"Mary Knows Best," premiering on Syfy Thursday night July 15,...

"Mary Knows Best," premiering on Syfy Thursday night July 15, 2010. (Syfy) Credit: Syfy Photo/

THE SHOW "Mary Knows Best"

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Garrulous Mary does her radio show in the city, proffering psychic insights. Mary goes back to Center Moriches to shop with her daughter, elbowing into other shoppers with psychic suggestions. Mary goes to the cleaners and tries to match her daughter with a male customer she just knows is single. Mary rents a house on the water to gather her three kids - the logical and skeptical son (Carl, who works for Newsday.com); the eccentric and explosive son who draws Zen circles in the sand (Chris), and daughter Jackie (whom Mom desperately wants to get married).

MY SAY See how choppy, disconnected and dull that last paragraph was? Welcome to "Mary Knows Best." It's less a program than an album collecting dozens of video snippets, sort of a Flip camcorder digest of a day or seven in the lives of people you don't know at the start and still don't know when it's over.

"Reality" TV has never been more contrived or cliched than here, where it's clear both producers and on-screen participants are working overtime to create "characters" and "action" where there aren't any. Nothing happening at a family dinner? Chris, out of nowhere, bellows about Armageddon coming. Need to get outside the family home? Follow Carl house-shopping, with Mom tagging along and babbling about "great energy" in this house or that house. Or watch Chris walking through the woods with his dicta-corder, finally galvanized by this lecture inspiration: "Life is a risk! It's a gamble, baby!"

So here's what we have. Mom is a busybody with purported psychic powers, which must be real because everybody she runs into on the show takes great pains to ooh and aah how great they are. Her three grown kids are all distinctly different, don't do what she wants them to and often can't get along. What a unique family!

The producers slice, dice, nip and tuck hours of daily-life footage into lickety-split montages, and still nothing feels remotely fresh or real.

BOTTOM LINE It's not true that anybody can be a reality TV star.


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