Episode 18 – Celebrity Paranormal Project

 

This episode: Celebrity Paranormal Project, Season 1, Eps. 1-4.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

Next episode: Blind Date, Season ???.  Watch it on YouTube.

Since Halloween is coming around the bend, we decided to do an appropriately spooky themed show for this episode.  This week we discuss the zany mélange of celebrity and the paranormal from VH1, Celebrity Paranormal Project, where D-list celebrities stumble around haunted institutions with EMF meters and séance scrolls, talking to ghosts of people who have never existed.

After discussing the concept and structure of each half of the mash-up, we talk about the fakery on behalf of the production team and parse out the differences between the authenticity of the paranormal activity and the authenticity of the cast’s reactions.  We then move into whether the idea of ghosts is plausible in general and the scanty nature of the ‘evidence’ involved.  Finally, we examine the role of gender and the show’s interaction with broader horror tropes before ending with a comparison of this show to other paranormal reality shows we’ve watched and theorize why this show failed when it had such a broad appeal in the abstract.

Finally, we’re going to be taking a break for the holiday season to get a couple episodes in the bag and we’re going to be releasing less frequently next year, unfortunately.  It was just a case of JS having significant career and family obligations and Mike realizing the weekly grind of podcast post-production wasn’t terribly sustainable.  (We were a bit naïve going into this about the work that would be involved, obviously.)  That being said, we are hoping that having more time between episodes will lead to a higher quality podcast and we are kicking around some ideas between us on what we can do to facilitate that, so if you, the listener, have any ideas on that front that you’d like to see implemented, this would be a great moment to get in touch with us.  Thanks for listening so far and have a wonderful holiday season!

Show Notes and Links

1:28 / Introducing this week’s show (eventually); Mike mentions America’s Smartest Model, The Surreal Life, and Flavor of Love

3:20 / Based off an earlier reality show, MTV’s Fear

4:12 / Running down the concept and episode formula

7:28 / Talking about the ‘Heart of the Haunting’

8:17 / This show borrows heavily from horror tropes and narratives

8:41 / Briefly comparing the tone to other ‘ghost hunting’ shows

9:18 / Transitioning to the ‘celebrity’ aspect of the show

10:29 / We never see the production crew, but they are out there (unlike the ghosts)

11:08 / Many of these ‘celebrities’ seemed to be there as product placement for other VH1 reality shows (and Baywatch)

11:51 / Discussing how the types of celebrities on the show differed by gender

12:32 / They really dug deep on some of these credentials

13:38 / Segueing into the perennial authenticity question

14:00 / Many of the narratives in this show appear to be invented

14:42 / Discussing the shenanigans of the ‘ghosts’ (aka the PA’s)

17:15 / Our favorite obviously producer-planted ‘relics’

19:12 / The questionable physics behind the ‘ghost catcher’

20:13 / The show relies heavily upon re-enactments

22:20 / Comparing the tone to other paranormal shows we’ve watched (Finding Bigfoot, Monica the Medium)

23:20 / Discussing the authenticity of the celebrity reactions

24:32 / There was a strong correlation between celebrities already believing in the paranormal and finding ‘evidence’ of paranormal activity; Mike mentions Casper the Friendly Ghost

25:25 / Concept of ‘heightened suggestibility’ – Some of the fear has a rational basis (fear of the dark, fear of being alone)

26:00 / Mike’s storytime – freaking out at a ‘haunted house’

27:52 / JS had a ‘jump scare’ moment watching the show

28:40 / A few of the celebrities express skepticism or ambivalence

29:37 / Segueing into the plausibility (or lack thereof) of ghosts in general

30:54 / JS has the answer; Mike brings up Last Thursdayism

32:05 / JS discusses the odd cultural specificities of American ‘ghost stories’

33:40 / Nobody suggests that we look for ghosts in Auschwitz

34:11 / The Finding Bigfoot Problem: Shouldn’t we have better evidence than ‘whispers’ on digital voice recorders or thermal blips?

35:48 / The gendered nature of the ‘freak-outs’ – Did the selection process play a role?

