I can’t ever remember being so excited as I was today, coming home from work, turning on the telly, checking the EPG and seeing those five magic and totally unexpected words, Penn & Teller ‘Fool Us’. I actually jumped for joy when I saw the hour-and-a-half special about to start. Magicians, sceptics, debunkers and outspoken atheists (among my favourite things in the world); Penn and Tell doing a bit of magic, and then inviting other magicians to perform for them. They took their seats in the audience and watched a string of magical acts and basically try to figure out the tricks were done. I honestly cannot image an actual or hypothetical better TV show than that.
I’ve loved Penn & Teller since the early 90’s when they had a few weird and violent shows on Channel 4, then they did their debunking programme Bullshit! which was more of my sort of thing. I’d fly to Vegas just to see their show, and can’t believe I missed them when they came to London last year. Anyway, they figured most of the tricks out; some (like the birds heads trick) were obvious, some (like the close-up card handler with the wonky eyes) were utterly amazing, and some were annoying (like the prancing, preening twat in the box). A proper old fashioned end-of-the-pier comedy/magician fooled them with a simple-looking trick with some envelopes, and a card handler fooled them on a technicality. They worked out that the memory part of the trick was bullshit, but couldn’t get the details on how he was manipulating the aces.
I missed the Derren Brown show that was on the other night, but I can’t imagine it was anywhere near as good as this. The guy with the wonky eyes doing the close-up card manipulation followed by Penn (& Teller) discussing the methods used and pouring praise on it, was probably the most exciting thing I’ve seen on telly in years. I was jumping and laughing with childish glee. My fiancée gave me a derisive look and told me to go and put on my ‘geeks rock’ t-shirt. I have a vague memory of seeing a guest magician (I think) on the Paul Daniels show when I was very young. This magician had a weird act that involved lying on the floor and doing tiny imperceptible twitches that made him jump horizontally but amazingly high. I can remember falling off my chair and almost having an asthma attack from laughing so much. You can slag off Paul Daniels now for being the weird creepy old parody that he is now, but back then he was the (magic) man.
I think Fool Us was a one off, but that is a shame. It should be a weekly, no daily show. ITV should cancel all the other unpalatable drekk they serve up and just show 24hour magicians one after the other, with a captive Penn and Teller kept awake and forced to work out every trick. They can earn food and the occasional rest by figuring out the tricks. We can keep this going for weeks and weeks, months or years even. Actually a thought crosses my mind; a nasty and uncomfortable thought. That sort of ‘endurance magic’ is has a nasty stink of David Blaine about it. No thanks; scratch that, reverse it. Anyway, here is the end of the blog: less bullshit, more Penn & Teller. I thank you.