Friday, 21 January 2011

R. Paul Wilson on BBC's The Magicians

Having seen three episodes of The Magicians I've warmed to the show. The second two episodes were much better than the first. I suggested in an earlier blog that making such a series from a magic perspective isn't easy and one of the consultant producers, R. Paul Wilson, recently gave an interview regarding the making of the series and the difficulties involved in making it. He explains why it was a "massive challenge."
Here is the link to the audio interview:

Friday, 7 January 2011

Derren Brown in Big Ma; also, don’t blame The Magicians.

“And now, Derren Brown in Big Ma.” Or at least that is what it sounded like as the television announcer introduced the broadcast of Derren Brown’s stage show Enigma. I enjoyed the show very much; so did others I’ve spoken to about it. The quality of the show compared to Brown’s last television special (a man being made more assertive) demonstrates a significant difference to be noted. The Derren Brown television programs have been made by a production company that has undergone a change which, I believe, has brought about that difference. The production company, Objective Productions, was sold a few years back. It was owned by Michael Vine and Andrew O'Connor, two men with a worthy background in magic; it is now in corporate hands that appear to lack that necessary background.

This might not seem a big deal. However, ask anyone who worked with the late Ali Bongo on a magic television show and they’ll repeat the often repeated praise of how invaluable he was during production. When the non-magic types would want to follow standards suitable for non-magical performances, Ali Bongo would step in and do his best to get them to understand that by doing that they were taking the magic out of the magic. There’s more than one anecdote about the usually calm and shy Ali Bongo being incensed into a temper and telling producers “You can’t cut from one camera to another now. It’ll make it look like it’s just a camera trick!”

With non-magic types now running the shop at Objective Productions, it’s difficult to not consider the possibility that their input led to a special that was poorly received by some viewers and was subject to harsh reviews in some magic magazines. The far superior Enigma, however, is the result of Derren Brown and Andy Nyman being left to their own devices and creating precisely what they wanted to create.

That kind of non-magic influence on a television magic show can, I believe, been seen on BBC’s The Magicians. The first episode has not been warmly met by some critics. I’m withholding judgement until I’ve seen more episodes. There were more magicians working backstage on that program than appeared on screen but it seems, judging by the editing, that the non-magic types had the final word and so I say don’t blame the magicians for any sense of dissatisfaction experienced during that episode.

Tonight we have Penn & Teller: Fool Us on ITV1. Ali Cook has published an interesting blog regarding his appearance in the show

Tomorrow is the second episode of The Magicians and later there is the Derren Brown evening on Channel 4. I don’t recall seeing that much magic in one week for a very long time. I think it was way back in the 1990s when the BBC had a magic at the BBC week; just before magic disappeared from the BBC schedules completely.