David Blaine - Magic Man
28th August 2000
Reviewed by MagicWeek
I like David Blaine - he makes me smile. This, his second TV special, had some very good moments, and was cleverly constructed, if not as powerful as his first. Once again it focused on the audience, and their various reactions to the magic; in fact my favourite moment was when a little boy said "hello" to camera, (in a "is anybody home?" sort of way) just after Blaine had performed a rather gruesome trick with a pen.
This was the most eagerly awaited magic show to be broadcast on British television for ages. It was heavily promoted on TV, and the British press and public really like him. His first show was a huge success and was always going to be a tough one to follow. They have wisely used the same format again, to reinforce the impact of the first show, and build on what they have started.
There will be all sorts of arguments from magicians about "what we didn't see," but surely Blaine's team are simply using the medium of television to their advantage. The fact that it all appears to be very spontaneous, when in fact there is so much going on behind the scenes, is what makes this show work. Some will view this as cheating but maybe it is no more "cheating" than using a stacked deck? It's just a case of being "one ahead" and keeping some things a secret from the audience. That is what magicians do. Unlike nearly all televised magic it didn't feel contrived.
Magic is a brilliant live entertainment, but these days it is very hard to make it work on television, especially to a scathing British audience. This is a problem that doesn't affect Blaine. The typical magician who may well be okay in the context of a live revue show can look ridiculous on a TV screen. Grown men pouting to camera pretending that their special illusion box is somehow going to be a threat to their life... or whatever... simply doesn't cut it. The worst recent example was the dreadful "World's Most Dangerous Magic" shown on channel 5. Blaine manages to create far more impact, and magic, with simple tricks that the audience can't readily explain. Card tricks, sponge ball tricks, pen and paper mind reading tricks and tricks with "everyday" objects.
Blaine and his team have again captured that live feeling, that raw edge, that spontaneity, that "blink and you'll miss it" edge that is magic, and that makes this sort of production work.
The next one is going to be a challenge though - as I don't think they can use the same format for a third time. But we will just have to wait and see.
© Duncan Trillo, August 2000