Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Sensing Murder: Psychics Revealed

I didn't watch it. I tried to, but there were two issues. Three issues.

First, I was tired. The night before, Lurgee jnr decided to have a BAD NIGHT and by the time he finally decided sleeping was okay (cica 3am), I was too wide awake to sleep. So come yesterday evening, when the Sensing Murder: Psychics Revealed (1) was broadcast, I had been awake for A VERY LONG TIME.

Second, the part that I saw was just an extended promotion for the 'psychics.' I expected numbers for ticket booking lines to appear at the bottom of the screens. Given that I had been awake for A VERY LONG TIME, my willingness to stay up to watch that sort of thing was limited. A detailed profile of the 'psychics,' even one that assumed they were genuine, would have been interesting. But as usual, the Sensing Murder team provided a slick, nasty product with the gravitas of a souffle.

Third, and this by way of bearing out my criticism of the producers, even the short portion I did watch contained two outright untruths. First, they claimed, as they did in the Insight episode, that Nigel Latta was a sceptic. He is or was nothing of the kind. He made clear in the revised edition of his book, Into The Darklands And Beyond (2), that he was ambivalent about the existance of psychic powers. So not a sceptic at all. The other instance also involved Latta. The narrator declared "Nigel Latta is interested in a link between childhood trauma and the development of psychic powers." Cut to Latta, talking about how childhood trauma may make the victim percceive the world as a darker place, and make them more likely to feel negative (3). Nothing about psychic powers at all, or anything to indicate he was saying anything even close to what the narrator suggested he was.

In his book, Latta declared that he had "ideas about playing on a bigger stage" than as a clinical psychologist (4). I didn't realise this meant appearing on Sensing Murder and breakfast TV as a talking head. When he appeared on the Insight episode of Sensing Murder, I thought he had been taken advantage of by the show's producers, to give their shoddy product a veneer of respectability. Into The Darklands And Beyond revealed that he had some sort of long standing commitment to the show - the contacted him to do work for them on the first season, and he was pally enough to call producer Cinna Smith to ask about the show's authenticity (5). And last night he willingly appeared again. So he's witting party to the show, in all its nastiness and dissembling.

I admired Latta for his work with sex offenders and troubled children. But working on breakfast TV and Sensing Murder puts him into the sub-Oprah freakshow category. If he's trying to establish a platform from which to get a message across, he's a fool because he's lost his credibility. If he's doing it simply to promote himself, he should be ashamed (6). On the credit side, he's revised his comments on Sensing Murder to make it clear that he is not endorsing Webber's psychic powers. He complains about the amount of attention paid to his appearance on Sensing Murder, compared to that given to his other work. But that only begs the question, why did he agree to make a second appearance on the show? (7)

1 - 'Sensing Murder: Psychic Revealed,' broadcast by TV2 on Tuesday, 13th of November.
2 - 'Into the Darklands and Beyond,' by Nigel Latta, published by Harper Collins, 2007. Latta described his ambiguous position in the chapter describing his experiences on Sensing Murder.
3 - This is from memory, and not word-for-word, but I am positive that I have represented it fairly. If the producers would care to provide me with an accurate version, I'll be happy to ammend.
4 -'Into the Darklands: Updated Edition' by Nigel Latta, published by Harper Collins, 2005. The quotation is from from the final chapter, "Simple Things," page 301.
5 - As per #2, above.
6 - I'm sure he's quivering at the chastisement I'm handing out here. Interestingly, Latta has a show of his own coming out on TVNZ this year, according to his website (
http://www.goldfishwisdom.co.nz/?t=15 - as at 14th November 2007.) A year ago I'd have watched it. Now I probably won't bother.
7 - From Latta's website, Goldfish Wisdom, as of 14th November, 2007: http://www.goldfishwisdom.co.nz/?t=46

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