37:23 / A couple of examples of women behaving against the grain

38:28 / Mike brings up an episode where a male celebrity is called a ‘little girl’

39:05 / Discussing the objectification of the female celebrities, the objectification is reminiscent of many horror flicks

41:00 / Comparing this show to Monica the Medium (uplifting vs. frightening – sincerity vs. cynicism)

43:52 / Unlike Monica, you don’t need to buy into the existence of the paranormal to be entertained

45:00 / The show was entertaining in small doses, but the formula began to get repetitive

45:34 / The high points of the show depended on the specific celebrities, but too many celebs were just there to look good

47:45 / Comparing the failure of this show to the (relative) success of its predecessor

48:45 / JS pitches a CPP All-Star reunion show

49:36 / Closing with the appeal of the show

50:33 / JS was surprised this show only went for eight episodes

51:01 / Mike thought it might have been viable if the editing was tighter and the celebrities were stronger

51:58 / We discuss the production costs and fantasize about the production company going the full Bridezilla

53:38 / The logistical difficulties of maintaining the show in terms of having enough different locations to explore

55:30 / An announcement for our listeners: taking a holiday break and a new release schedule for next year (aka podcasting was more work than we had originally bargained for)

56:45 / Talking about our first episode of the next season: Another First Love, this time from Mike

58:18 / The usual stuff: contact us, like our Facebook page, rate/review and subscribe

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Episode 11 – Monica the Medium

 

This week’s discussion: Monica the Medium, Season 1, Eps. 1-4.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: Keys to the VIP, Season 2, Eps. 1-5.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

This week your intrepid hosts descend into the Ninth Circle of Reality TV Hell for Season One of the ‘millennial’ oriented ‘Freeform’ network’s ‘medium’ show (so many airquotes): Monica the Medium.  After venting their suffering via overwrought similes and mocking skits, Mike and JS discuss the show’s hybrid concept, production values, and cast of characters while asking themselves the question that is always foremost on their minds – Doesn’t anybody realize that there is a camera crew following these people all over the place?

They then discuss millennial stereotypes and the branding strategies of the network this show aired on as well as delving into the various techniques of so-called ‘psychics’ and ‘mediums.’  Finally, they finish on the appeal of medium shows and this particular show’s outlier emphasis on wholesome depictions and the promotion of a narrative of emotional uplift.

Show Notes and Links

1:05 / We commiserate about our love for this show (our TOWIE episode is here)

2:48 / Introducing the show

3:28 / Mike crafted an overwrought simile to describe the experience of watching this show (References here, here, and here)

4:16 / The concept of the show

6:10 / 42 Minutes of Reality Masterpiece Theater

10:32 / These ‘spontaneous’ readings happen everywhere

11:02 / Talking about the ‘eerie’ FX

12:00 / The cast of characters

12:50 / Monica’s best friend, Krista

14:23 / How authentic are these conflicts?

15:27 / Ann and the role of the ‘skeptic’

17:08 / Discussing the different roles of Monica’s parents

18:27 / Why doesn’t anyone seem to notice the cameras?

19:27 / A questionable blind date

20:44 / Some producer magic at the ‘necktie party’

21:38 / Does her mediumship really scare off the guys?

22:34 / Even Monica’s friends get in on the camera obliviousness

23:19 / Monica’s reading in the clothing store

24:14 / Did Monica actually need a job or was she doing this for the show?

25:06 / Two pillars of the show: readings and college life

26:05 / The readings are so repetitive and make the show a chore to watch

26:43 / Mike’s strategies for making it through

27:37 / The college life aspects were a little bit more bearable (and more ethical)

29:00 / The strongest segments of the show

30:21 / Discussing the network and its target demographic

30:52 / The Wikipedia page for the network where Mike got the quotes

32:45 / JS goes on a rant about inane marketing speak

33:45 / The ‘wholesome’ nature of the show’s depiction of college life

35:50 / Are millennial stereotypes gendered?  (The Emoji Movie, the AFLAC ad that Mike mentioned)

37:30 / The avocado toast reference is explained here

38:02 / Show plays on both the extraordinary and the familiar (It’s ‘relatable’)

40:42 / The unsung hero of this show

42:30 / Transitioning from college life to the medium aspect

43:33 / We thought readings were cold, but arranged in advance

46:15 / The two different types of readings

47:17 / The idea of ‘cold reading

48:55 / Pondering what it would really be like if this stuff was real (Where Mike stole his Jimmy Hoffa thing from)

