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NBC Offers Reality Show For Wanna-Be Mentalists With Uri Geller, Criss Angel

Published: Jul 17, 2007

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - NBC is looking for the next great mentalist.

No, the ratings-starved peacock network isn't searching for a psychic to help executives pick sure-fire ratings winners.

It's just another stinking reality show.

"Phenomenon" (the working title) will pair self-proclaimed mentalists Uri Geller and Criss Angel to test freaky contestants who want to follow in their footsteps.

Geller and Angel have followed in the footsteps of The Amazing Kreskin, now in his 70s and still performing. Kreskin has never claimed to have psychic or special powers.

NBC Entertainment executives announced Monday that the series will be based on Geller's successful Israeli TV show, on which he gave 10 contestants weekly challenges.

Celebrity guests and a studio audience will participate. The search for contestants begins soon.

Angel is director and star of a cable series, "Criss Angel Mindfreak," and is one of the most impressive "mentalist" performers working today.

Geller was a sensation in the 1970s. He appeared on numerous television shows and appeared to bend a spoon with his mental powers.

In 1978, noted magician and skeptic The Amazing (James) Randi helped Johnny Carson "expose" Geller on a memorable episode of NBC's "The Tonight Show." Randi made sure Geller could not handle the spoons and other props prior to the show, and Geller was unable to perform any of his stunts.

"The Tonight Show" ended Geller's rise to fame in the United States, but he pressed on. Now he is coming back to the network that sidetracked his career.

Magicians Penn and Teller have often said that "mentalists" are just magicians who use tricks, misdirection and sleight of hand to amaze and impress the audience.

WASHINGTON RETURNS: NBC executives also told visiting TV critics that the reality competition "The Singing Bee" is doing so well in the ratings that it has been renewed for the fall.

"The Singing Bee," which tests contestants' memory skills, drew 13 million viewers last week.

The network will keep the karaoke competition on Tuesday nights.

This means the fall schedule will be juggled around. "Deal or No Deal" will move to 8 p.m. Fridays, and "1 vs. 100" will go on hiatus as a midseason replacement.

Isaiah Washington, let go from "Grey's Anatomy," will join NBC's new "Bionic Woman" for five episodes this fall. NBC programming chief Ben Silverman says he couldn't understand why an actor with Washington's talent would be dropped from a drama series.

"He's a wonderful actor," Silverman said.

NBC is developing an action series that will feature Washington, Silverman said.

On "Bionic Woman," Washington will play a mysterious character who helps Jamie Sommers (Michelle Ryan) develop her special abilities.

His departure from "Grey's Anatomy" came after a flap over a homophobic slur he made during an argument with co-star Patrick Dempsey. Washington apologized for his behavior.

VIDBITS: Jerry Seinfeld will play himself on the season debut of "30 Rock." He will mix it up with programming chief Jack (Alec Baldwin).

•The hottest items at the online NBC store are the Dwight Schrute bobblehead (Rainn Wilson's character from "The Office") and the "Save the Cheerleader" T-shirts from "Heroes." NBC has sold more than 110,000 Dwight bobbleheads and more than 4,000 of the T-shirts.

•David Duchovny says he is ready to step into the shoes of Fox Mulder again. The former "X-Files" co-star, who is starring in the HBO sex comedy "Californication," told TV critics a script by "X-Files" creator Chris Carter is in the mail and filming should begin this fall. He says former co-star Gillian Anderson is on board. It has been nearly 10 years since the disappointing "X-Files" movie.

On the raunchy HBO series, Duchovny plays a disillusioned novelist with writer's block who is bed-hopping his way through Hollywood.

Keyword: Walt TV, for more from Walt Belcher in his blog from the Television Critics Association summer press tour.

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