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Opinion: What Makes Great TV Magic?


Since its debut, there's so much about " Masters of Illusion" that has simply gone wrong. Of course, the biggest problem was finding that "Masters" was providing the lead-in to the negative "magic" show that followed it. Now, audiences can be amazed by magic in the first hour and learn how the tricks are accomplished in the second.

But even without scheduling problems, "Masters" just hasn't lived up to its potential. This got me thinking about what I want to see in television magic.

Magic That I Can't Do

On TV, I want to see magic that most magicians, including myself, can't do. After all, this is television and tricks should be bigger and greater than those in real life.

Bigger effects include such stunts as David Blaine "reaching through a window," "national monuments temporarily disappearing," Franz Harary-style productions of helicopters and more. Even if it's just a card trick, display the revelation on a billboard on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard.

Magic on television needs to dazzle everyone who sees it. The lay public should have a topic of conversation the next morning at school and around the water cooler at work. And magicians should be equally awed by the scale or sheer complexity of the effect. Whether you like or hate Criss Angel, with MindFreak, he has consistently performed effects on a scale that is a natural for TV.

The effects don't have to be impossible for magicians to perform live. In the nineties, "World's Greatest Magic" showcased artists such as Guy Hollingsworth and Lennart Green who electrified lay audiences, as well as magicians, with their sleight of hand. Those television specials effectively inspired a new generation of magicians.

Diluting the Magic

When TV magic consists of tricks that pro and amateur magicians often do, it detracts from their real world performances. I recently heard a comment from a spectator who said "I saw that on TV the other day," when I performed one of my standards that was shown on "Masters." When audiences see a trick on TV, it diminishes the response that pros and amateurs later receive with the effect, even with different presentations.

A pet peeve of mine, tricks performed on television shouldn't be available to anyone to search and purchase the next day, which is what happened after the most recent David Blaine special.

I understand that dealer sales are important and "As Seen on the David Blaine Special" is quite a marketing hook. But these offers, in the eyes of laymen, detract from the magic. It wasn't a spectacular feat that they witnessed, it was just a trick that you can buy for $20.


Finally, while tricks are important, it's the performer's personality that carries the effect and entertains audiences. Magic on television has to allow an audience to get to know the performer - something that the format in "Masters" didn't allow.

If we don't get a formal introduction, at least give us a short snippet that includes a brief interview to get to know the performer, ala reality television shows.

So give me big effects and lots of personality, and this will create some positive magic buzz. It's a win-win for magic.

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