Magic is all over the Airwaves….
I am interested to notice how much magic is popping up on the television in America these days: other variety arts are not seeing anything like as much airtime as the magical arts. It isn’t quite the kind of magic we were seeing on the airwaves a decade ago, but it is interesting to track the changes in what is being presented. It is also educational to spot the change in demographics that the networks are aiming for. Magic is now being aimed at a decidedly youthful, but not a kid’s audience: I like that.
The most traditional show on the air is the new season of “Masters of Illusion” on the CW Network. It is a very solid show that features a bunch of excellent magicians who have been brought into a studio and then let loose to film a couple of TV segments to be edited together for future episodes. These are nicely produced shows that will be airing for many years to come and delighting viewers. The intrinsically old fashioned approach of this series in no way handicaps is success or longevity.
The rest of the magic currently being seen on the television networks fits more readily inside the mantle of “reality programming,” and can be broken down into two basic models, talent contests and specialty programing. It is safe to say that the legacy of David Blaine and The Masked Magician has not been entirely lost on the studio executives when you look at this specialty programing. Currently we are not seeing any outright exposure of magic such as Valentino brought when Fox TV updated The Mystery Magician format, however we are seeing some decidedly updated takes on magic.
The highest profile magic slots are those being featured on NBC’s America’s Got Talent. Unlike England, where fast paced and testosterone drenched illusions are ruling the roost in Britain’s Got Talent; the American spin of from the British show is currently discovering the joys of smaller magic. The “break-out” magicians on AGT this season are Tomas De le Cruz (AKA “Smoothini The Ghetto Houdini,”) David & Leeman and Mike Super. All are doing a nice job of representing quite different schools of magic. As previously noted none are presenting any mega-sized effects, very refreshing in my personal opinion. Will any of them win the big prize on AGT? I suspect not, but reputations will definitely be made and careers launched.
Penn & Teller can currently be seen on the CW Network in a re-run of their British series “Penn & Teller: Fool Us.” I am guessing that if the British series catches on with viewers there might well be an American version of the show. This would work better for me, I must have been away from England too long because I totally fail to “get” host Jonathan Ross—I know he is a giant in English television but to me his appeal is as big a mystery as Russell Brand.
Watching Penn & Teller deconstruct a series of lesser magicians is a lot more entertaining than I first assumed it would be and it will be interesting to see whether the series crosses over to an American audience. The biggest rival to the success of P & T: Fool Us may prove to be the dynamic duo’s new “magical reality” series Wizard Wars debuts on August 19th on the Syfi Network. It sounds rather intriguing to watch teams of magicians creating magic illusions from random props.
Add Michael Carbonaro’s hit series The Carbonaro Effect, on truTV, into the mix and that is a lot of magic available for viewers. The Candid Camera meets Street Magic take on a magic show has proven to have a wide appeal to viewers. Soon to be appearing on the airwaves is a new variety series by the talented and likeable Justin Willman, which is sure to feature some magic. I have a hunch that this newly announced project might shape up very nicely and could prove to be a real ratings winner for the Cupcake Wars host.
Yikes, we seem to be entering an exciting new golden era of TV magic. We just need to be able to find all those cable channels that are offering these new shows! I guess that is what Tivo is all about…..