Magician or Maniac?

On the first day of 2014, after marveling at how Moffat and Gatiss believed that they could get away with toying with the expectancy that gripped all avid Sherlock fans with some fairly half-arsed explanations, I thought I would put on Channel 4’s new show, Real or Magic starring the illusionist David Blaine.

As a big fan of Bradford’s greatest export, Dynamo, my feeling was that if Real or Magic could match up to Magician Impossible in any way I would be satisfied. I mean who couldn’t be impressed with a man who could walk on water – allegedly. Prior to David Blaine’s show I knew a little of his previous exploits, which included: starving himself, failing in one water-related stunt and what appeared to be him punching a stingray.

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After a while David Blaine’s card tricks lost my attention. There is no doubting how impressive smuggling the correct card into the pocket of his all-trusting members of public. I just didn’t care after a while. Perhaps, I was just longing something on the same level as the ‘transported man’ in The Prestige, then again, that was a film.  Anyway, after more card hocus pocus , this time messing with the harmony of the Smith family, he moved onto star of Indiana Jones and Star Wars, Harrison Ford. Ford is known for some brilliant lines, most memorably in the ice cold utterance of ‘I know’, crushing the heart of Princess Lea – he did not disappoint here either. Blaine’s trick this time was to plant a card in an Orange in Harrison Ford’s kitchen, unsurprisingly Harrison showed signs  of befuddlement, befitting of a man of his age. After pulling himself together, Ford slowly raised his head and as if he was about to trade a witty remark with his Nazi captor typical of the Indiana Jones days, stared David Blaine in the eyes and said in a slow but audible voice, ‘get out of my house’.  At the time it was unsure if this was more Harrison Ford acting gold or a prelude to a modern witch burning.

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David Blaine’s acts also included creating money, unsurprisingly he didn’t perform this trick to his celebrities, which included Katy Perry and Jason Sudekikis. The show then took a turn for the downright weird. I had been transported from a sporadically exhilarating, fairly easygoing show, to a documentary covering the antics of a recently released lunatic.

First to be tested was Ricky Gervais. This time, Blaine’s ‘trick/illusion’ included him shoving a 12 inch metal pin through his bicep, as was quite rightly pointed out by a rather revolted Gervais, ‘that isn’t a trick, you’ve just shoved a needle in your f******arm’. Quite right Ricky, I was yelling the same thing. Blaine then went on to further strengthen his credentials as a maniac by filling his stomach with a unhealthy amount of water, and then topping it up with healthy splash of, you guessed it, Kerosene. As a rule of thumb, when someone in a scratchy black and white video from 30 odd years ago is trying what looks to be a fairly unsafe trick and was then later known to have died as a result, is it really worth following his footsteps as Blaine tells us he is doing? We are taken through a series of Rocky-esque montages, except instead of running and drinking raw eggs, Blaine just spews an impressive volume of water into a bath. This final act required him to regurgitate the Kerosene onto a fire, intensify the flames, then put it out with the water retained in the stomach. While he performed this I carefully watched the reaction of those surrounding him, which he did flawlessly I will add, however, it was impossible not to notice the slightly confused looks of the audience. This unanimous look of bewilderment was completely understandable. This man has just started a fire, then proceeded to make it worse, then spewed stomach water all over it. All of this effort just to put out a fire that he started himself, producing some fairly uningraciating noises in the process.

For me, the show was summed up well when Blaine met Macklemore. Blaine pulled a thread out of his eyeball- I cannot flesh this description out anymore I’m afraid, that was literally it. The Seattle born rapper nervously laughed clearly feeling uncomfortable I’m sure having expected to see some illusions with less gut wrenching crudeness.  I just felt this show was a tad too real for the sleepy headed new years day TV viewers. David Blaine is a very talented man, but his reliance on shocking the audience through self-harm let down an illusionist who is capable of producing some wondrous acts.