David Blaine: Real or Magic?: TV review - Blaine gets up to his old tricks and shows the stars he hasn't lost his magic touch


Will Dean
Thursday 02 January 2014 00:00
What a card: David Blaine (right) entertains Will Smith and family in ‘Real or Magic?’
What a card: David Blaine (right) entertains Will Smith and family in ‘Real or Magic?’

Last night, David Blaine – a man with so much warmth of personality that he turned citizens of one of the most sophisticated cities on the planet into turd-flinging zoo bonobos simply by sitting in a glass box – posited an interesting question. If all of the United Kingdom is watching Sherlock on the other side, then does anyone care what Blaino is up to?

All right, that wasn't Dave's question, it was: David Blaine: Real or Magic? (Channel 4). So go on, then, which is it Dave, is it real or is it magic? It's magic, isn't it? Go on, Dave, do that levitating thing with your foot. Ma-gic!

Actually, as much as the great British public did themselves proud with the box thing, Blaine remains a stunning performance artist. And, as we discovered here with the help of an ice pick, the show's title is a legitimate question.

Mainly, rather than any grand stunts, Blaine went back to his street-magic roots, doing turns for everyone from young men hanging around in a New York housing project to George W Bush himself. Whatever you think of him, any man with the chutzpah to nick W's watch from his wrist deserves a fair chunk of respect.

In fact, Blaine's "normal" tricks, the card sleights, the classic street stuff, are so good that the entertainment here wasn't really in the result – of course he had predicted the name of the family member the girl was thinking of – but the reaction of the participants. And when those participants include Kanye West, Stephen Hawking, Harrison Ford and Woody Allen, you're probably in for some show.

Reactions ranged from a variation of "THAT IS IN-SANE!/IMPOSSIBLE!" (Emmy Rossum, Olivia Wilde and others) to Harrison Ford mock-bluntly telling Blaine: "Get the fuck out of my house."

He was not a great guest, in fairness. At Katy Perry's gaff, Blaine began by eating a glass and ended by pulling a baby alligator out of her handbag. Later, at Woody Allen's, he practised his "spouting" – a technique for storing water in the stomach and then spewing it out when required – by swallowing a goldfish and "spouting" it back out into a bowl. Allen's response was, well Woody Allen-like: "Yeah, the fish is in your stomach, I got it."

Perhaps the best reaction of all was that of four young bucks in what looked like a rough part of LA. Blaine had nabbed a dollar bill from one of them and would turn it into $100 if they could promise to share it four ways. Within milliseconds of the trick finishing, the kids were off down the street at a speed faster than Blaine's own tricky fingers. Well played.

Much of this hour or so of tricks was occupied with the magician shoving various sharp implements through various parts of his hand. For the entertainment of Kanye West and Woody Harrelson, Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, the Will Smith clan and – finally – Ricky Gervais, Blaine impaled himself on an ice pick. Again reactions varied. Aaron Paul gives it the full Jesse Pinkman ("nooooowayyyohyouuuuohgod"), while Harrelson was a tad more demure: "I've lost my erection, entirely".

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After a quick visit to a doctor who couldn't fathom how he was doing it without hitting nerves or other important bits and without drawing blood, the coup de grâce was the demonstration for Gervais, where he stuck it through his bicep. Whereas the others may think it was a trick, our Ricky seemed to be closest to the mark: "This isn't a trick, you're just sticking a needle through your fucking arm. You're a maniac, what are you doing?" It was a legitimate question.

You no doubt missed all this for an hour and a half of deduction and detection on BBC1. But can Cumberbatch stick a needle through his hand? No, thought not.

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