50:10 / Motivated reasoning (Mike couldn’t find the dark room study he referenced, but here is a report of a similar study about fake séances and table levitation)

52:40 / ‘Shotgunning’ and other common cold reading techniques

55:05 / Discussing ‘hot reading’ (although we didn’t use the term) – JS mentions John Edward and televangelist Peter Popoff (aka the earpiece guy whose name we couldn’t remember)

56:43 / Talking about the role of TV editing and how it emphasizes the ‘hits’ of cold reading while culling out the ‘misses’

58:47 / The caveats of Monica’s medium mentor aka ‘You don’t want to be the next Sylvia Browne

59:53 / Transitioning to the appeal of this show and of mediums in general

1:01:24 / Mike discusses the tragic stories of many of the clients and his conflicted feelings

1:02:06 / The difficulties of processing sudden and/or premature death

1:03:08 / Comparing to religion – a desire for rationality and order (‘People aren’t suffering for no reason’)

1:04:32 / Mike talks about the role of emotion in belief (Mike mentions the ontological argument for God)

1:05:27 / The quote is here (second one down)

1:06:26 / The ethics of mediumship (or lack thereof)

1:09:10 / Discussing Monica’s motives and our take on her – delusional or duplicitous?

1:10:22 / Talking about the hybrid format of the show

1:11:30 / How much did the particularity of the college milieu contribute to the show’s success (and ultimate failure)?

1:13:00 / The show’s extreme emphasis on uplift was interesting and distinct for reality TV (although we didn’t like it)

1:14:50 / Is there a dichotomy in reality TV between uplift and humiliation?

1:15:36 / Introducing the next episode

1:17:12 / Last call for our Jersey Shore spin-off Facebook poll (Also, do us a solid and like the page so that Mike can feel better about himself)

1:18:17 / You can contact us, rate us, or subscribe

Episode 3 – Finding Bigfoot

 

This week’s discussion: Finding Bigfoot, Season 11, Eps. 1-5.  Watch it on Animal Planet. (cable sub required past first episode) Purchase on Amazon Video.

Next week’s discussion: Paris Hilton’s My New BFF Dubai, Eps. 1-3, 8-9.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

We discuss JS’s first pick, the long-running Animal Planet series Finding Bigfoot.  We break down the component parts of the episodic formula, discussing our thoughts on both the hosts and the witnesses they interview, as well as their dubious night ‘investigations’.  Topics discussed include the genial and sincere nature of the hosts, the ethnic and cultural diversity of the areas they visit, as well as the larger-scale flaws of the methods they use in their pursuit of the ever-elusive Bigfoots they seek to discover.  We conclude with a conversation on the decline of educational television and the appeal of ‘unreason’ in contemporary American culture.

Show Notes and Links

1:04 / Getting our equipment ready

1:34 / Mike tearfully recounts his betrayal at the hands of Jimmy Wales (this will not stop him from being lazy and crutching on Wikipedia for these show notes, however)

2:18 / Introducing the show

2:52 / How to find the show online – with caveats

3:42 / We can’t believe that they still haven’t found Bigfoot after 11 seasons

4:01 / Brief episode synopses

5:11 / A quick warning on the length of some of these episodes

6:36 / If there’s something Bigfoot-related in the area, this show will find a way to shoehorn it in

7:11 / The typical episode formula

8:44 / Starting with the characters, in order of lucidity

9:39 / Bobo – possibly some drug use in his history?

10:58 / A note on our critique of the hosts – we aren’t questioning their sincerity

11:32 / Are these people really qualified?

12:06 / Bobo as comic relief

12:22 / Matt Moneymaker, founder of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization

13:25 / Two types of pseudoscientific practitioners: the genuine believer and the con artist

13:44 / Cliff and Ranae, the token skeptic

14:42 / Cliff as the most intelligent of the three ‘believers’

16:13 / Assessing Ranae’s motivation – Is she a force for good or a cynical veneer of credibility?

