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Psyched About Psychics

Prior to his TV debut, Speedsville, N.Y.-based psychic Phil Jordan supported himself by running two funeral homes, a restaurant and a non-denominational church.

Now that his psychic work has been profiled in six episodes of Court TV's reality series Psychic Detectives, Jordan has been called to help on 400 cases in the past year—enough to sell the funeral homes and shut down the restaurant.

After the recent success of scripted series dealing with telepathy, such as NBC's Medium and The WB's Supernatural, cable networks like Court TV, Sci Fi and WE are programming psychic-themed reality shows. Court TV is developing companion shows to Psychic Detectives, which profiles cases solved with psychics' help, and has renewed the series for a fifth season.

The show, running Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET,has become one of Court's most consistent ratings earners, averaging a 1.1 household rating and 1.13 million total viewers, well above Court TV's average of 853,000. Its 0.4 rating in 18-49s was 33% higher than the network average.

As for those skeptical of soothsayers, Court TV General Manager of Programming and Marketing Marc Juris counts himself among them. “I don't believe in the gypsy fortune teller at the card table,” he says. “[But] I watch this show, and my mouth hangs open. The stories are astounding enough that you don't have to embellish them. They've been written by reality.”

At a time when Americans are increasingly anxious about current events, programmers say viewers turn to psychic-themed TV for assurance that a higher power exists. “The psychic business is a multimillion-dollar business, and that's not just from old ladies calling at 11 at night,” says Sci Fi Executive VP of Original Programming Mark Stern. “That's a mainstream business.”

Sci Fi is looking for telepathically enabled people to star in its hour-long reality show The Gift. A panel will evaluate the contestants' premonition skills and award the winner a trip to “mythological” places around the world.

Six episodes of both The Gift and Sci Fi's Medium at Large (the working title for a show about psychic Char Margolis) will likely be companions to reality show Ghost Hunters, which rejoins the network's Wednesday-night block on March 29. While Sci Fi skews male, Hunters draws a younger female audience, and Stern says the psychic shows are “definitely an effort to bring in more women.”


WE is betting on John Edward, who built a multimedia empire convincing the bereaved that he could contact their dead loved ones (Crossing Over With John Edward became a hit on Sci Fi in 2000 before crossing into daytime syndication, where it stayed through 2004). A weekly hour series following Edward on his cross-country speaking tour joins the network's Friday-night block at 10 p.m. ET March 17.

“Women are always looking for a sense of purpose in life and a connection to other people, and that's what these shows are about,” says WE General Manager Kim Martin.

Court TV's Jordan, who says he has “perceived things” since 16 and puts his accuracy rate at 75%, says the psychic shows connect with a big part of the population:“We all have a Sherlock Holmes in us. When [viewers] can see someone such as myself perceive something and be accurate, it gives them hope. It's the intrigue of bringing the unknown into the known.”