Psychic John Edward’s TV career has risen from the dead in this slightly altered version of “Crossing Over,” the vehicle that brought him fleeting fame on Sci Fi Channel and syndication. Here, the medium not only “reads” from crowds at events but personally follows up with the families to heighten the emotional stakes. It’s a suitable change for his new cable home, and those open to Edward’s act will find ample doses of reassuring contact from the other side, which could spell success by female net WE’s unexacting rating standards.
The powerful hunger for evidence of an afterlife is spoofed by a BBC America series that also premieres Friday. (Shouldn’t Edward have foreseen this?) In “High Spirits With Shirley Ghostman,” comic Marc Wootton plays a psychic who, among other things, tells engaged couples which of them will die first and says he’s being visited by “a tall man, what was charged by a hippo.” It’s all rather puerile and not especially good, but Wootton’s shtick does remind us how willing people are to buy into nonsense.
Of course, to hear Edward, the show’s producer and star, tell it, he’s returning to TV strictly to share his gift with the masses. At that point, I was tempted to flip over to Showtime’s debunking “Penn & Teller: Bullshit!” just to settle my stomach.
Nevertheless, the notion of interacting with dead loved ones is so intoxicating that Edward has no shortage of candidates, including a cameraman accidentally sucked in during the premiere and, in the piece de resistance, a woman who has lost two children in a fire.
As he probes an audience member, Edward often misses with his questions (many of those were fastidiously edited out of his earlier show) and can be as vague as asking, “Tell me about eighth grade” or “He’s telling me to acknowledge that October is significant.” Still, he scores enough improbable-sounding hits to make you go “Hmm,” which is all that’s really required to cause a grieving mother to melt into tears.
Slickly assembled, “Cross Country” employs Jack Walker’s Hallmark-card score to good effect, and Edward does possess a caring, self-effacing manner interacting with his marks (er, that is, subjects) that demonstrates his skill as a performer, whether his talent is worldly or otherwise.
In the interest of full disclosure, though, an unseen force is telling me to acknowledge that I think Edward is a modern-day snake-oil salesman profiting from others’ vulnerability, as are TV outlets that provide him a platform. From a commercial standpoint, though, there’s always enough guilt, pain and uncertainty to ensure that business stays brisk.