17:56 / JS praises Ranae’s social intelligence

19:46 / Mike has a story about lunch with a 9/11 truther

21:57 / Ranae’s family background as motivator for being on the show

22:25 / JS thinks they could have found someone more willing to toe the ‘company line’

23:05 / Our observations on the town halls

23:53 / Mike noticed the constructed nature of the town halls from the Hawaii episode

25:35 / The town hall demographics

26:30 / JS wonders how many people were there for entertainment purposes

27:35 / Segueing into the witness followups

28:08 / Mike discusses the ethnic and cultural diversity in the episodes he watched

28:59 / The Hawaiians seemed to be expressing the folklore of the area, the Navajos – maybe not so much (although Mike includes a caveat about his overall ignorance of Navajo culture)

30:16 / Discussing the overall sincerity of the witnesses on the show

31:10 / Some of the less credible witnesses were also Bigfoot ‘researchers’

31:48 / The terrible CGI in the docudrama reenactments

32:14 / JS discusses the witnesses that stuck out to him as particularly sincere or insincere

34:01 / Mike discusses the flaws in the testimonies of the witnesses that stuck out to him

36:27 / The most unbelievable testimony of all

37:42 / The ‘smartphone camera’ problem

38:19 / The unreliability of eyewitness testimony

39:45 / Eyewitness testimony related fallacies; Liar, lord, or lunatic fallacy

41:09 / The ridiculous night investigations

43:40 / Seemed to have no rationale for their methods – except maybe it’s good TV?

44:26 / Finding Bigfoot: Rejected Evidence

44:48 / The hosts’ willingness to interpret random noises as Bigfoot

45:49 / How they could do an actual investigation

46:21 / Making it up as they go along – Bigfoots attracted to music?

46:53 / The ‘fever dream’ quality of night vision

47:27 / A thought experiment on discovering a new creature

48:23 / The sine waves the producers throw up on screen

48:59 / No consistency in the methodology or interpretations – are Bigfoots trying to be found or not?

50:10 / Comparing squatching to hunting

51:00 / JS explains hunting methods for all you liberal coastal elites

52:27 / Mike reminds JS about all the witnesses

52:37 / All the theories about sasquatches presented in this show are based on assumptions

53:22 / No consistency in the eyewitness testimony or physical ‘evidence’

54:25 / Going crazy over ‘thermal blips’ – until they turn out to be something else

55:40 / JS thought the hosts were the real interesting parts, not the investigations

56:26 / The discrepancies on foot casts somehow make them more credible to Bigfoot researchers

57:03 / JS talks about why he picked the show and his interest as a child in stuff like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, as well as The X-Files

57:50 / The incredible nature of the claim of thousands of social animals living in groups across vast areas of the country and leaving no physical evidence

59:30 / The ecological diversity makes it more likely that these creatures – if they actually existed – would be easily found since they would have advanced intellectual and social capabilities

1:00:41 / JS gives a capsule review of the book Neanderthal: Piece of shit!

1:02:09 / Mike butchers his Greek: pareidolia (human tendency to see faces) and apophenia (human tendency to perceive patterns in random data)

1:03:17 / Mike baits the Internet cranks

1:04:33 / We are exposed as part of the Marxist conspiracy!

1:06:29 / JS takes a page from James Randi, minus the sweet prize money

1:06:54 / Discussing the decline of educational TV, particularly on cable

1:07:20 / Our memories of TLC and Discovery in the 90’s

1:08:00 / Is this an inevitable by-product of capitalism?  Is it supply or demand?

1:10:12 / JS makes the demand-driven case

1:11:04 / Prevalence of conspiracy theories in US (note the inevitable kooks in the comment section)

1:11:49 / Mike makes a qualified case for supply

1:15:02 / JS links the desire to believe to Western culture’s celebration of exploration and discovery

1:16:19 / Mike wonders if the increasing complexity of scientific theory contributes to the proliferation of these shows

1:18:22 / JS elaborates on his earlier remarks; cryptozoology is accessible and tangible to general audiences

1:20:03 / Is there a solution?

1:20:20 / JS is optimistic, perhaps pseudoscientific beliefs will decline along with traditional religion

1:21:20 / Mike is Debbie Downer, believes that religion isn’t disappearing but changing

1:22:05 / Wrapping up with L. Ron Hubbard

1:22:47 / Announcing the next episode – with a bonus advert for Tubi TV