Magic is mysterious, mystical and often defies logic.
When a magician steps up to the stage, they are there to make us question our reality, and evoke a sense of childlike wonder in our hearts.
Who hasn’t had their mind obliterated when an illusionist pulls out the same card you picked at the beginning of the trick or when the beautiful assistant gets sawed in half?
It goes without saying that being a magician takes immense skill and intelligence, with an added touch of charisma mixed in – for the stage presence of course.
So what happens when an illusionist finds themselves in normal life away from the stage? How do they use their illusory skills and magic tricks to navigate murder mysteries, criminals, or even ordinary day-to-day tasks?
Let’s find out by examining some of the best scripted TV shows about magicians available!
Houdini, History Channel (2014)
The man who started it all, the great Houdini – possibly one of the greatest magicians to ever push the boundaries of performance and illusions.
This limited two-part series, which aired in 2014, follows our protagonist from an immigrant to a master magician and escapologist.
In the show, we see him not only excel and propel the art of magic to new heights, but he also sets out to disprove spiritualists and fake magicians, all while employed by MI5 as a spy!
Expect dazzling illusions that live up to the name and actor Adrien Brody delivering at his peak as the enigmatic and enchanting Harry Houdini.
The Magician, NBC (1973 – 1974)
One of the original TV Playboy Philantrophists, we follow Anthony “Tony” Blake, a stage magician with a penchant for solving crimes on the side.
Having survived and escaped false imprisonment in South America and subsequently falling in love with “escapology”, Tony is a man on a mission for justice.
Together with the fortune he inherited from his former cellmate, a Boeing 737 jetliner, and his trusty pilot Jerry Anderson, Tony embarks on a series of investigations that challenge his abilities as a magician and detective.
This is Batman with magic tricks instead of a mask.
The show actually features real magic tricks that do not make use of clever editing or camera tricks, instead, actor Bill Boxby performs all the illusions himself.
Strap in for a wacky adventure and some brain-tickling illusions that leave you questioning more than the motive of this week’s criminal.
Blacke’s Magic, NBC (1986)
Building on the premise created by The Magician, this time we meet Alexander Blacke and his father, con man Leonard who are as adept at solving crimes as they are at bending minds.
With a plethora of unusual crimes getting in the way of his perceived retirement from stage magic, Alexander often finds himself figuring out how seemingly impossible crimes were pulled off.
Magic tricks go wrong and Alex is called in to help the police understand sinister acts that defy logic.
How do you figure out how man was shot in a sealed coffin underwater? Ask actor Hal Linder and his masterfully crafted character Alexander to let you in on the secret!
Deception, ABC (2018)
Magicians just can’t stay away from crime, can they?
In Deception, we are introduced to Cameron Black, a disgraced illusionist who pivots his career to “consulting illusionist” for the FBI.
In exchange for his help, FBI agent Kay Daniels will help him clear his twin brother Jonathan’s name as it seems the person who orchestrated the downfall of Cameron’s career is behind more than just that.
In contrast to other magician crime shows, Deception has a complicated overarching plot that delves deep into familial bonds and revenge – and even a treasure hunt?
A must-watch for those who enjoy having their inner detective tickled.
Jonathan Creek, BBC (1997 – 2016)
For those on the hunt for a good binge-worthy series, meet Jonathan Creek.
Starring Alan Davies, this British crime show follows our titular protagonist in his exploits as a designer of illusions and tricks for stage magician Adam Klaus.
Using his unique ability to think outside the box, Jonathan is often drawn into crimes that feel nearly impossible.
Together with Maddy Magellan, an investigative journalist, the show follows his journey as an unwilling and cynical but brilliant detective.
Expect to see behind the curtain as the science behind the tricks on the show is often revealed either through exposition or one of Adam Klaus’s hilarious failures on stage.
There’s plenty of wit and laughs to be had as the show progresses, and it has plenty of Christmas specials and episodes to keep the magic flowing.
Houdini and Doyle, ITV (2016)
Going back to the great man himself, Houdini and Doyle takes a more fictionalized route.
Here we see the great Harry Houdini team up with the one and only Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle.
Two worlds collide as the skeptical Houdini butts heads with Doyle who fervently believes in the supernatural.
A series of mysterious deaths plague London, and our two protagonists make a wager on whether there is a supernatural element at play or not.
Each episode sees them take on these elements and come together to untangle their vastly differing beliefs to find the truth.
Imagine The X-Files, but with a renowned author and an illusionist at the helm running amok in the streets of the early 20th century.
The Mentalist, CBS (2008 – 2015)
Lastly, an honorary mention must go to The Mentalist.
Although not strictly a magician, protagonist Patrick Jane uses his years of experience as a mentalist to assist the California Bureau of Investigation in their pursuit of criminals.
However, Patrick is a man haunted by the death of his wife at the hand of a serial killer dubbed Red John – a direct result of Patrick using his psychic abilities on TV to profile said killer.
Through the show, we the viewer are given a peak behind the curtain of mentalism and just how an ordinary man can seemingly read our minds.
You know, the man who asks you to think of a number and knows it within seconds? That’s Patrick Jane, the man who uses his powers for good rather than fame due to his need to avenge his wife and solve the case of Red John.