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Series / The Magician

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The Magician is 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 named Anthony Dorian; the name was changed 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 in prison on a trumped-up espionage charge 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, apparently 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 unjust imprisonment, and it motivated him to seek justice for others. Blake frequently received assistance from acerbic columnist Max Pomeroy, Max's brilliant but wheelchair-bound son Dennis, his assistant and pilot Jerry, and later Magic Castle owner Dominic.



Tropes used in The Magician:

  • Affably Evil: In "Lightning on a Dry Day", the real villain, Mrs. Gilpin, offers guests tea and cookies and remains affable throughout even when she is revealed as the mastermind.
  • All Bikers Are Hells Angels: In "The Illusion of Black Gold", the kidnappers are using a biker gang called the Road Knights as their muscle.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Tony Blake is a world famous Stage Magician who dabbles in investigation because he cannot stand to see injustice.
  • Animal Assassin:
    • In "The Illusion of the Stainless Steel Lady", the bad guys attempt to dispose of Tony by placing a rattlesnake in his car.
    • In "The Illusion of the Cat's Eye", the female antagonist uses a trained leopard to kill her victims and simulate an ancient Egyptian curse.
  • Auction of Evil: In "The Illusion of Black Gold", kidnappers attempt to auction off a kidnapped scientist who has developed a process for extracting oil from shale.
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  • Belly Dancer: In "The Vanishing Lady", Blake visits a witness who runs a belly dancing school. There seems to be no reason for her to have this particular occupation beyond Fanservice.
  • Bound and Gagged: After knocking Dennis out, a hitman leaves him bound and gagged in his wheelchair as he prepares to assassinate Max in "The Manhunters".
  • Brandishment Bluff: In "Lady in a Trap", Tony is able to bluff a Dirty Cop into handcuffing himself to a radiator by convincing him he has a gun aimed at him under the desk.
  • Car Fu: In "Illusion in Terror", Blake's Girl of the Week is run down and seemingly killed by a hitman in a parking garage.
  • Cement Shoes: In "Lady in a Trap", a crook attempts to dispose of his girlfriend by chaining her feet to a heavy weight and throwing her off the side of his boat. Fortunately for her, he is over the point where Tony and Jerry are scuba diving and they are able to rescue her.
  • Censor Suds: In "The Illusion of the Curious Counterfeit", Tony is set up and sent to met a Professional Killer in a hotel room: The assassin turns out to be woman who greets Tony in the bath: her modesty protected by the bubble bath.
  • Convection Schmonvection: In "The Illusion of the Lost Dragon", Tony is able to keep working on a complicated puzzle lock despite the heat of a Lava Pit opening up underneath him. Earlier in the episode, a young man was similarly unaffected until he fell into the lava, at which point he was instantly incinerated.
  • Cool Car: Blake drives a white Chevrolet Corvette with custom license plates ("SPIRIT") and, for its time, an exotic feature: a car phone.
  • Cool Plane: Initially, Blake used his Boeing 720 jetliner (named "The Spirit") 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.
  • Cutlery Escape Aid: At the start of "The Illusion of the Stainless Steel Lady", a reclusive movie star being held prisoner by her shady business manager has managed to uses a spoon to prise the mortar loose from between several bricks and remove the bricks. After being caught, her jailer tells her that from now on she will be eating with a plastic spoon.
  • Cut Phone Lines: In "The Illusion of the Queen's Gambit", the robbers do this when they take over the casino. They announce what they have done just as Jerry is picking up a phone to call for help.
  • Deadly Bath: In "Lady in a Trap", the thief who masterminded the theft of a rare book is drowned in his bath by the Dirty Cop who arrives to collect the loot.
  • Dead Man Honking: In "The Illusion of the Stainless Steel Lady", Tony fakes his death by Animal Assassin by slumping forward in his car, his head on the steering wheel and the horn blaring.
  • Dirty Cop: In "Lady in a Trap", the local sheriff is part of the conspiracy to steal a rare book.
  • Disappearing Box: In "Illusion in Terror", Tony uses a disappearing box to 'vanish' his girlfriend when the two of them are being chased through Tony's workshop by a pair of hitmen.
  • Disco Dan: The villain in "The Illusion of the Lost Dragon" is a Chinese warlord who has set up a compound where he lives as if it is the 16th century; the time of his ancestors' greatest power. All of his guards, servants, concubines, etc. dress in appropriate period Chinese garb.
  • Disney Villain Death: The mastermind in "The Manhunters" plunges to his death when he is washed over a spillway while trying to escape from Blake.
  • Driving into a Truck: In "The Illusion of Black Gold", the Girl of the Week drives Tony's car into the back of a large truck, which turns out to be the mobile office of the reclusive billionaire Tony has been trying to locate.
  • Drowning Pit: In "Nightmare in Steel", one of the bad guys attempts to murder Tony's Lovely Assistant by sabotaging the lock on the glass tank being used for a water escape trick.
  • Eat the Evidence: In "Lady in the Trap", the Girl of the Week grabs the piece of paper containing the location of the body and eats it as the Villain of the Week is trying to read it.
  • Epiphany Therapy: In "Lightning on a Dry Day", Ian recovers from the acute mental trauma of seeing a man burn to death, in what is a very short period of time after Tony returns him to the institute. The doctor finding out what Ian saw was enough to cure him.
