Always willing to travel to the ends of the Earth well, at least all the way to Israel to find a hit TV show, NBC's top programmer thinks he's found "the next great reality format."
Whether "Phenomenon," a show about psychic performers, qualifies as "reality" is up for debate.
The idea for the show came to NBC Entertainment president Ben Silverman in a vision a vision he had while watching an Israeli show called "The Successor." That show was about finding a successor to Israeli mentalist Uri Gellar; the Americanized version is about finding "the next great mind-blower, the next great mentalist," the NBC exec said. "If any of you can turn your computers on and off without touching them, this is your show.
"We watched the show in Israel and we saw these ratings ... and it was incredible. We, like, had goose bumps watching the TV show."
Whether you'll get goosebumps from watching "Phenomenon" remains one of life's mysteries right now it will air live on NBC on Wednesday. (Which, of course, means tape-delayed in this time zone at 7 p.m. on Ch. 5.)
I've got ESPN, but I haven't got ESP, so I can't tell you whether it will be worth watching. (Hey, if I were a contestant on this show, I'd lose. And people would probably get hurt, given the "death-defying" nature of some of the program content.)
According to NBC, 10 contestants (seven American, two Israeli, one Belgian) who aspire to be the next great mentalist will be put through their paces by Gellar and American "mystifier" Criss Angel. They will compete live each week "demonstrating a wide spectrum of mystifying talents" and will be evaluated by a panel of celebrities.
Because, really, who better to evaluate fantastic mind powers than celebrities?
Gellar and Angel will also be on hand to "offer their unfiltered opinions." But the winner will be determined in "American Idol"-like fashion home viewers will vote.
Tim Vincent of "Access Hollywood" will host. Because, really, who better to host than somebody who deals with Hollywood hooey on a regular basis?
Silverman is, quite obviously, rooting for "Phenomenon" to be a success. His job sort of depends on shows he puts on the air becoming hits.
Which is not to say that he seems entirely convinced that the psychic part of the phenomenon is for real.
Appearing before television critics when he announced the show, Silverman said he had received "e-mails from Uri, going, 'I feel you will do well today.' I go, 'Uri, but do we need e-mail? Shouldn't we just be talking without e-mail?'"Good point.
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