This week on so-called ‘TLC’, we follow a Long Island ghost buster who looks likes he has a dog on her head
As an intellectual and man of letters (puffs on pipe), I like – when not engaged with my books and studies – to spend my evenings watching The Learning Channel or, if you insist on using the acronym, TLC.
While watching this channel, I consider the great issues of the age (plastic surgery gone wrong, compulsive hoarding, extreme couponing, sexual accidents . . . the subjects of my BA, basically), which I then converse about at length over at my salon. This is because I am learned.
“What are you watching this for?” says my wife, who is not learned, and wants to watch Corrie.
“Pshaw, woman!” I say. “This is The Learning Channel. I’m cultivating my mind.” And then I turn the sound up really loud.
(Wife: “It’s not been called The Learning Channel for years, it’s now just TLC. Since when have you smoked a pipe? Are you wearing a cravat? Are you taking notes with a quill?”) This week on TLC, I watch two new episodes of Long Island Medium (Tuesday), which is about a loud and terrifying woman who confuses the recently bereaved for money.
“I like to think of myself as a fairly typical Long Island mom,” yells Theresa Caputo over some inspirational music, “but I have a fairly special gift.” We see a montage of Theresa shopping for vegetables, chuckling with her husband, and wandering through a graveyard in stilettos.
“I talk to the dead,” she adds matter-of-factly.
Theresa Caputo has very white teeth and the sort of poufy blonde hair halo that makes her whole head resemble a small dog. She is married to a muscley man called Larry who wears an all-over leather gimp suit, or, possibly, is just a bit leathery. They have children who are slightly scaled-down versions of their parents, indicating that the Caputos come in some sort of kit. Each episode of Long Island Medium sees Larry freaking out and being threatened by elements of the modern world (but not, funnily enough, by the fact that his wife sees dead people). The Caputos also always deal with some minor domestic crisis.
In this week’s episodes, their daughter shows an interest in competitive pole-dancing (Larry’s not going to stand for that!); Theresa takes up “juicing” (Larry’s not going to stand for that!); and they locomote in an enchanted carriage pulled by invisible horses (Larry’s not going to stand for that!).
These interludes are mixed with Theresa blowing the minds of sad-looking strangers. Their loved ones have often died in horrible ways (knife murders, elevator accidents, suicide) and they are understandably distraught. Her modus operandi is to breeze in, make a few wisecracks and then begin with some total guesswork: “Who lost a brother or brother-in-law?”
Someone then tentatively takes the bait, after which she demonstrates that specific words have no meaning in the spirit world. One sad-eyed man says he’s lost his best friend, “. . . who was like a brother to you”, says Caputo, to clarify that she has, once again, got it exactly right. She also meets a teenager whose cousin was like a brother to him, a woman whose sisterin-law was like a sister to her, and a woman whose three ghosts expanded to four without any fanfare when the biographical details ceased to fit. There are many sharp intakes of breath.
When she gets her guesses closer than this, Theresa often seems amazed herself and shrieks with delight – which would be a dead giveaway that she is totally chancing her arm if the people she was with weren’t so numb with grief. Unlike Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense, who is perpetually horrified by ghoulish apparitions, Theresa’s dead people continuously amuse her with their incoherent metaphysical japes. They’re like Kramer in Seinfeld or the baby in Full House or Alf. They’re a fun bunch.
Ultimately, the bereaved seem comforted by Theresa Caputo’s whimsical bullshittery, but this is mainly because she insists that all the dead people she encounters are in a good place. However, given that they are detached from their loved ones and can only communicate via a loud woman with a small dog for a head, it’s clear they must actually be in hell.
Anyway, we also get to watch Larry and Theresa shop for blinds or juice vegetables or Skype with their daughter: activities that don’t make me wonder about life after death so much as question the notion of life before death. Which is exactly the kind of deep philosophical contemplation I’ve come to expect from The Learning Channel.
Or, if you insist, TLC.
A rough beast
As a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, WB Yeats would have had plenty of time for Theresa Caputo. On Monday, RTÉ1 will reshow Maurice Sweeney’s excellent WB Yeats: No Country for Old Men. Like Caputo, Yeats derived powers from utter shamelessness, and this beautifully made film documents his transition from romantic, sexually frustrated Adrian Mole to occult-dabbling, virility-obsessed polyamorist and public intellectual.
Of course, being a bit of an eejit never stopped anyone from being a genius, and the documentary convincingly suggests that the two things are inseparable. And we also get to hear lots of Yeats’s poetry recited by charismatic poets of today: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
Yes, Yeats is clearly talking about Theresa Caputo.
Though if he were around now, that rough beast would probably be a 14-part reality show called Pimped Up Poet over on The Learning Channel.
Or, if you insist, TLC.
The fact that Theresa is shrieking with delight would be a dead giveaway that she is chancing her arm if the people she was with weren’t so numb with grief
‘The bereaved seem comforted by her whimsical bullshittery’