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Primetimer

Battle Of The Penn & Teller Shows

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FWIW, I am no fan of Jonathon Ross, and from accounts I've read, he's kind of a dick, but on Fool Us he does everything a good MC should do.

 

In fairness, I haven't seen Wizard Wars yet.

 

With respect to incorporating modern prop items. I just had a vision of a Star TrekTNG episode that never was, In exploring why humans enjoy "magic", Data is surprised that his trick, the amazing phase inverter that also repolarizes a tachyon pulse, falls flat. A holodeck conference with guest star David Copperfield (no, really) stresses the charm of down to earth simplicity (no, really). Then Data uses the classic cup and balls routine to prevent a war with the Romulan Empire. Why did your insightful comment about props make me think of that I can't explain, I can only apologize.:-)

Edited by Latverian Diplomat
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Jonathan Ross is great. The entertainment value of making fun of the fact that he can't even properly say his OWN last name (because he can't say the letter "R") ALONE almost makes him worth it, but he's got pretty good timing on top of that.

Ellen Fox, whoever she is, is a non-entity. I can't possibly see how she was given a "win" based on being... not British. So she's a non-British block of wood? Big deal!

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I'm not all that familiar with Ross, but I rather like him on "Fool Us". Like Latverian Diplomat said, he's an excellent MC. Funny and energetic when he needs to be, but gets out of the way and lets others shine for the bulk of the show. Also, he once did a pretty great little documentary on Steve Ditko, so he's alright in my book.

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Having watched an episode of Wizard Wars now, I think the terrible physical set up is not doing Ellen Fox any favors. They must have been going for intimacy with the night club style arrangement, but it's not to my taste. And the acoustics seem poor. No one is unintelligible, but everyone seems a little shouty. 

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Here's something I didn't notice on the first episode of Wizard Wars, but it jumped out at me on the second. They have a camera angle from the side of the stage, which I think is supposed to give it a feeling that you're in a tiny nightclub. But it reveals how tricks are done! A lot of these boxes are deeper than they look, and if you go around to the side, the angles are all messed up.

Strangely, I find this very endearing. Aww, poor little television show. It's trying so hard.

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Here's something I didn't notice on the first episode of Wizard Wars, but it jumped out at me on the second. They have a camera angle from the side of the stage, which I think is supposed to give it a feeling that you're in a tiny nightclub. But it reveals how tricks are done! A lot of these boxes are deeper than they look, and if you go around to the side, the angles are all messed up.

Strangely, I find this very endearing. Aww, poor little television show. It's trying so hard.

Is there ANYONE left out there in the TV viewing audience for magic shows who doesn't already know that a lot of these tricks rely on fooling your sense of vision/depth perception?

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In my opinion, comparing Wizard Wars and Fool Us is comparing Apples and Meat Pies. Sure they are both magician shows, but the goals are completely different.

 

Fool Us, the magicians are trying to pull off tricks that P&T haven't figured out; they're (supposedly) looking for something new and amazing. A lot of acts are entertaining, and they are clearly enjoying them, but few of them have fooled the pair.

 

Wizard Wars, the fooling aspect is greatly diminished. In WW, they are just looking to be entertaining. And if you are more entertaining than the other guys, all the better. But P&T recognize that incorporating mandatory props in the act on short notice (and creating an act with a stranger basically) are difficult challenges to start. Expecting the contestants to have something polished enough to fool the audience would be too much. That said, the WW act last night seemed to truly impress them. Teller seemed honestly amazed with the Tarot card reveal, and the chair reveal also seemed to surprise everyone. 

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Aww, poor little television show. It's trying so hard.

 

That's what I liked about both shows.  "Fool Us" has a more unique premise--and when you get magicians generally doing their signature trick, you get some great magic.   WW feels almost like a cooking show competition, though it's limited because to show how a trick is put together, you often have to give away the trick.

If they do a sequel to "Fool Us" I'd like it to have more of the entertainment value--maybe if no one fools the judges, have the most entertaining one get a trip to Vegas. 

 

I like both shows better than "Masters of Illusion", which is much more of a straight-up magic show, or on America's Got Talent, where the judges have apparently never seen magic--even the ones that judged a similar trick the previous year.  P & T know their history of magic--and have rewritten the rules of comedy magic--which adds something, but mostly to "Fool Us."

