NBC’s Phenomenon, a competition between mentalists, debuts tonight

Tonight at 8 p.m. ET, NBC debuts Phenomenon, a live competition between mentalists (i.e. magicians/illusionists) that’s hosted and judged by Uri Geller and Criss Angel. The winner, who will be selected by viewers, gets $250,000.

On the show, “10 carefully selected mentalists … will compete live against one another each week by demonstrating a wide spectrum of mystifying talents on a panel of celebrity guests who experience the spellbinding illusions along with the studio audience,” according to NBC. The show “is based on a successful Israeli version judged and monitored by Geller, which achieved a historical record-breaking viewing audience.”

Criss Angel told the Orlando Sentinel that he’s participating because “”I just thought a show like this would give people a legitimate opportunity. I’m going to experience as you and all the home viewers are for the very first time when they’re performing it. Then to see what their claim is I think has, as I said, all the ingredients for a very exciting and potentially explosive show,” he said.

And without directly referencing his spoon-bending and co-host, he said, “I’m not out to do anybody wrong or to embarrass people. I’m not that type of person. I’m just talking about the facts. When I say explosive if somebody claims to be able to bend, let’s just say a spoon with supernatural ability, I think it’s an explosive situation to be able to put that person in a situation to demonstrate without the methodology that they’re using.”

Phenomenon [NBC]
Criss Angel likes the possibilities of NBC’s “Phenomenon” [Orlando Sentinel]

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.