First thing on this tape is The New Adventures of Superman as it was called in the UK, or Lois and Clark for our colonial cousins.
This show was at its best when the characters were interacting, and struggled somewhat in portraying Superman’s superheroics. Here’s Superman flying.
It’s Hardly Christopher Reeve. I fact, it’s barely George Reeves. Still, it was way better than the even cheaper Superboy of a few years previously.
After this, recording switches to LWT for a bit of weather.
Then we have Beyond Belief. A live programme, presented by David Frost, purporting to want to test claims of the paranormal. So who would he get to co-present such a programme? An expert in testing paranormal claims, like James Randi, or Ray Hyman? No. It’s this guy.
Yes, it’s Uri Geller, spoon-bender extraordinaire. Hard;y a disinterested party.
To make matters worse, the other co-presenter is “the country’s leading psychic healer,” Matthew Manning.
He hopes to heal someone, with a demonstrable change in someone, live on air.
Uri’s first stunt is an old party favourite, the lifting someone from a chair by your fingers. It’s something loads of people have done, it’s a well known effect, but of course Uri has to try and make it into something supernatural. “I believe… This is my theory, that the pyramids were built like that.”
He’s also really rude to the person in the chair. He starts off saying “I actually need someone really heavy. I don’t want to use the word fat, but…” then he points at his chosen target. “You look… come on, get up. come on.”
Then, at the end, “At home, if you try to do it, don’t put a thin person on the chair … Always use someone really heavy.”
Then, in an attempt to present some scientific angle, Frost says “We’re delighted, in the interests of scientific scrutiny to welcome Britain’s, if not the World’s, most respected, prolific writer on the paranormal, Mr Colin Wilson.” Now, I have a certain fondness for Mr Wilson, since his novel The Space Vampires was used as the basis of the film Lifeforce, a ludicrous but entertaining Quatermass-inflected Sci-Fi/Horror film from director Tobe Hooper. But his non-fiction writings were definitely on the credulous side of the spectrum. He even wrote a book about Uri Geller, and I can guarantee that if it was critical of Geller, he would not have been booked for this show. So not, perhaps, such a coup for scientific scrutiny.
The other scientific guest is a big improvement. Dr Friedbert Karger is a physicist from the Max Planck institute. He suggests an experiment you could perform to see if the weight of the subject is actually reduced, as Geller claimed, just by putting the whole setup on a weighing machine. A suggestion ignored by Frost, as I think he had a little trouble with Karger’s accent.
Next, Matthew Manning does a similar demonstration, supposed to prove the power of positive thinking. He does the trick where you push (or try to push) someone’s arm down, while they try to resist. To make the demonstration more entertaining, they do it on Panther of the Gladiators.
Next, Uri does what he claims is the biggest psychic experiment ever. He shows four symbols on screen, then he chooses one, and attempts to psychically send the symbol through the TV to the home audience. Then they ask the audience to phone the number corresponding to the symbol they think was chosen (on a premium rate number, naturally).
Here are the four symbols, as presented on screen. Concentrate very hard, as you might still be able to detect a faint psychic residue even from this screengrab, years after the experiment took place. Which of the four symbols was Uri sending with his mind?
I’ll reveal the answer later in this post, so no peeking.
After an ad break, Geller does his usual ‘fixing broken watches’ schtick. He tells the studio audience and the audience at home to get out their broken watches, or cutlery or keys. He even says “wind the broken watches and broken clocks up” which almost guarantees that some of them will start, even if only for a short time.
Naturally, some of the watches, having been shaken up a lot, and even wound, started ticking, so Uri really milks this, running around the studio to talk to the various audience members whose watches have started. There’s even a bent key and a bent spoon. Uri keeps both of these, and later on, he brings them out again saying ‘Look, they’ve continued to bend’.
Next, they introduce four people who are going to be the subject of Manning’s “healing” – four people with various physical restrictions on their movement – usually the inability to raise an arm above a certain height. They are then taken away to a quiet room, so Manning can work his magic.
“The breakup of the Soviet empire had many consequences and one of them was the discovery of our next guest, Boris Tulchinsky”
Boris is blindfolded, then he leads Colin Wilson around in order to locate one of nine objects placed on plinths (“That’s a very hard word, plinths” opines David Frost) chosen at random. This is an old mentalism trick that Derren Brown has done plenty of times. This is coupled with the blindfold. He’s blindfolded, then he has a hood over his head. Why the hood? It’s so you can’t see when he tilts his head back and looks out from under the blindfold.
In fact, when he first puts the blindfold on – you’ll notice that he puts the blindfold on, not the audience member – he even tilts his head back to make sure he can see. Right there on stage.
After the break, there’s a brand new car up for grabs. Uri sends a mental image of “a striking location” where the keys to the car are hidden, and viewers have to write in with the right location, for a chance to win the car. There’s no follow-up to this, of course. I have a vague memory that the answer was Big Ben, but that might just be me remembering my initial guess. However, Big Ben was mentioned in the show earlier, so I wonder if they were putting a couple of subliminal clues in there, and letting the size of the TV audience provide the chance of someone guessing the correct answer.
