As reality TV trends go, psychics, mediums and clairvoyants are running neck and neck with poker, so add British import and Merv Griffin discovery Lisa Williams to the personalities who won't leave the dead alone, following in John Edward's and James Van Praagh's morbid footsteps.
The current wave of TV psychics can be pretty intriguing — unless, of course, you fall into the skeptics category, in which case it’s all pure hokum that exploits people at their most vulnerable. Having reviewed several of these programs, let’s stipulate that believers will never sway those who see this as strictly stagecraft or vice versa, and leave it at that.
Judged strictly as a TV personality, then, Williams is a pleasant enough presence, with her thick British accent (she regularly resides in Worcestershire) and spiky hair, highlighted by a skunk-like blond patch. In the premiere episode (some of which might be dispersed into subsequent hours), she “reads” a couple of African-American guys just walking down the street, a haunted hotel room, an adopted woman and, in the most emotional as well as troubling segment, the widow of a U.S. soldier slain in Iraq.
For students of the genre, Williams delivers all the reassuring patter, minus Edward’s sense of humor or the soothing strains of Van Praagh — who, notably, inspired a CBS miniseries with the very similar title “Living With the Dead.” Actually, the colloquial term for this, in some circles, is “marriage.”
That said, the reading with the young war widow will push all the wrong buttons for those unimpressed by Williams identifying April as a significant month, sussing out that the husband’s name was John or guessing (wait, that is, intuiting) that the wife keeps a photo next to her bed. After all, remember Edward’s earlier syndicated show (he’s now seen on WE, another channel for women) that got him into hot water when the host offered to contact 9/11 victims.
That was then, however, and this is now — at a time when people are as hungry as ever for answers, in a place where the thirst to see beyond has never gone out of fashion, on a cable dial where cheap and compelling makes for a potent programming formula.
Given those worldly forces, “Lisa Williams: Life Among the Dead” could be a solid player for Lifetime, which is introducing the show with a six-week tryout. It hardly seems like progress, though, to think that producer Griffin’s next wheel of fortune could roll through a graveyard.