The Magician was an American television series that ran during the 1973–1974 season. It starred Bill Bixby as stage illusionist Anthony "Tony" Blake, a playboy philanthropist who used his skills to solve difficult crimes as needed. In the series pilot, the character was instead named Anthony Dorian. The name change was due to a conflict with the name of a real life stage magician.
Blake was a professional stage magician who used his skills to solve crimes and help the helpless. Years earlier, Blake had been wrongly convicted of an unspecified crime, and unjustly confined for that crime in a prison in an unnamed country in South America. He discovered a way to escape with his cellmate, which began his interest in escapology. The cellmate died and left him a fortune. The escape, presumably followed by exoneration of the false charges that had led to it, led to Blake's pursuit of a career in stage magic, which made him famous. He never forgot his imprisonment or the fact that he had not deserved it, and it motivated him to seek justice for others.
Initially, Blake used his Boeing 720 jetliner as a base of operations; it was outfitted as a mobile residence ("It's like any other mobile home, only faster.") with live-in pilot Jerry Anderson (Jim Watkins). Blake frequently received assistance from acerbic columnist Max Pomeroy, portrayed by Keene Curtis, and his brilliant, wheelchair-using son Dennis (Todd Crespi). Midway through the program's run, the idea of the airplane was dropped (presumably on grounds of expense) and Blake took up residence in a posh apartment at The Magic Castle, a real club devoted to magic acts. At the same time, the supporting cast of the show was replaced with a new, single character, Dominick, a somewhat comical sidekick played by Joseph Sirola. No explanation for the changes was given in the series, although Tony did recruit Jerry and Max for one further case in the new format.
Some episodes featured Larry Anderson (who later hosted Truth or Consequences and created the JawDroppers video magic course) as Blake's assistant.
Magic on the program
The show is noteworthy in that Bixby insisted on doing all of the magic himself, without any trick photography, although it was not possible for this to be the case in the TV-movie/pilot. He was instructed in these performances by the program's technical advisor, Mark Wilson, who was credited as "magic consultant." Once the format changed to have the hero based in a magic club, Wilson could occasionally be seen on the stage there, as well. In addition to escapes, Bixby performed feats of sleight of hand, mentalism, and stage illusions. After the series' cancellation, Bixby went on to host a string of magic specials on NBC and a series in first-run syndication.
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