ABC is crossing over into the dead people business.
Alphabet has pacted with psychic medium and bestselling author George Anderson for “Contact,” a one-hour primetime special that also will double as a backdoor pilot for a possible series or specials franchise. ABC is the first broadcast net to jump into the burgeoning market for mediums who claim an ability to talk with the deceased, a trailed blazed by “Crossing Over” star John Edward.
“He’s the guy with the real sixth sense,” said Andrea Wong, senior VP of alternative programming for ABC. “We think he is legitimate.”
John Redmann, supervising producer on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” will take an exec producer credit on “Contact,” as will Anderson’s business partner, Andrew Barone. Project was packaged by William Morris.
While “Contact” is the first confirmed project of its kind set up at a major web, it is unlikely to be the last. NBC and Nash Entertainment are in the early stages of production on an hourlong spec featuring veteran psychic James Van Praagh.
ABC’s spec will differentiate itself from other spiritual skeins by having Anderson attempt to contact individuals with whom the general public might be familiar — either celebs or those who’ve been involved in headline-making events. It’ll likely avoid a studio audience.
“We want to deal with situations people care about,” Wong said.
Insiders said the NBC spec will also be celeb-focused, with Van Praagh possibly contacting dead celebs or helping celebs talk to deceased loved ones. He’ll also travel around the country to help relatives of deceased folks involved in headline-grabbing events.
Van Praagh is also developing a psychic talker with Tribune Entertainment (Daily Variety, Aug. 1), while CBS will tell his life story in a four-hour mini starring Ted Danson.
Edward’s Sci Fi Channel skein has been a hit for the cabler; a syndie version launched last week.
Mediums such as Anderson and Van Praagh have generated controversy in some circles, with critics questioning their ability to talk to dead people. Wong, however, is convinced that Anderson’s skills are real.
“I think this guy is the real deal,” she said. “I wouldn’t do (the special) if I didn’t think he was legitimate.”
Anderson, 49, is the author of the New York Times bestseller “Lessons From the Light.”
NBC declined comment on its development.
(Michael Schneider contributed to this report.)