBC program, part of an acclaimed series called "Everyman". The episode "Everyman: Contact" delved into the spiritual side of the experiences in a way that American programs would never ever dare to do, because it is too complicated.
The Learning Channel and The Discovery Channel are as bad as Fox when it comes to these kinds of shows. They don't even try. It is like having an idiot teach history class...what do you expect to learn that is either accurate or insightful? Hopefully not much.
Done venting.
About the Communication with the Dead program, who wants to bet the message the dead would have for us is "stop watching so much tv and go live your life!"!!!
 

Will_B

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Skeptics need to debunk this garbage at every turn (I get REALLY annoyed at people who have a "leave the poor harmless snake oil salesmen alone" attitude).
The garbage needs to be debunked by those who have primary information. Do you think the people studying syncronicities at Princeton like seeing hucksters on tv? Do you think the people studying consciousness at Duke enjoy seeing "Comminication with the Dead" specials? There's plenty of informed opinions the media could turn to, without resorting to groups like SCICOP that are so devoutly anti-research. SCICOP set up a new office in LA so they could influence the media more easily, but they're so secure in their dogma that they lie by omission without hesitation; they're very good at it. They've voided their value by buying into the charade - countering lie with lie is no way to advance knowledge. At best it puts everything in a holding pattern, which perhaps it all they want.

Networks could advance the dialogue in any meaningful way by interviewing people who wouldn't expect to be asked to be interviewed for a change. But again, this kind of "advancing of the dialogue" simply isn't done by television producers, because they aren't really trying to serve the public with information, or help the culture advance...they're just trying to get ratings.
 

MickeS

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Well, I watched the show, and it stunk.

Not because of the subject matter, but because it was incredibly boring... I bet Fox would have done a better job with it. They didn't make it too sensational (after all, they're dealing with real people and their dead loved ones), but they didn't take it seriously either.

It started with two professors (I believe both of them were psychology professors) talking about tests they had done with Mr Medium, that to them proved he is the real thing.

Then quickly on to the guest "celebrities": First Mackenzie Phillips, then Vanna White, Bret Hart and last the sister and the mother of Bonnie Lee Blakely, the woman allegedly murdered by Robert Blake.

Mr Medium basically told them what they wanted to hear: that their dead loved ones are happy, thay they're watching over them, that they don't blame them for anything, and that whatever unresolved conflicts they might have had are all behind them. Mr Medium also gave some details about each dead person, a detail that "proves" he talks to the dead: a phrase they used, a name, or something like it. Bonnie Lee Blakely had "come to him" a few days before the taping and told him to give her sister a picture of St Joseph, apparently she prayed a lot to him.

Whatever, it was a lame show... but I bet the guy will get a few more "believers" knocking on his door, wanting to be ensured that they're doing great, and that every loved relative adores them...

/Mike
 

Mike Broadman

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Mr Medium basically told them what they wanted to hear: that their dead loved ones are happy, thay they're watching over them, that they don't blame them for anything, and that whatever unresolved conflicts they might have had are all behind them.
I think it would be a lot of fun to become a psychic and tell people the opposite. Someone would come to me to talk to their dead relative and I'd say, "She is in hell, suffering eternal horrible torment, and it's all your fault!" Then we'd all laugh.
 

Jack Briggs

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"...without resorting to groups like SCICOP that are so devoutly anti-research..."
Afraid that group is very much pro-research. As in scientific research.

Saw the first segment. "IS it possible?" "COULD it be?"

Same ol', same ol'.

Give me a break.
 

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