Mary Occhino is the matriarch of what, on the surface, seems like a normal Long Island family. A single mom, she is devoted to her adult kids and works hard to keep everybody happy.
As in all families there are ups and downs. We are shown Mary’s mother-daughter squabble with daughter Jackie, a restaurant manager who is as strong-willed as her mom. Mary’s eldest son Christopher is a motivational speaker who can be overbearing and way too intense for anyone’s liking. Carl, the middle child, is a married journalist who has a head on his shoulders and keeps his cool when the rest of his family is fretting over the fact that lunch will be late. Charles, Mary’s older brother, is the closest thing to a patriarch this family’s got. He is a brash, old school Italian who loves to stir up mischief. Mary considers him her best friend.
The big difference between this family and others like it is Mary, who makes a lucrative living as a psychic intuitive. Her satellite radio show on Sirius XM attracts millions of listeners looking for advice, hope, and encouragement. From what we can tell from this first episode, Mary seems like the real deal. Unlike some psychics, who yearn to turn off their gift when they are not ‘on,’ Mary embraces it. When strangers greet her on the street, she has no problem ‘reading’ them as a matter of course. She ‘reads’ cashiers when she is making a purchase. While house hunting, she relays what she ‘sees’ about the history of the home to the realtor. Carl, her journalist-skeptic son, then checks out her findings with the historical society and is amazed to find them totally on the mark.
Still, this is TV and much of what is shown here may be done for the sake of the camera. I hope not, since Mary seems likable, open, honest, and truly gifted.
According to the press release, Mary was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1992, which supposedly “heightened her senses.” She has been tested by Dr. Gary Schwartz, director of the VERITAS research program, who found her abilities to be as good as, if not better than, those of mediums such as John Edwards and George Anderson.
To the show’s credit, these facts have not yet been foisted upon us. The whole point of the series is to show how what Mary does affects those around her. Jackie’s relationship with her mom is interesting and hopefully will be explored further. The two seem close, yet when Mary plays matchmaker by putting out a call on her radio show for single men to email her, Jackie is not pleased. In the end, their disagreement is settled with a minimum of fuss. Jackie is resigned to how things are; if she’s going to live with Mom, she’ll have to deal with Mom’s antics.
Christopher is another story. If we are to judge him by this introductory episode, he is an almost totally unlikable fellow: a whiner, a “motivational speaker,” whose lecture to a group of invited guests seemed more like grandstanding than anything else. However, he is devoted to his two young sons, which is one thing in his favor. Hopefully, Christopher will make a more positive impression in episodes to come.
I’m looking forward to learning more about Mary and her family. Her relationship with her brother was touched upon briefly but I feel that their bond goes deep. How has her illness, her single parent status and her extraordinary ability affected this family through the years? Hopefully we’ll find out over the course of the show’s six-episode run.
Mary Knows Best airs on the SyFy channel Thursdays at 9PM (ET).