Show discussion: Penn and Teller: Fool Us

By | January 7, 2011

I wanted to get a ticket for this, but unfortunately was unsuccessful.

However, Friend Of The Bar Geek Comedian Tom Scott managed to sneak in and send us a report which I thought I would put up as an unspoiler-iffic preview:

– There really was no camera trickery – not even any pick-up shots of the magic tricks, save for one (and that was after the reveal, not during the trick itself).

– No female magicians at all, save for a couple of glamorous assistants. I tried searching for “female British magicians” on Google, and it asked me if I meant “female British musicians”. Damn. A few of them do exist, but apparently none of them made the cut for the show.

– One trick stalled half way through due to technical problems – a sound issue, apparently – and couldn’t be repeated; it won’t be in the final show. Now, I could have sworn that Jonathan Ross said ‘nine magicians’ in his introductory spiel, and that wasn’t reshot after they dropped to eight. It’ll be interesting to see how they edit round that. (Flawlessly, no doubt.)

– The recording was long. The setup for some of the bigger tricks took a while! Stuart Goldsmith did an excellent job as the warm-up guy, though – although I was vaguely disappointed that, when he asked a child in the audience “what’s the rudest word you know?”, the answer wasn’t “kettle-head”.

And a review? At 90 minutes it’ll be a bit of a stretch, but if the BBC thinks there’s an audience for an hour of magic a week with ‘The Magicians’, ITV can certainly pull of a one-off 90 minute special – particularly with Penn and Teller’s own tricks in there as well.

Oh, and if there’s a shot of me dropping my jaw in astonishment during one of the close-up tricks, that’s real as well; I didn’t notice the camera until it moved away and I realised how wide open my mouth was…

So there we go, quite looking forward to this. Cheers, Tom

20 thoughts on “Show discussion: Penn and Teller: Fool Us

  1. David B

    Female magicians? There aren’t many, but there are enough to find at least one who’d go on TV. Fay Presto is the most famous, and there’s also Mandy Muden and the younger Laura London. But whether they could fool P&T is another thing.

    Reply
  2. Simon

    Only 6 tricks were shown in the end. Entertaining 90 minutes of TV though.

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  3. Joe

    Excellent show. A million times better than the awful ‘Magicians’ show which was on last week.

    Reply
    1. Chris

      I think this is one time where the PR comments are actually realistic

      Reply
  4. Brig Bother Post author

    Watching this on catch-up and liking it a lot. I like the fact it’s not trying to be cool specifically and lettingbthe magic do the talking.

    John Archer is a writing partner of Tim Vine and makes appearances in many of his live DVDs, not to mention he co-wrote and cameoed in Fort Boyard Takes On The World for Challenge.

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  5. NJ

    The thing that makes P+T perfect here is that they pretty much made their reputation for telling people how they did their tricks, the sawing a woman trick twist at the end is I think the perfect example of that. I also loved their reasoning behind doing the show, wanting to get back that sense of wonder after so long in the business.

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  6. Brig Bother Post author

    It looks like this is getting a DVD release next month. Presumably it wil have the missing tricks as extras.

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  7. Tom Scott

    So, having caught it on ITV Player, here’s a bit of magical exposure of my own…! I appear to have written an essay here – sorry about that.

    First of all, as Penn would say: the show was wonderful. That was proper Friday-night entertainment television.

    A few behind-the-scenes things from the audience:

    They changed the order of the magicians, and dropped two of them. I can’t remember what the other two tricks were, so perhaps that’s for the best.

    Disappointingly, the middle of Penn and Teller’s three tricks also got cut: it’s a memory trick with a nail gun, and that’s all I’m saying. It was absolutely stunning, hasn’t been on TV before, and I wish there had been time for it. Perhaps it works better live.

    The whole opening of James More’s shrinking-man-in-box trick – he did some wonderful card manipulation – got cut. That explains why the lighting goes dark very suddenly, why the pacing seems a bit wrong, and why there are cards all over the floor at the ‘start’ of his act.

    That odd ‘backstage’ section, right at the end of the final act? The final victory – while certainly deserved! – was a bit more complicated than it appears, and involved a couple of minutes of back-and-forth with Penn (who knew what he meant by ‘false shuffle’, but used the wrong words), a slightly exasperated-looking Teller, and the unseen adjudicator in the gallery. The backstage bit fills in the gaps that couldn’t be edited into the finished package. I wonder if it was filmed that night, or much later?

    The editing of Penn and Teller’s guesses has been very carefully done: the studio audience heard a lot more exposure than made it to the final cut. “Rang in a cooler”, for example, was pretty much fully explained.

