Britain’s Psychic Challenge, Five

by | Jan 15, 2006 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

We don’t have to have extra sensory perception to know that we won’t be watching the other six episodes of this elimation game for so-called psychic mediums.

What was good about it?

• Trisha Goddard – who probably wishes she’s never quit her trashy ITV talk show to go to Five – built up the suspense nicely when she opened up the envelopes revealing who’d been axed in a similar manner to how she delivered the results of lie detector and DNA tests on her old show.

• Some of the bizarre things the ‘psychics’ came out with; “I can travel space travel with my mind, I was with                King Arthur last week!”, “I mirror horses, I see their thoughts and feel their feelings”, “The main person who guides me is The Chinaman” and “Mediums have told me I’m the nearest thing they’ve seen to Jesus Christ!”.

• The initial test was to see if the ‘psychics’ could tell what was behind a screen (it was alternately body builder or a ballerina). Some of the guesses included ‘an old woman with glasses sitting in a chair’, ‘a glass container’, ‘a big display of flowers’, and best of all ‘A Christmas tree with Santa and Trisha there with a present’.

• They also were given a Polaroid in an envelope of what was behind the screen to see if they could ‘sense’ it. One contestant clearly put it up to light in an attempt to see through the envelope.

• Illusionist Philip Escoffey demonstrating as task “designed to seem psychic”. He asked two people to take a random page number from one of two books and he’d ‘predict’ the first letter of the first word on that page. All he did was simply learn the first word on every page of the two books.

• We also liked Escoffey’s ‘blue swans’ analogy: “I don’t believe in blue swans. Until I’ve seen every swan I can’t say there aren’t any but at the moment I just keep seeing white swans”.

• The discussions among the panel of experts featuring Escoffey, psychologist Professor Chris French and Jackie Malton (the woman who DCI Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect was based on), who said she’d be relying on good old fashioned intuition and common sense, although she was the most open minded.

• The ‘psychics’ miserable failure when they had to pick the two pregnant women from a group of ten. Five out of eight of them got both wrong, and the remaining three only got one right. One of the women who was picked three times said later she didn’t want children at all. When the same experiment was conducted with random people, exactly the same success rate was achieved by chance.

• We have to admit we were quite impressed by the two most successful results: Diane matched up all the revolting married couples – the odds of doing that are apparently more than 100 to 1. And Amanda detected the presence of an American serviceman and a wartime crash, reducing a man to tears,.

• Dr. Mike Smith. He said he’d been a doctor almost since Florence Nightingale walked the wards and he looked it. He looked like a museum antique that could do with dusting, but we liked him.

• The interesting, albeit well trodden, point that so-called sixth senses could actually be primeval instincts which are no longer used as much by human beings but are still seen in animals, such as reports of dog being able to detect cancer.

• Our favourite of the psychics ‘won’, Diane Lazarus. She was a Welsh girl who looked a lot like Kat Slater. She claimed she used her psychic powers for helping in “serious murder investigations”. Her “only psychic in the village” joke was rubbish though.

What was bad about it?

• The reality TV talent show style way the psychics were whittled down to eight from “nearly 2000 people” and how a “jury of ordinary people” would vote their performance every week losing one member until they have a winner. The jury certainly have the mentality of people who vote in reality TV shows: “Dennis probably did worse, but he’s so sweet!”.

• Unlike the jury we didn’t like Dennis much. The beefy, bearded former soldier looked a lot like a retired wrestler and came out with some frankly weird comments; “I don’t mind sceptics, but I couldn’t eat a whole one”. For someone so eager to prove sceptics wrong, Dennis didn’t seem much of a psychic. He failed all the tasks apart from one .

• The claim that psychic ability is unquantifiable and hard to explain seemed a bit of a cop out, as well as consultant Deborah Borgen’s claim that some days it works, some days it doesn’t.

• The awful floating algae/television static style special effects for the title sequence and the dire cod-opera/techno soundtrack.

• We could have done without Trisha doing her tour guide act by going on and on about Cambridge being “Britain’s foremost centre of learning”, with “more than a hint of romance”, and “home of one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world”.

• The programme was pretty pretentious. It was made to look fairly high-brow, but ultimately hollow. It was the TV equivalent of a Big Mac served with mint sauce.

• To say this eight were the cream of the crop doesn’t bode well for the other 1,992 contestants.

• Once the novelty wore off we got the impression this whole programme had been a waste of time. The panel and the jury agreed it didn’t offer any proof whatsoever that ESP and psychic ability existed, and even said it wasn’t something that can be quantified anyway. We doubt opinions will be changed either way by this programme.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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