NBC’s new show Phenomenon, featuring Uri Geller and Criss Angel, debuted during the week to mixed reviews. What I found interesting about the setup of the show – which is the magician’s equivalent of American Idol – is that they have Uri Geller on board, along with Banachek (Steve Shaw). Banachek came to prominence as a participant in James Randi’s “Project Alpha“, acting the part of a teenager who had the psychokinetic (PK) ability to…bend spoons. In a video promo on the Phenomenon website, Banachek actually recounts how he fooled scientists into believing he had magical powers (although some claim otherwise, such as Michael Thalbourne in “Science Versus Showmanship: A History of the Randi Hoax” [PDF]).
With Criss Angel also being firmly in the Randi camp, it will be curious to see whether anything develops, considering Randi’s obsession with Geller over the past few decades. And when someone on stage bends some cutlery, how will Geller react considering it will show the audience what can be done with sleight-of-hand? Indeed, does Geller’s appearance on the show signal an unsaid admission that he is ‘just’ a mentalist/magician?