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Penn and Teller are really fantastic choices for hosts. They are entertainers themselves, so they're never boring, they have a vast knowledge of magic and magic history, and very importantly, they love magic. I always enjoy watching their reactions, especially when they get fooled. 

 

As an aside, the other judge on "Wizard Wars", Jason Latimer, is no slouch himself. He's less of a name than P&T, but he's an incredibly talented and creative magician.

 

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Damn, that is very impressive. The Cups and Balls trick with clear cups, short sleeves and I have no freakin' clue how he pulled that off. (Though I think I begain to notice a few tells towards the end). 

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Penn and Teller are really fantastic choices for hosts. They are entertainers themselves, so they're never boring, they have a vast knowledge of magic and magic history, and very importantly, they love magic. I always enjoy watching their reactions, especially when they get fooled.

It's a shame they aren't actually hosts! (on either of these shows)

But seriously, I think their non-host role on Fool Us works well. But Wizard Wars is just too busy. That Ellen person needs to go and Penn can just intro the acts himself (and as I've said elsewhere, ditch a few of the extra magic people by mostly eliminating the judge role and having the audience judge, with Penn & Teller (alone, no need for other people) having some kind of referee role that's equivalent to maybe half the score, so that bozos who really screw up a trick but its not visible to the audience have SOME consequence, but not the full score).

Latimer can stick around to actually DO magic, since he's more qualified than a few of the designated "Wizards", and although she's apparently actually a magician herself as well, that "critic" woman go either put up and actually DO magic, or leave as totally unnecessary. Of the four wizards, I hate to say it, but show creator Justin Flom is the one who's impressed me least, so maybe he can step back a bit and just produce.

Edited by Kromm

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I'm not all that familiar with Ross, but I rather like him on "Fool Us". Like Latverian Diplomat said, he's an excellent MC. Funny and energetic when he needs to be, but gets out of the way and lets others shine for the bulk of the show. Also, he once did a pretty great little documentary on Steve Ditko, so he's alright in my book.

If you ever get to see his talk show, Ross' show kind of suffers to American eyes, I think, compared to lets say... Graham Norton. Norton gets much better International guests, and frankly goes much further outside the box with how he uses the guests he DOES get (Norton has this wonderful "all the guests at once, as if its a big cocktail party" approach I wish some American show would pick up). Ross IS a pretty decent interviewer though, and he's a totally huge Sci-Fi/Comic book geek as well, so that's in a lot of his shows and comedy (he's married to the woman who wrote the Kick Ass films and several of the better X-Men films, in fact).

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>>I like both shows better than "Masters of Illusion", which is much more of a straight-up magic show<<

 

I've seen that a few times, but can't really enjoy it, because I spend the whole time thinking, "Didn't  Dean Cain used to have a career?"

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Masters of Illusion is unwatchable (to me).  Purchased acts by moderate performers acting like it's the greatest thing ever.  I think I'd enjoy it more if they wouldn't act like I'm supposed to be impressed at every magic store prop they pull out.  (I appreciate a good double lift. I don't appreciate someone acting like my eyebrows gave away what card I pulled.)  The strength of the two P&T shows is that they know where they lie.

 

Fool Us is about polish and professionalism.  Ideally each act is unique and performed with perfection.  Wizard Wars is about creativity.  How can you apply the mechanics you know to the issue at hand?  I think they draw from different competitors, too.  Fool Us is for performing/touring magicians who want publicity for audiences.  Wizard Wars is for someone starting out who wants a job building sets for a big name.  They may also be great performers but the ability to do a slight is distinct from the vision of how it gets used.

 

I enjoy both.  But if push comes to shove, the higher production values and caliber of performers gives the nod to "Fool Us".  And P&T are central to that, but more of a "lucky get" for Wizard Wars.  So it will be interesting to see what will/won't get picked up for another season.

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Fool Us is for performing/touring magicians who want publicity for audiences.  Wizard Wars is for someone starting out who wants a job building sets for a big name.  They may also be great performers but the ability to do a slight is distinct from the vision of how it gets used.

