Long Island Medium
|Long Island Medium|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||91|
|Running time||22 to 25 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Magilla Entertainment|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)
|Original run||September 25, 2011– present|
Long Island Medium is a TLC reality television series starring Theresa Caputo as she claims to be a medium who can communicate with the deceased. Caputo's claims have been deemed fictitious by multiple sources, ranging from experts such as magician James Randi, print publications including Wired, and television news programs like Inside Edition. Both Caputo and TLC have been criticized for profiting from what some consider a "charlatan" whose claims are "not true." Much of the program, which debuted on September 25, 2011, takes place in Hicksville, New York, though it often follows Caputo as she meets with clients in other areas.
Each episode focuses on Theresa Caputo as she conducts private and group readings with both believers and skeptics. Her husband Larry and two children, Victoria and Larry Jr., have learned to live with her claims of mediumship, but it strains their relationship. In a 2011 interview, Caputo claimed she had the ability to communicate with dead people: "Things are just there. When I was younger I used to actually see images and hear things. As I got older and shut down, it had changed. Because it was frightening to see people standing there who actually weren’t there."
Observers have expressed doubts as to the veracity of Caputo's abilities and suggest that the show's seemingly paranormal performances could simply be the result of age-old exploits like the Forer effect, cold reading, selective editing, and her subjects' eagerness to believe.
In 2012, the James Randi Educational Foundation awarded Caputo its Pigasus Award for being, in its view, the "psychic" performer who fooled the greatest number of people with the least effort in the preceding year. A Pigasus award was also given to TLC for continuing to air the show. In an article published by Wired Magazine the organization's founder James Randi explained why he believed shows like Long Island Medium were deceptive and potentially harmful to its participants:
Why do these pseudo-psychic spectacles bother those of us at the James Randi Educational Foundation? First, and foremost: They are not true. [...] But much more importantly to us, such performances seem to prey on people at their most vulnerable moments — those who have suffered the loss of loved ones — and these mediums use such grief to make a buck. Psychologists tell us this keeps the grieving stuck in their grief, rather than going through the natural stages of acceptance that are healthy.—James Randi
In June of that year, Caputo appeared in a commercial for Priceline.com in which she portrayed herself "connecting" with the late Priceline Negotiator character previously played by William Shatner. However, this commercial has sparked controversy, since the commercial appears to make light of the Native American belief of smudging. JREF President DJ Grothe issued a statement decrying Priceline.com: "It is difficult to watch the show and not feel heartbroken for those who are desperate to hear from the departed... and even more so if they are being manipulated by a charlatan." Grothe urged the organization to have their new spokeswoman take the James Randi Million Dollar Challenge and prove her paranormal claims.
Inside Edition examined Caputo's claims of being able to talk to the dead and found them lacking. Inside Edition watched Caputo performing live and "watched her strike out time and again." Mark Edward, who used to portray himself as a medium much like Caputo's current occupation, gave his opinion that Caputo does not have supernatural powers and explained several common techniques she could be using to pretend to have such abilities. She responded in a statement: "I respect and understand skeptics. I'm not trying to prove anything to anyone, that's not why I do what I do. I feel, and have been told by my clients, that my gift has really helped them, and that's all that matters to me."
In 2014, investigator Ron Tebo publically accused Caputo of fraud for pretending to be a psychic. According to Tebo's complaint, Caputo engages in several forms of deception, including sending staff members to interview audience members in advance in order to be able to pretend that she acquires knowledge from communicating with the deceased.
Not all the feedback from the show has been entirely negative. While noting that Caputo's claim of special powers "has been questioned," Variety's Gregg Goldstein described her in generally positive terms in a 2012 article, writing, "In an era of hit reality shows about families and denizens of New Jersey, the series' equally big selling point is the dynamic with her husband and two wisecracking teenagers, making it play like a combination of Real Housewives of New Jersey and Bewitched – particularly when their frustrations surface over her random communications with what she calls 'Spirit.'"
- Randi, James (April 9, 2012). "The 'Medium' Is Not the Messenger". Wired Magazine. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
Caputo does what’s known in my trade as “cold reading.” The very best practitioners can pick up enough information in what seems like innocent, idle conversation to convince you that they know very specific things about you. The scientific phenomenon is called the Forer effect — giving credence to vague observations that seem personal. [...] Mediums cannot show they do anything more than cold reading nor that what the TV audience sees is just selectively edited to show “hits” and ignore the “misses.”
- "The Long Island Medium – Can She Really Communicate with the Dead?". Inside Edition. August 11, 2012. Retrieved May 21, 2013.
- Stewart, Dodai (October 20, 2012). "Super Sad and Misguided Emails Intended for the Long Island Medium". Jezebel. Retrieved May 21, 2013.
- Grothe, DJ. "Priceline.com: Will You Prove Your Spokesperson Worthy for a Million Dollars?". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
- "Interview with Long Island Medium Theresa Caputo on new TLC series". Channel Guide Magazine.
- "Long Island Medium renewed: Is Theresa Caputo for real?". EW.com.
- "Rare Medium well done". New York Post.
- Cooper, Anderson (March 29, 2012). "Anderson after 'Long Island Medium' Theresa Caputo". Anderson Live. YouTube. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
I'm pretty skeptical about all the psychic medium stuff...She seemed nice, and she was fun, but I just think [...] if you say to a room of 300 people, you know, "sombody here has lost a sister," there's a good chance [of that]...So I am skeptical. I think people just so want to believe in things [like that]. But you know, I am open to possibilities, I just want to see actual proof, and until that happens I just sort of feel like it's my job to be skeptical.
- "2012 Pigasus Awards Announcement". JREF. Retrieved April 30, 2012.
- "TV's Long Island Medium Theresa Caputo Channels The Dearly Departed Negotiator In New Priceline.com TV Spot". Finance.yahoo.com. June 25, 2012. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
- "Petition | Priceline: Remove the Long Island Medium smudging commercial from the air, as well as his return from 'the dead' in a later commercial.". Change.org. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
- "Is The Long Island Medium A Phony? Reality Star Theresa Caputo Subject Of Fraud Investigation, Audience Complaints: ‘After Tonight, I Am No Longer A Believer!’ Rages One Grieving Mom". Radar Online. 4 June 2014. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
- Fenwick Elliott, Annabel. "'She’s a vulture preying on the most vulnerable': Long Island Medium Theresa Caputo is branded a ‘fake’ by private investigator". Daily Mail. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
- Cavazini, Katherine (9 June 2014). "Skeptic: ‘Long Island Medium’ a phony!". Nancy Grace (CNN). Retrieved 12 October 2014.
- Schumann, Redecka (6 June 2014). "Is Theresa Caputo A Fake? ‘Long Island Medium’ Star Bashed By Investigator". International Business Times. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
- Goldstein, Gregg (12 March 2012). "‘Medium’ gets into family spirit". Variety. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
- "Long Island Medium: Cast & Details". TV Guide. Retrieved March 30, 2014.