The following is a TV review/rant I cobbled together after watching one of medium-extraordinaire Derek Acorah’s shows a few years back. More deliciously fun Acorah poo-pooing to follow over the next week or so – Jamie
Snakes on an Astral Plane
Most parents keep their children away from gory, overtly disturbing, sexual or horrific TV content: explicit war films; late-night pieces of a pornographic nature; violent gun-and-monster flicks, and anything that has a hint of the red stuff or even a soupcon of rough language. All well and good.
But there are some programmes that slip under the radar, which many families actively encourage their children to watch. Happy, feel-good shows that seem innocent upon brief inspection, but if explored in any depth turn out to be more insidiously destructive and psychologically scarring than a back-to-back late-night marathon of Vampire Gore Splat Anal Destruction Nympho Whores in Trench Warfare Hell.
Welcome to Derek Acorah (broadcast on Sky 3 in the UK), a regular hour-long delve into the spirit world with the eponymous Derek Acorah, ‘Britain’s best-known medium’ – an accolade bestowed upon him by the Daily Mail. ‘Best known’? Yes, he’s ‘Britain’s best-known medium’ in the same way that AIDS is the world’s ‘best known’ sexual infection, and Adolph Hitler is Austria’s ‘best known’ Jew-killer.
So what’s my beef with Acorah and his ilk? Surely it’s all a bit of harmless fun? Doesn’t Derek Acorah bring people comfort and closure, say ‘please’ alot, and thread love, peace and happiness into and around all of his dalliances with the spirits and their living loved ones? Well, yes. But this is why he’s so insidious. What gives a man like Derek Acorah, with no demonstrable psychic powers – certainly none that would stand up to any scientific scrutiny – the right to take people’s raw feelings of loss, hurt, fear and confusion, and attempt to exorcise them with flimflam and lies? Not to mention to extort these peoples’ feelings for money?
There are a few possible explanations for his conduct. The first is that Derek knows he has no psychic powers, and is cynically employing his theatrical tricks to make money from vulnerable punters, or else to satisfy some insecurity or Messianic complex whereby he feels a surge of self-worth or grandeur through ‘curing’ people – even if it is by a sugared deception. The second is that Derek actually believes he possesses both ESP and the ability to commune with the dead, in which case he requires some urgent and far-reaching mental help.
In the episode of Derek Acorah broadcast yesterday (Friday 21st August) Derek brought out a woman and her pet snake. He attempted to read the reptile’s ‘thoughts’ and translate them for its owner.
‘He’s not been himself,’ said the woman. Excuse me? How can you tell that a snake hasn’t been himself? A drop in witty repartee? Not dressing as smartly?
Anyway, Derek was able to meld with the snake and went on to dispense some real psychically-gleaned pearls of wisdom. ‘You’ll need to take him to a vet,’ he told the woman.
Later, Derek added that his long-time spirit guide Sam was sure that the snake wanted to watch more television. The woman looked enthralled. During her own straight-to-camera moment, away from the studio audience, she made excuses for Derek. ‘It can’t have been easy reading a snake. I think he tried his best.’
Derek did little better when he moved on to bipedal mammals; although the audience didn’t share my assessment. He appeared again to have convinced them that he was a spiritual savant and all-round psychic miracle worker. This despite the fact that any person with a little common sense and a lot of balls (or a psychological condition) could come up with an achingly similar ‘reading’ and enjoy a chorus of oo’s and aah’s from any number of poor misguided souls. I’m being diplomatic here.
His subject was a woman called Sharon, aged between 50 and 65. He amazed by asking if she knew anyone called Jack, Betty or Anne. She did. Incredible. Who would have thought that a woman born between 1945 and 1960 would know people with some of the most common names of that era? He moved on to wow her with such startling and specific questions as ‘Do you know someone who died of breast cancer?’ and ‘You’ve had to counsel someone recently who’s been through a break-up, haven’t you?’ Shockingly, she had. Who would have thought, given how long she’d lived, that there would be a statistical chance of those two things having happened? Certainly not Sharon or the tearful studio audience.
‘You’ve not had an easy life, have you?’ oozed Derek, staring at her like some demented hypnotist.
‘No,’ she agreed. I was almost out of my seat by then. This was getting spooky.
‘But you’re a star,’ he told her, almost on the verge of sobbing himself, ‘I know you’re a star. And they (the gaggle of dead communicating with him) know you’re a star.’
Who knows what frisson of sexual excitement was zapping through his balls at that moment as he held this deluded woman’s happiness in his huckster’s hands. He was probably thinking: ‘Ha! Jesus can suck on my big Liverpudlian throbber.’
Have you ever heard noises in your house late at night? Probably just the pipes, or the radiators, or wood or cement expanding or contracting, right? WRONG, DICKHEAD! It’s ghosts. They’re there to talk to you, silly. Only they’re not going to make it easy for you. If your death has been foreseen by your loved ones on the other side, what are they going to do? Simply tell someone like Derek Acorah in plain, uncluttered English so that you can do something to prevent it? Rap out a warning in Morse Code? Use telekinesis on the fridge magnets to spell out ‘GO TO HOSPITAL’? No. They’d really rather prefer to make pots fall on the floor until you get the message.
Sharon had heard things in her house at night.
‘You’re confident you’re psychic, aren’t you?’
‘Well, yes, I’ve heard things. But I’m not scared.’
‘You’ve got an innate receptiveness,’ he told her. ‘You’re sensitive to spirits.’
What I like most about Derek Acorah is how he listens to all the facts, forms a hypothesis, looks at it from all angles, contemplates everything deeply, conducts a thorough investigation, follows through with an experiment, and then arrives at a wholly logical and scientific result. Inspiring.
The best part of the show, however, was when he grilled an old lady (not literally, although that really would’ve been entertaining) and claimed to have one of her acquaintances from the other side jabbering in his ear. The old lady had no idea who the person was.
‘Not someone in your family?’
‘Someone you know?’
‘If anyone in the audience wants to jump in, if you know them, please raise your hand.’
Even that little bit of fishing never made the audience in the least suspicious. Even when he moved on and left the old lady on spiritual call-waiting to entertain another spook they were still on his side and in full support of his miraculous powers. And still no one raised an eyebrow when he pretended to be in conversation with the spirit and said: ‘What’s that? You’re saying someone here does know who you are? OK, but we’re going to have to move on now, please. Step to one side, please. Thank you.’ Yeah, fuck off, ghost, nobody likes you!
It’s quite telling that after the end credits roll a message flashes up that reads: ‘All views and messages relayed in the show are for entertainment purposes only.’
Wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect someone who sincerely believed himself to possess genuine supernatural powers to fight the government and the media regulators tooth and claw to remove such a disclaimer from the end of his television broadcasts?
Just a thought. I’d like to lobby to have the message displayed throughout the entire show, in huge block capitals at the top of the screen. And force Derek to shout it at the end of each reading.
If you’re looking for something mildly diverting and inspiring for your children to watch on television as you organise lunch or dinner, don’t be tempted to expose them to Derek Acorah.
In the true spirit of the medium, simply go over to the other side. Or put on a DVD double-bill of the Hostel films which they can watch while you beat them with a fucking spade.