I don't want to smash your theory to bits, but if you look at the actual people cast, Fool Us included a number of amateurs, including children, and Wizard Wars was cast at least in half part by acts that were already veterans (and I mean among the competitors, not the Wizards or Judges). The other half cast in Wizard Wars seem to be the "I'm a young guy building tricks for headlining magicians", but there were just as many people who were pros, with backstories like "I'm a Canadian" (there were a few cases of this), or the variant, "I'm a Canadian, who has a hit TV show, but it's in Britain". Edited by Kromm
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Kromm is right. I've heard of at least half of the competitors on each episode of Wizard Wars. They may not be big names, but they've been around in magic circles. The fact is, you need to have a huge knowledge base to do the kind of impromptu innovation that they're doing on that show, and you have to be comfortable enough with your performing persona to pull off an act you haven't rigorously rehearsed (and with a partner you have no history with). You've gotta know your stuff. 

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So what I'm hearing you say is that I understand the shows better than their casting agent does. They should work on that. :)

 

OK yeah the performers don't really comply with my theory. But I still contend that the ideal competitor for one show wouldn't necessarily be ideal for the other.

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So it looks like despite being cancelled in the UK, the CW asked for more episodes in 2015--effectively UN-cancelling it.  Not sure how that's going to work (if Jonathan Ross will still host it, if it will totally move to the US with or without him).

 

The show is airing as repeats right now--probably just to fill space in the pre-sweeps period.  If it's coming back with new episodes, I can't imagine it being any time soon--although it probably doesn't take much to produce these episodes--Penn & Teller's time, an empty theater, and dragging in magicians who'd only be TOO glad to drop everything to get on TV.  Ross' time might take some scheduling--but again, I'm skeptical they'd feel they need to keep him.

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According to Penn's weekly podcast, it will be filmed in Las Vegas using American magicians. Penn thinks it will be harder to suss out their tricks, and is expecting he and Teller will be fooled far more often than they were in England.

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Just to add to what @A Boston Gal said (because it's amusing):

 

In England Penn & Teller had never met most of these performers.  So when competitors would go on they would pick their best trick and hope it fooled them.

 

But here in the US a lot of magicians know P&T, have had discussions with them and possibly worked with them. So they've had conversations that go something like:

 

Penn: I always thought it would be cool to levitate a block of ice.

Friend: Oh, well you could do that with a Bulgarian Suspension Harness.

P&T: We've never heard of that.

Friend: Interesting...

 

So Penn figures they'll get competitors who know for a fact that the technique they're using is something P&T have never heard of.  Which I think will be pretty cool.

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What Armarsir said. I got the feeling that in the UK edition, the local performers were so out of their league, experience-wise, that it would only be the rare bird who got through. I'm really looking forward to what the US magicians have to offer...I bet it's going to be a far more even playing field. :)

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So if they're filming in Las Vegas with American magicians, is a trip to Las Vegas still the prize? Everyone wins!

Edited by Quilt Fairy

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So if they're filming in Las Vegas with American magicians, is a trip to Las Vegas still the prize? Everyone wins!

 

According to Penn's weekly podcast, it will be filmed in Las Vegas using American magicians. Penn thinks it will be harder to suss out their tricks, and is expecting he and Teller will be fooled far more often than they were in England.

Did Penn specify who's hosting this time around?   I suppose it's possible he's even hosting himself--in other words playing the dual role of introducing the acts and sitting back down with Teller to watch the acts/see if he's fooled.

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Did Penn specify who's hosting this time around?   I suppose it's possible he's even hosting himself--in other words playing the dual role of introducing the acts and sitting back down with Teller to watch the acts/see if he's fooled.

Last I heard they hadn't worked out all the details yet. They really want Ross but haven't confirmed his availability and are well aware that "winners go to Las Vegas" loses some of it's dazzle when they're already there.

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Last I heard they hadn't worked out all the details yet. They really want Ross but haven't confirmed his availability and are well aware that "winners go to Las Vegas" loses some of it's dazzle when they're already there.

Actually it shouldn't.  Because the prize shouldn't be framed as "we fly you to Vegas" (a real treat for Brits, who I know are very enamored of the place) but instead as "we're going to put you onstage for a few dates to open for us"--plus I'd add in a cash prize as well to top that off.

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