Well, this is war. A while back, I reviewed the first season DVD set of A&E’s Paranormal State for my friends over at PinkRaygun.com, and I got a little carried away. I expected the show to be a simple Ghost Hunters rip off. You know, a bunch of amateur sleuths who don’t know how to operate an infrared thermometer stumbling around a house and yanking on chairs with string. Something inoffensive to everything but the public’s intelligence. Seriously, try explaining the whole concept of “cold spots” without tossing around some meaningless word like “energy.” Also, try explaining why dead people would spend the afterlife wiggling in front of a camcorder’s night vision.
Goddamn it, Ghost Hunters is a shitty show. But Paranormal State is worse. I won’t go into all the details here. You can go read my review for that. But the general feeling you get from watching the show is similar to that of watching a baby smash itself in the face with a hammer. The baby’s never seen the hammer before. It doesn’t understand things like inertia or anatomy. But there it is, banging away until there’s nothing left but a central nervous system and a feeding tube. In the same way, the Paranormal State crew are really just a bunch of idiot kids from Penn State who’ve read too many books from the New Age section at Barnes & Noble. They’re young, they’re dumb, and they’re really excited to be on TV. Truth be told, if I had an A/V equipment budget, no critical thinking skills, and a jones for Catholic mysticism, I’d probably want to get paid to splash holy water on white trash as well. It’s a good gig.
But what makes Paranormal State truly heinous is a little pimple of a man named Chip Coffey. Because he claims he can talk to dead things, he’s hired on as a consulting medium. It’s entertaining enough to watch him wander around a room making faces when he “senses” “emotions.” It’s even kind of hilarious that this leach was flown out on A&E’s dime to provide zero helpful advice other than murmuring “something’s not right here” and pointing at corners. Unfortunately, the fun ends when he’s brought in to counsel a young girl who believes she’s communicating with a dead peer.
Although Coffey claims the show brought in a child psychologist to counsel the girl, there’s no evidence of this in the finished show. Instead, we only see a parapsychologist (i.e. not a psychologist) tell the girl’s mother that she’s too young to be schizophrenic, even though this is just medically untrue. When the crack research team of mouth-breathing goth kids can’t find any record of a child murdered near the girl’s home, they do a national database search, which unsurprisingly to anyone living in reality, turns up a record of a girl murdered across the country several years before. Since they’re functionally retarded, the Paranormal State team thinks they found a match. And instead of having the living girl describe her dead best friend, they show her a picture of the murder victim and tell her this is the spirit she’s been seeing.
Chip Coffey also has imaginary friends, so he muscles his way into becoming the girl’s psychic mentor, throwing books at her and offering her the kind of spiritual counseling for which he normally charges the general public hundreds of dollars. I suppose in that respect this poor delusional girl got a bargain, though I’m not sure her savings in psychic medium bills can make up for the untold psychological damage she suffered from having her psychosis fed.
It’s this kind of idiotic exploitation that really pisses me the hell off, especially when we’re talking about innocent children. The slack-jawed hauntees the show normally takes advantage of don’t quite muster as much sympathy from me, mostly because I really enjoy watching an adult with an 8th grade education trying in vain to pull together enough vocabulary words to accurately describe a demon attack. But now A&E has given Chip Coffey his own show, Psychic Kids, which is nothing but the kind of sick abuse that dragged down Paranormal State.
Hence, war. I’m thinking about calling it Operation: Coffey Roast, but I don’t want to imply that Chip Coffey is in any way delicious. The opposite, in fact. Things are still up in the air, but there will be a secret meeting for all operatives at Dragon*Con in Atlanta this Labor Day weekend. Coffey’s based out of the area, so we’ll be close to the enemy. I’ll update with more details here and at my site, AmateurScientist.org, as the date approaches.
But remember, we must not underestimate Chip Coffey’s psychic powers. In addition to his preternatural ability to exploit children for fun and profit, he’s also eerily good at making faces and pointing. You’ve been warned.