Discovery Sets Real-Life Mentalist Series

Discovery Channel is close to ordering a reality series starring Irish magician and mentalist Keith Barry, with an eye toward a spring 2010 debut. Barry primarily uses mental magic in his act, which will serve as the basis for the still-untitled series, explaining the brain science behind the trickery.

The Discovery series comes at an opportune time, with broadcast television's sole breakout of the 2008-2009 TV season being CBS' drama The Mentalist. That series stars Simon Baker as a mentalist much like Barry, who uses his skills to solve crimes.

In the new series, Barry would perform illusions and explain some of the science behind how people perceive them. Other experiments being considered include “curing” people of various phobias through psychological trickery.

Barry is no stranger to American television, having starred in specials on CBS and MTV. He has also appeared on a number of talk shows, including The Ellen DeGeneres Show and most recently The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien.

Discovery aired another series this year that features someone with an odd job to teach viewers about science. The network's One Way Out, starring British escapologist Jonathan Goodwin, premiered strong in January, delivering nearly 2 million viewers in its premiere. However, the show ended up petering out when it returned to the network over the summer.

Another well-known magician and mentalist from across the pond, Britain's Derren Brown, attempted to break into the U.S. market with his 2007 series Mind Control With Derren Brown on Syfy (then called Sci Fi Channel). That show mixed new material with clips from his U.K. programs, and was not renewed for a second season.