More on TV scams....

James Randi --- Wizard ((no email))
Sun, 18 Sep 1994 23:32:18 -0400

The reaction to my posting earlier today (about TV flummery, cheating,
deception, lying, etc.) has been enormous. Many commented on how stupid the
studio audiences seem to be when confronted with the inane items brought up
as revelations by the "psychics" on the 1-900 hotline shows.

Well, consider this:

(1) Most of those audiences are hired: actors at so much per day.

(2) The audiences are rehearsed.

(3) The tapes are edited to eliminate unsatisfactory sections; the
resultant show is neat, sanitized and positive.

Also, I forgot to mention Diane Warwick, the Queen of Silly, who hosts so
many of these festivals, and intellectual giants like Shirley McLaine,
Richard Chamberlain and John Travolta who support this crap.

A few years ago, I did a TV show in Germany in which I did several "mental"
effects to show how a professional magician can outdo the "psychics." The
audience was all hired actors. They had wardrobe which was given over to
the wardrobe department at the end of each day, since it took three days to
tape a one-hour show, and the continuity had to be watched. The actors sat
at tables in a night-club scene, and the position of each ashtray (smoking
is still glamorous in Germany!) and each glass -- and the drink-level -- was
carefully marked on each table and glass by the prop men, so as to match the
continuing taping the next day. Polaroids were taken of each actor to
ensure make-up and costume continuity, since the same actors were used week
after week, changing their appearances as needed. The bandstand was empty,
the band (then on tour) having taped all its musical segments the year
before, and the host would introduce (to fervent, rehearsed applause) the
next musical selection, the camera would "pan" to the bandstand, and
creative editing would cut in a segment of the band doing what was actually
a pre-recorded number. (One band-member, I was told, was in prison while he
continued to appear on the show by electronic magic.) The home audience was
never told that the show was sanitized, taped, and in-the-can; they had the
impression (intended by the producer) that they were watching a "live" show.
My segment, shot several times to get good camera-angles, was edited to cut
out any "moves" that might have given away my modus operandi, and it thus
befuddled the German magicians who would otherwise have known the methods.
I had a difficult time getting the proper audience reaction, since the
actors had been rehearsed to laugh, gasp, clap and cheer "appropriately" at
each move. They even did post-action close-ups of individuals rolling their
eyes in astonishment. Frankly, I don't need to have my audience cued, and
when I do, I'll hang up my tap-shoes. To me, it was all quite artificial,
but the at-home audiences apparently loved it and were happily deceived.

Hey, guys, just tell us when you're lying to us, please?

James Randi.