Tyler Henry aka The Hollywood Medium is giving one of the most bizarre and compelling performances on television right now, and he probably doesn’t even know it.
Straight up: I’ve got no idea if Tyler Henry, the titular Hollywood medium of Hollywood Medium, is legit or not. His Wikipedia page is full of people debunking and criticising him, which is a little bit sad because I can’t imagine having a life that meant that my Wikipedia page would be full of people who think I’m lying. I can’t say one way or the other if he’s faking it or not, and I don’t care.
What I do care about is Tyler Henry as a human being, which ends up being the most pertinent and compelling mystery of the show. Sure, he talks to Snooki. Sure, he talks to Jaime Pressley about Brittany Murphy’s death, which is weird and icky. And sure, he rides around in LA driven either by his blissfully chill mother or his aggressively British assistant.
A brief biography: Tyler Henry is a 20 year old, openly gay kid from rural California who now lives in LA. He’s a medium for famous or semi-famous people like Monica Potter, whom you might recognise from Freddie Prinze Jnr. vehicle Head Over Heels (a fine, fine film).
He has no idea who any celebrities are, allegedly. He’s also incredibly mannered and polite. If you’d met him at a party he’d probably be the guy having an intense conversation with someone he just met and the other person wouldn’t be able to pull away because he’s being so nice about it, but also he’s talking about your dead grandma, so you don’t really want to stay. He’s that guy.
Hollywood Medium, as a show, focuses largely on Henry reading famous people, and giving them messages from their loved ones who have passed on. These are alternatively quite strange or quite chilling experiences, and what comes through most in these readings, rather than any supernatural abilities, is Henry’s disarming warmth and even more disarming directness.
When he does his readings, he sits a few metres away from his subject, drawing on a pad and making observations as they come to him. He comes off, strangely, as being more comfortable on camera than the celebrities he’s reading, who seem to be in a constant state of performing, whether they’re E!’s resident chihuahua Ross Mathews or Roseanne plus-one Tom Arnold. He just says whatever comes to mind as soon as it comes to him (or as soon as it’s edited to come to him, through the magic of reality television).
So when Monica Potter cries in his face, he watches her calmly, apologises, and continues with his reading. When she’s like, “I’m having trouble sleeping recently” he simply nods and says, “that’s not good”. You don’t see this kind of directness from 20 year olds, especially not ones who have been given their own TV show to go meet celebrities. It’s the directness of someone with extreme confidence in his own abilities, and in his gift to help people.
Whether or not you believe in what he’s doing, there’s something super compelling about a person with that extreme confidence.
It’s that confidence that keeps me watching Hollywood Medium. As a reality show, it’s engaging enough, and the structure of ‘Tyler goes to one place, doesn’t know who the person is, makes them have feelings, continues on with his strange gay life’ is strong enough to provide a narrative drive through the season.
But what actually kept me coming back, for far longer than I expected, is Tyler Henry’s bizarre charisma. This is a 20 year old with more confidence in what he does than I’ve had in anything! He sits across from people famous enough that they’ve been asked to be on a basic cable reality show – and he’s more confidence than them! He’s someone who believes he can talk to the dead! And he’s a 20 year old gay boy.
Also, Tyler sweats a lot. In his session with Nene Leakes, who I assume is a Real Housewife of some sort, he sweats so profusely it looks like he’s had a shower. And it’s real sweat, like not the sweat you see lovingly placed on an actor’s face by some makeup person to look like they’ve done real work. It’s full-on beads of sweat, puffy eyed, red skin sweat. It’s the thing that makes me convinced in his abilities more than anything else.
Someone who lets himself be seen sweating that much simply can’t be lying about anything; they’re the real deal.
Come for Snooki (who at one point asks him if he believes in aliens, and he does, so that’s a thing) but stay for Tyler Henry doodling and being quite lovely while telling people what their dead loved ones are saying, and being terrifyingly comfortable while making them cry. I don’t know if he’s legit, but I can’t stop watching him.
Click below to soak in the weird vibes of Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry, with season one available on Lightbox now:
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