Penn & Teller: Bullshit!

Season 1 Episode 1

Talking to the Dead

Aired Monday 10:00 PM Jan 24, 2003 on Showtime
out of 10
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Episode Summary

In this first episode of Penn and Teller: Bullshit, Penn and Teller take on psychics and if they really are talking to the dead. In fact, famous psychics such as John Edward are using an age-old technique called cold reading where they obtain information by asking questions and guessing rather than "talking to the dead".

This episode will shock you and will be very entertaining as Penn and Teller take down modern psychics through proof and the humor that makes this show not only informative, but a whole lot of laughs! Experts interviewed or seen in archival footage in this episode include: Joe Nickell (Paranormal Investigator, Journalist) James Underdown (Executive Director of the Center for Inquiry-West in Los Angeles) James Van Praagh (Host of "Beyond" [Archival Footage]) Mark Edward (Magician and Author) John Edward (Host of "Crossing Over" [Archival Footage]) Rosemary Altea (Medium)moreless

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  • Notorious prankster magicians pull the pin on societal magicians and con artists

    This first episode of what became a successful multi-series program is a good example of things to come. Penn the skeptical raconteur extraordinaire and his under-stated traditional magic scholar partner Teller pull no punches from the start. They admit that they themselves are purveyors of fine bullsh*t the difference being that they are upfront about it and do it to entertain, as opposed to the myriad of fear and emotion driven scams that are designed purely to remove people from their money. As such, this documentary style show comes packed with liberal helpings of ranting bias and comedic magical interludes to sugar coat the hard facts that are being thrown around. They also like to spotlight weirdos. This particular episode focuses on people who claim to communicate with the dead, targeting some reknown tv psychics and tipping the hat to Harry Houdini along the way. Very entertaining viewing if you like your info-tainment with a healthy dose of liberal skepticism. Whether you agree or disagree, they sure are amusing.moreless
  • Good start, good explanation

    This show is so different then what you would expect from Penn & Teller that they had to give a 5 minute introduction. You know when you are getting a 5 minute disclaimer that it is going to be a good show. ;)

    This episode dealt with people who claim to have psychic abilities. Both Penn & Teller make you believe that they are all con-artists and explain how they are able to contact the dead. They can be very convincing.moreless
  • A great start

    I really enjoyed this episode. What can I say, I am a sucker for shows that reveal bullshit!

    I particularly liked how one of the psychics was really working for "our" team, and does his sessions for entertainment and does not try to get people to believe he's for real.

    If anything, this episode showed me how desparate some people are to believe a psychic, and it showed me how far someone will go to make a buck.moreless
  • A nice start to the series.

    A pretty good episode and gave you a good idea how the series was going to work. A bit more swearing them most things they work on but that explained since it is due to legal concerns. Anyway I am a skeptic at heart and I love Penn and Teller and I was not dissapointed. The most important part that they talked about was how evil these psychics can be on how they manipulate your memories of dead loved ones. I just thought it was a joke what they were doing and people are just too stupid to figure that out. But I really understand now how evil it is to have a person take advantage of you at a low point in you life to make a buck and mess with the only true thing you have left and that is the good memories of a lost loved one. Glad I got the dvd set, this is going to be a great series, not boring like some discovery or learning channel show...moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (4)

    • Penn: Before we bust up this party, and...goddamn it, we're gonna bust it up, we have to be very clear where our hearts are. We have nothing but empathy for the people who are experiencing the loss and grief of the death of a loved one. That guy who lost his mom...rips my heart out. I'm a momma's boy whose mom died a couple years ago and I'll...I'll never get over it. My dad died at around the same time, and I was very close to both of them. I loved them so much, there isn't a moment that goes by that I don't miss them. Houdini didn't REALLY go nuts busting these mediums until he lost his mom. Once you've felt that pure grief, seeing it exploited can...take away your sense of humor. Once a loved one has died, all we have is our memories of them. There's nothing more precious to me than my memories of my mom and dad. We don't give a rat's a** about the money these b*stards are taking from the grief-stricken. What we do care about, deeply, is the desecration of memories. These...performance artists...are, in a very real sense, mother*******. That poor guy's grieving memories of his mother are now all f*cked up by somebody else's images. All he will ever have left of his mom are memories and this pig has p*ssed on those for a buck and a little unearned fame. I'm sure these lame f*cks tell themselves that they're easing the grief, but skits for money cannot replace loving memories. How low do you have to be to exploit someone's true grief to sell some bullsh** book?

    • John Edward: You know, some of the misses that people think are misses, are not misses. You know, and I'm the first person to say, I am not 100% accurate. I'll come out and I say it all the time, I'll be like, "This is how I get it; I see it hear it feel it, I'm gonna do my best job I possibly can to interpret it for you. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I get it wrong. But, I get it."
      Penn: Oh yeah, we get it. When it seems like you're wrong, it's because you're right and the grieving are too stupid to figure it out!

    • Penn: You don't heal a broken heart by pretending it's not broken.

    • Penn (introducing the series): I'm Penn, this is my partner, Teller, and this is "Bullshit!". That's the name of our show. We're gonna hunt down as many purveyors of bullshit as we can. Sure, we lie, cheat and swindle--we've been known to deal a bit of bullshit ourselves, so some of you may ask "Why pee on someone else's parade?" One important difference--we tell you we're lying. You'll notice more obscenity than we usually use. That's not just because it's on Showtime and we wanna get attention. It's also a legal matter. If one calls people "liars" and "quacks", one can be sued and lose a lot of one's money. But "motherfuckers" and "assholes"--it's pretty safe. If we said it's all scams, we could also be in trouble. But "bullshit", oddly, is safe. So forgive all the bullshit language. We're trying to talk about the truth without spending the rest of our lives in court because of litigious motherfuckers.

  • NOTES (1)


    • Penn: John Edward -- the biggest douche in the universe!

      Penn references the episode of South Park "The Biggest Douche in the Universe," in which John Edward woos South Park with his cold readings, and at the end of the episode wins an award for Biggest Douche of the Universe--even defeating a giant alien douche. In fact, on the mini-commentary for that South Park episode, Trey Parker and Matt Stone mention that Penn sent them a letter shortly after seeing the episode telling them how much he loved it and that it was his favorite episode.