Haunting Hollywood: medium kid Tyler Henry
Reality TV: the celebrity clairvoyant has an uncanny ability to not recognise his star clients
Tyler Henry: Fisher-Price voodoo
E! is not just the home of the awkward red-carpet moment or the one-stop Kardashian shop. In between Ryan Seacrest hawking his cheap suits with his rictus grin and the hours forensically examining the lives of the first family of reality TV, the station’s schedule is filled with other delights. There are mindlessly addictive shows about wrestling sisters, single celebrities or the butchered faces of Botched and the curious, boy-in-the-bubble medium Tyler Henry.
Henry is no ordinary medium – he’s a Hollywood Medium. This is not Most Haunted with Derek Acorah and his end-of-pier, Liverpudlian cosiness trying to contact the spirit of a beloved budgie, or the campy hair-and-nails schtick of Long Island’s Theresa Caputo; this is a slick and serious business. Golden of hair and pale of face like a milk-carton lost boy, Henry arrives at the doors of the rich and famous (after being driven there by his mother, naturally) to solve their paranormal problems.
Being this otherworldly spectre, Henry is apparently ignorant of the professions of his clients or the contents of their easily accessible Wikipedia pages or any weepy interviews that may have previously featured on E! News. Sounding like a mam tuning into a soap after a decade, he stops short of shouting “who?” when they reveal their identities, nodding vacantly at various reality show regulars.
Although the mask can drop unexpectedly, he seems to cherry-pick those he will deign to recognise: twin lummoxes Jax and Tom from Vanderpump Rules are greeted warmly, and Luann de Lesseps from The Real Housewives of New York gets the full starry-eyed treatment – lest a glass be crushed into his angelic visage – but WWE and UFC fighter Ronda Rousey receives a blank stare, which is a brave move considering she routinely kicks people into unconsciousness for a living.
As the stars nervously hand over an object for Tyler to touch and gain a “presence” from, he begins to ask a series of vague questions (“Do you know any ‘A’ names?”) whilst distractedly doodling on a pad. His routine is that of a “far-out” valley girl than the comical demonic turns of Acorah and his spirit guide Sam. When he’s not being ambiguous he has a flair for the obvious. “Is there another ‘J’ in your family?” he eagerly inquires after Jax from Vanderpump Rules says that his grandfather and grandmother were Joseph and Josephine. This is no Personal Shopper-style macabre magic – this is Fisher-Price voodoo at work.
What he tends to unearth are heartfelt tales of family loss that have either been discussed elsewhere or stories that the subjects offer up; like his less-classy contemporaries, he relies on their willingness to overshare. This dependence on the stars to divulge depressing anecdotes gives it the feel of a haunted chat show, a psychic Piers Morgan or Who Do You Think You Are? (minus the historical evidence) mixed with those predictable talent show sob stories.
This can be charming when it is comedian Tituss Burgess reminiscing about his grandmother, talking about how she changed his life with her unwavering belief in him. These genuine stories are worth more than all the sketchy “feelings” and psychobabble, but things take a grim, exploitative turn when actor Chad Michael Murray uses the show to “gain closure” on his family’s bleak past. Mediums rarely deal in the definitive, and when Murray asks Henry (who is supposedly communing with the actor’s dead grandmother) if she committed suicide or was murdered by his grandfather, the boy-wonder’s shop mannequin features arrange themselves in a pensive grimace before he hesitantly confirms that it was suicide rather than a domestic violence issue.
“This gives me more love for my grandfather,” the ’90s teen heartthrob exclaims. Whilst expounding on Henry’s great “gift”, he wonders if this news will repair his fractious relationship with his estranged mother, but Tyler Henry only deals in the afterlife, not aftercare, and slips away to wait for his mother to ferry him off into the mystic via Mulholland Drive.