    By my judgement, the audience’s favourite was Michael Vincent, the first close-up magician – it’s the only time I heard a proper, full-on gasp from the people in the studio.

    Oh, and one note: there’s only 65 minutes of actual show, according to ITV player – that’s 25 minutes of adverts in 90. That’s cutting it very close to Ofcom’s limits, if I recall correctly; I can only assume they ran the news ad-free…

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    1. David Howell

      Twelve minutes in one hour xx00-xy00, not including internal promotions, so even an ad-free news would only have done it if they were clever timing the later breaks in Fool Us.

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    2. Jennifer Turner

      The editing of Penn and Teller’s guesses has been very carefully done: the studio audience heard a lot more exposure than made it to the final cut.

      Thereby rather cutting out the point of the show. Where’s the payoff?

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    3. Weaver

      CAUTION: the following comment contains technical minutiae that’s even boring me.

      there’s only 65 minutes of actual show, according to ITV player – that’s 25 minutes of adverts in 90. That’s cutting it very close to Ofcom’s limits, if I recall correctly; I can only assume they ran the news ad-free

      After carefully excising the ad breaks so as to record the show for posterity, I get a 65m18s show left. It began at 21.03, and had five internal breaks. First three were standard procedure, three minutes of commercial, 30s of ITV promo. Fourth break had the promo before the commercials, which I think would have been done to keep within the limit for the 9pm clock hour – OFCOM has been enforcing these rules very strictly recently, it’s something that doesn’t require them to exercise any value judgements and shows that they’re doing Something. Final break was two minutes of ITV promo, suggesting that ITV was also nearing its limits for prime-time as a whole.

      As for the show, feels like it was intended as a two-hour programme that didn’t quite justify its length, and profited from the shorter running time.

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    4. Jessie

      They changed the order of the magicians, and dropped two of them. I can’t remember what the other two tricks were, so perhaps that’s for the best.

      They’ve dropped the Victorian magicians and the “street” magician.

      By my judgement, the audience’s favourite was Michael Vincent, the first close-up magician – it’s the only time I heard a proper, full-on gasp from the people in the studio.

      I much preferred Ali Cook – that was sweet.

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      1. Tom Scott

        I feel terribly rude for forgetting them now! Both acts were good, although if I recall correctly they were rather long for their payoff – I suspect that might be the reason they were cut.

        Reply
  8. Alex

    Incidentally just turned on The Magicians. Ade Edmonson is still like Eddie from Bottom. And I like it.

    Reply
  9. Travis P

    Talking about magic. Currently watching the Derren Brown behind the scenes documentary and I see Andrew O’Connor is being featured, being the Objective co-owner/executive producer and all that.

    When was the last time we actually saw him on television (not including old repeats)?

    Reply
    1. Brekkie

      A couple of weeks ago on the Peep Show documentary I believe.

      Great show – much better than the BBC’s Magicians as this show was actually about the Magicians and the wonder of magic, and you could tell all involved had respect for the craft.

      Not sure it could sustain a series, but a few more one-offs would be most welcome.

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  10. CMD in yet another browser

    Very impressed with the show on ITV Player, though the 13:5 show:ad ratio would have taken the pip if I had been watching live. I enjoyed the magic, though all the card magic did start to get slightly same-y by the end, and the presence of Penn and Teller, in their role, really helped the show quite a lot by introducing an element where nobody on stage knew everything that was going to happen in advance. More, please, though I think this has “once or twice a year” written over it. (There is precedent to this: the “Magic’s Greatest Secrets: Revealed!” series, which put out about one show a year, for about three years.)

    I am not completely convinced that the presence of prizes and player-versus-house competition makes this a game show, as it doesn’t feel like one, somehow. If consensus opinion is that it is then either a shoo-in for the 2011 Five or 2011 will have been a very fine year indeed.

    That John Archer, eh? I saw him supporting Tim Vine once. It’s a weird combination, other than the fact that they’re friends and writing partners, because Archer’s style of humour is completely different to Vine’s, and the two are so opposed that I find it hard to imagine that someone would really like both; I come firmly down on the Vine side of the divide, putting it as politely as I can because (a) Archer uses the Internet, (b) he is a real person and (c) he is Tim Vine’s friend. Still, anyone who was apparently partly responsible for coming up with the “Look out! Here comes a river of money!” and “That’s almost a pension for life!” (etc.) lines on Whittle can’t be all bad.

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  11. CMD in yet another browser

    Oh, and John Archer sells the explanation to his routine on his web site, in a covert area, for fifteen pounds. I suspect that the price of that particular routine has suddenly gone up considerably.

    Reply

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