Court TV’s ‘Psychic’ Hunch Is Paying Off

Oct 27, 2003  •  Post A Comment

It started out as a one-time, one-hour documentary special focusing on how psychics have helped police solve some of their toughest cases.
But the show, “Psychic Detectives,” ended up marking another watershed in the ongoing evolution of Court TV. When the special ran in February, it garnered a 1.2 rating in Court TV homes, meaning that more than 1 million people tuned in, and it helped Court TV jump to eighth among ad-supported cable networks for the night.
“It was a situation that during production of the show, we found a bunch of stories and leads for other stories that we couldn’t cover,” said Ed Hersh, senior VP, documentaries and specials, for Court TV. “So after its initial success, we thought to ourselves, `How do we keep this going?”’
The show was the brainchild of Robyn Hutt, Court TV’s senior executive producer of documentaries and specials.
“It’s just a fascinating subject,” Ms. Hutt said. “What we have discovered is that police detectives often turn to psychics, working quietly with them in these very tough cases.”
She recalled the story of a young boy who had gone missing in a campground in the Adirondacks in upstate New York.
“The police ended up bringing in a psychic,” Ms. Hutt said. “They gave him the boy’s shoe and just by him holding it in his hand, he was able to give the police the coordinates to find the boy. That child would have died if he hadn’t been found soon.”
The show is a natural progression for Court TV, which segued at the end of 1998 from offering courtroom spectator programming to changing the evening lineup to include such syndicated fare as “Homicide,” “NYPD Blue” and “Profiler.” Hand in hand with that change came a move toward producing more original documentary programming, often focusing on the high-tech wizardry used to solve crimes (“Forensic Files,” for example). In December 2002, the channel went to all original programming in prime time.
“We have looked at every interesting crime-solving tool that’s out there,” Mr. Hersh said. “But with this show I think we’re looking at a shadowy realm that no one really understands. And still it’s a tool that police often use, albeit it’s something they can’t always explain.”
Production is under way on the series with plans to roll it out in first quarter 2004. Court TV executives are reluctant to commit to a specific number of episodes, but suggest it will be between five and 10.
“We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves,” Mr. Hersh said. “Our goal is to make sure we have great stories to tell, and as long as that happens, we’ll keep telling them.”
Psychic Detectives
Network: Court TV
Premiere date: Feb. 27, 2003
Studio: Superfine Films, commissioned by Court TV
Time slot: Thursday, 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET), in its initial telecast. The series will run in 30-minute episodes in a time slot to be determined.
Cast: Andrea Thompson, host
Credits: Lisa Jackson, director/producer; Stephen Miller, producer, Superfine Films; Robyn Hutt, senior executive producer, documentaries and specials, Court TV
The plan: Court TV executives intend to have different documentary producers contribute to the series, much in the same way A&E has different producers for segments of its series “Biography.”