The CW Network launches two programs this week about the world of magic and illusions — “Masters of Illusions” and “Penn & Teller: Fool Us.”
Both shows will have to deal with the spectre that’s haunted magic on TV for decades: How do you make a TV audience believe they are seeing something that hasn’t been aided by editing?
Michael Grandinetti, one of the performers on “Masters of Illusions,” which premieres at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1, doesn’t see any problem with televised magic. To the contrary, he thinks the audience benefits from the electronic medium.
“It is actually better than watching live because the viewer gets a far better look than a live audience. I made sure there were handheld cameras that could move around and show the illusion from various angles,” Grandinetti says. “When I do levitation, there are cameras giving you a 360-degree shot. I believe TV enhances the magic and makes it a special experience.”
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His performance is part of the series that features magic from top illusionists and escape artists. Each episode of the show, hosted by Dean Cain, displays skills ranging from perplexing interactive mind magic to comedy routines.
Grandinetti, who will appear in several episodes, performs two illusions in the series opener, including his trademark “Walking Through Steel.” He gets some assistance from Ace Young, of “American Idol” and “Hair” on Broadway.
Whether it is a massive illusion like “Walking Through Steel,” or some sleight-of-hand work, Grandinetti believes every illusion has the potential to be great on television.
“You have to approach each illusion from a television standpoint. The steel wall is a very big spectacular illusion that works because of so much emphasis I put on test conditions. I had it examined by audience. That is how you sell everything we are doing,” Grandinetti says.
While there will always be skeptics, Grandinetti has been in love with and studied magic for so many years that he’s come to realize that most people want to be amazed. For most, there aren’t many opportunities to get that uplifting sense of amazement and because they want to feel it they are willing to sit back and enjoy the show.
Grandinetti, a Pennsylvania native, got his first magic kit when he was 5 and recalls, as a teenager, going to a Pittsburgh magic shop every Saturday to spend his allowance on another trick.
He was so interested in magic, he wrote letters to magicians around the world offering to trade them VHS tapes of magic on TV.
That childhood passion became a career and Grandinetti has performed on television and venues around the world. His TV appearances include NBC’s “The World’s Most Dangerous Magic II,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “SportsCenter,” “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.”
The one thing he’s learned is that magic is 50 percent illusion and 50 percent presentation.
“Each illusion starts with a basic idea. I heard a piece of music and it made me think of the steel wall illusion. It took seven years to make it work and be as strong as I could make it. I wanted everything to be clean and straightforward. Once you have that all in hand, then you have to come up with the kind of presentation that allows an audience to connect emotionally.”
And for Grandinetti, it doesn’t matter if that audience is watching from 10 feet away or through their television sets.
The other new magic show, “Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” features the madcap magicians throwing down a challenge: anyone who can fool them with an illusion will be hired to perform in their Las Vegas show. The first contenders take their most magical shots in the series opener at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 30.