Dynamo: Magician Impossible – Series 3

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Here’s the problem with putting street magic on telly: it’s inherently unspectacular. It relies on the tricks being in the here-and-now, inconsequential and slight. It’s got a good image, sure – it’s not cheesy like a Vegas act or up-its-own-arse like David Blaine – and boy do the commissioning editors at Watch see that. It’s a shame Dynamo: Magician Impossible is as street as Michael Portillo.

Dynamo himself seems sound and his tricks are surprising: when you think he’s going to pull off the sort of cold reading or slight-of-hand you’ve seen a hundred times before, he adds a twist and you’re amazed. But that’s not enough for this show: it forces a narrative on things. Dynamo isn’t just wandering around New York, showing off card tricks: he’s discovering people, sensing the danger… and then showing off card tricks.

For a magician, Dynamo is remarkably lacking in flare: he has the narrative voice of a pupil forced to read out in class. That wouldn’t be a problem if the show wasn’t trying to turn him into Derren Brown. But this isn’t Enigma, it’s The Real Hustle. Have him do a few tricks, throw some funky graphics over it, then send him off to the bar to swizz drinks off jocks.

The pattern becomes interminable: the director shows off some local colour, gives us plenty of setup, Dynamo does the trick, the director replays the trick, then the dupes describe the trick we’ve just seen twice. This is drop-in/drop-out TV of the sort Watch and it’s UKTV bredren are too fond of. It’s great if you’re channel-hopping during the ad breaks in something more interesting, but there’s no reward for those who stick around. This isn’t an episode: it’s 44 minutes of filler.

The editors mix in shots of kids on corners and guys on dirt bikes to show you how much honest, aching, corporate cred it all has. But – in the words of Bruce Campbell and Old Spice – if you’ve never had any of it, ever, people just seem to know. I’m more street than Magician Impossible and I go to the Hay-on-Wye literary festival.

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