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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In the Spotlight: Anatoly Kashpirovsky

This week, Anatoly Kashpirovsky, ­call him doctor, hypnotist or charlatan ­ returned to Russian television after an absence of 20 years.

His new show on NTV is called “A Seance With Kashpirovsky,” which is literally what his old show was. Back in those glorious, unregulated days, he would gaze out of the screen and attempt to heal viewers by long-distance.

Kashpirovsky is a trained medic and psychotherapist, who worked at a psychiatric hospital for many years. But the benefits of using hypnosis methods on a totally uncontrolled, extremely naive audience didn’t exactly go through a full medical review.

The show was on the air for less than a year, but long enough for Kashpirovsky to become a household name.

Then he went off the air, and in the way of the 1990s, briefly became a State Duma Deputy, for the Liberal Democratic Party, and then moved to the United States. His web site does little to fill in the gaps since then.

This winter, the bizarre rumor surfaced that Kashpirovsky was coming back, although NTV coyly refused to confirm it.

The new program shows midwinter snow, which suggests certain creative difficulties in getting on the air. Nevertheless, it has a prime-time slot on Sunday evening and plenty of spooky advertising with Kashpirovsky promising that, “You will receive even more than you expected.”

The show runs head-to-head with TNT’s “Battle of the Psychics,” a shameless show where psychics test their prowess on mothers with lost children.

The first episode was a bit of a letdown, even though it was filmed entirely in spooky blue light, with ominous music in the background. So far, Kashpirovsky’s hairline is the most fascinating part of the show. Glossy and fringed, it hasn’t receded since 1989.

The idea of the show is that Kashpirovsky investigates and possibly debunks some paranormal phenomenon. But he didn’t dig too deep. We saw him with an Israeli psychic called Ronny Marcus, who bent spoons and smashed a light bulb. Kashpirovsky asked to see some different camera angles, but didn’t question why people would be given superhuman powers in order to bend cutlery. “It’s out of this world,” he said.

Ironically, Kashpirovsky said the show will help his audience avoid the frauds. It will “help you not fall for the tricks of charlatans,” he said. But the ad breaks full of patent cures for diabetes, psoriasis and cold feet suggested that the advertisers were hoping otherwise.

There was also a section about an Iranian psychic called Mehdi Ebragim Vafa, who helped find a missing child, Grisha, in Bitsevsky Park. He got a feeling Grisha might be there after consulting a map of Moscow and suggested to his mother that they check some disused wells,­ something  the police should have come up with first. Anyway there was a happy ending, although I couldn’t find this story on the Internet with the mother’s surname given on the show.

Vafa lives in Moscow after training here as a doctor and a dentist. He won a season of the “Battle of the Psychics.”

To test his powers, he was given a headband by a strange scientist, who was trying to test the brain’s ability to influence electromagnetic waves. The voice-over explained excitedly that an electronic reader had picked up a difference in waves, but you couldn’t actually see if this were true, since Vafa’s fingers were right over it. “The device has broken,” the voice-over continued, trying to make this sound like good television.

Finally, Kashpirovsky scraped the barrel by meeting pop duo Chai Vdvoyom, or Tea for Two. One of them, Stas Kostyushin, confided in Kashpirovsky that he watched his show back in the ‘80s and his knee pain went away just like that.  

There will be more thrills in the next show, Kashpirovsky promised: “You will be amazed when the time comes.”