Then, it’s back to ‘healer’ Matthew Manning, who has had some success with his subjects, as a couple of them can, indeed, raise their arms higher up than they previously could.
Although other successes might possibly have been a bad idea.
Then, Frost asks Friedbert if he has an explanation for the ‘healing’ – at which point he outs himself as at least a partial believe, because his wife is a healer, so he accepts the healing at face value, because of his personal experience. Hmmm.
But let’s not dismiss Friedbart, because his greatest moment is yet to come.
Colin Wilson’s view is standard believer – “I think the energy is in the psychic ether.”
Now comes the finale of the show, Christina Thomas, who is a firewalker.
The presentation here is top notch. Matthew Manning cracks an egg into a frying pan lying on the coals, and cooks the egg. This really does sell the idea of the heat, better than any boring temperature meter.
Then Frost banters a bit with Christina, rather stiltedly, and she does her walk, perfectly successfully. There’s more banter. Then Frost throws to the studio, to Friedbart, to see if his pathetic science can explain the miracle we’ve just seen.
“I think this is explainable by physics. This is something else than that what we have seen before. Because the heat conductivity and the heat capacity of the live coal is very low, and therefore I think everybody could go over these live coals.”
Colin Wilson is unimpressed – there’s a quick shake of the head. But Christina, next to Frost outside the studio, is nodding her head, because presumably she’s led umpteen firewalking sessions where the whole point is that anyone can do it, albeit, from her perspective, by using inner focus and positive thinking, presumably.
But Frost is unconvinced (having, it seems, done zero research himself for this show). “Everybody could? You don’t mean that, do you? You couldn’t do it could you?”
But Friedbart isn’t backing down, because he’s done the maths. “I could do it, yes” he replies. “The please come and do it” says Frost, adding “I think we can get a two minute overrun for this” – because this is a live broadcast.
Friedbart, who is still inside the studio, walks out, as Frost fills with Christina. She assures Frost that anyone can do it because we’re all so powerful, yadda yadda yadda.
Then Friedbart arrives. He explains how there’s a psychological trick going on here, because the radiated heat is so great that there’s a natural fear of the heat, but the conductance is not so high.
he then whips off his shoes and socks, and runs across the coals. purely using the power of knowing stuff and understanding things.
Christina makes a valiant attempt to woo it up again, saying “I don’t think you have to explain it, if you begin explaining it, then I’m not sure it works so well.” But I think this counts as a slam-dunk for science. Especially when they let Christina ramble on and on, and she starts talking about “regenerating cells that are maybe deteriorating, that are maybe even cancerous”. Jeepers.
And that’s the end. Frost wraps up by basically saying that it’s all true.
Oh, and in case you care, here’s how the television audience voted on the four symbols. Did you get it right?
Of course, Uri’s secret symbol was the star.
Here’s the whole programme, in three parts.
Next on the tape, there’s a short film showing as part of Channel 4’s ‘Red Light Zone’ – presumably one of their occasional pervy seasons, like their infamous Red Triangle experiment. Blue is a strange short. It stars David Cronenberg, better known as a director, here playing the manager of a carpet wholesaler. The film juxtaposes his humdrum workday with clips from an old porn film narrated by the actress in the clip, reminiscing about her brief career in the saucy film industry.
After this short, recording continues with another of the Red Light Zone programmes Chicken Ranch, about a legal brothel in Nevada, an early film from documentary maker Nick Broomfield.
After this film, there’s a trail for a Jane Asher film, Closing Numbers. Also a trailer for the Cheltenham Festival racing.
Then, there’s an episode of The Word – with a title sequence that’s verging on the pornographic. I’m not a Word afficionado so I’ve no idea if that was the standard sequence at this time.
And as if the title sequence was bad enough, it’s some kind of crossover with It’s A Knockout, so Yewtree Monster Stuart Hall features heavily. Also featured, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and Craig Charles.
The tape finishes partway through this programme.
- Air Canada – Mike McShane
- Rover Dealers
- Crunchy Nut Cornflakes
- Royal Insurance
- Anchor Cheese
- British Beef
- Air Canada
- Audi A4 – an interesting ad, as it plays against the prevailing image of the city trader, painting him as annoying git as he drives the Audi, then revealing he was taking it for a test drive, and he didn’t really think it was for him.
- Johnson’s Baby Lotion
- One Plus One telephone dating
- Hall’s Soothers
- The Equitable Life
- Lee Jeans
- Terry’s Chocolate Orange Milk
- Renault Clio
- No 7
- Sensodyne F
- Pure Swing
- Coca Cola
- Andrew Collinge Salons Solutions
- Tic Tac
- Tetley Bitter
- Ford Escort
- Renault Clio
- Walkers Crisps
- Vidal Sassoon
- Clorets – Julie Walters
- Cadbury’s Fingers – Dame Edna
- Vanish In-Wash Stain Remover
- Tetley Bitter
- Terry’s Chocolate Orange Pieces
- BK shoes
- Citroen Xantia – Bryan Brown
- Doritos – Judge Rheinhold
- American Express