  • Escape Artist: Tony learned escapology getting out of the South American prison where he initially learned his craft. He demonstrates his escape skills in multiple episodes, and handcuffs are incapable of holding him.
  • Evil Elevator: In "Nightmare in Steel", a hitman attempts to kill Tony's new Lovely Assistant by sabotaging the elevator so that it bursts into flame when she presses a button.
  • Fakeout Escape: In "Ovation for Murder", Tony breaks a friend out of the jail wing of a hospital and then conceals him in a linen closet on the same floor. This convinces the real criminals that he has escaped, while allowing him to convince the police that her never left the secure floor.
  • Faking the Dead:
    • In "Man on Fire", a female Con Artist stages a Staircase Tumble to convince her boyfriend that he has killed her. Her partner then arranges to dispose of the 'body', so he can blackmail the The Mark into handing over industrial secrets.
    • In "The Illusion of Black Gold", Tony helps the CIA fake the death of a defecting scientist so his former government will stop looking for him.
  • Food Slap: In "Shattered Image", Tony drops an ice cream cone in the lap of the thug who has been tailing him; using the distraction to steal his car keys.
  • Forklift Fu: In "Nightmare in Steel", the villains attempt to dispose of Tony by running him down with a forklift loaded with drums.
  • Framed Face Opening: Tony appears in the early episodes in a full-body frame. The other main stars have their faces framed in production Multiplying Balls, and after the Retool on cards that Tony causes to rise out of a deck.
  • Girl in a Box: In "The Vanishing Lady", kidnappers knock a singer unconscious and then stuff her into a trunk, and casually wheel the trunk out of the theatre.
  • Girl of the Week: Tony has several romantic interests who disappear at the end of the episode they appear in, and are never mentioned again. This is particularly noticeable in "The Illusion of the Curious Counterfeit", when Janet drops into Tony's life. She had a relationship with him a year ago when they were engaged, knew enough about his stage routine to slip into it while evading two thugs, and knows the Magic Castle's hidden elevators. Tony becomes romantically involved with Janet again, and resolves the conflict between Janet and her father. And yet Janet is never heard from again.
  • Genius Cripple: Dennis Pomeroy is a super-genius of sorts, being Max and Tony's computer hacker and researcher.
  • Harmless Lady Disguise: In "The Illusion of Black Gold", three bikers disguise themselves as old ladies to crash a funeral parlour and stage a kidnapping.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: In "The Vanishing Lady", a kidnapper is fleeing from Blake when he trips and falls over the edge of a catwalk. Blake grabs him by the foot and refuses to haul him up till he tells him where the missing woman is being held.
  • Hollywood Fire: In "Illusion in Terror", Tony is locked inside a burning barn but seems to suffer no ill effects from the heat. And while there is some smoke, there is not nearly enough.
  • Hollywood Law: In "Ovation for Murder", Albie is sent to prison after only being accused of murder. There is no indication of arraignment, bail, or a trial.
  • Human Mail: In "Man on Fire", a teenager steals one of Tony's trick trunks and conceals himself in it after arranging for it to be delivered the photographic studio that is blackmailing his father.
  • I Have Your Wife: In "The Vanishing Lady", a singer is kidnapped and a million dollar ransom demanded from her agent/boyfriend.
  • Identity Amnesia: In "The Man Who Lost Himself", Tony helps a man who loses his memory following an accident on Tony's stage, and cannot remember anything about himself: including why he is being chased by two men.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All of the episodes following the Retool have titles beginning "The Illusion of..."
  • Imposter Forgot One Detail: In "The Illusion of the Stainless Steel Lady", a reclusive movie star (who is an old friend of Tony's) is being held prisoner in her house by a gang of crooks who are bleeding her bank account dry. When Tony investigates, he is shown into the bedroom of an imposter who summarily dismisses him. However, while in the bedroom Tony spots a packet of cigarettes. Tony's friend doesn't smoke and won't allow people to smoke around her.
  • Improvised Zipline: In "The Illusion of Black Gold", Tony uses a pair of handcuffs he had earlier taken from the prisoner he was rescuing to slide down a guywire to the ground, carrying the prisoner on his back.
  • Instant Sedation: In "Nightmare in Steel", the Ruthless Modern Pirates use anesthetic pistols which cause instantaneous knockout when they hijack the cargo ship.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: In "Shattered Image", a mobster attempts to threaten Tony only to find that Tony had lifted his automatic off him earlier. When Tony hands it back, he points it at Tony. Tony then says that to fire one of those, you need one of these and holds up the clip. The mobster grabs the clip and leaves. As he does so, Tony opens his hand and lets the bullets spill out on the bar.
  • Job Title
  • Latex Perfection: Used as part of a Frame-Up in "Ovation for Murder": allowing a hitman to impersonate the patsy and commit murder in plain sight.
  • Lava Pit: The Chinese warlord in "The Illusion of the Lost Dragon" has a lava pit concealed beneath the floor of the corridor leading to his inner sanctum. Anyone attempting to intrude has a limited time to solve the puzzle lock on the door before the slowly opening floor dumps them in the lava.
  • Lovely Assistant: Tony used a variety of lovely assistants over the course of the show; seemingly hiring a new one in each city he performed in. When the format of the show changed to give him a permanent base of operation, he gained a permanent lovely assistant named Kathy. He sometimes also used a male assistant named Larry.
  • Magician Detective: Blake uses his skills as an illusionist and escapologist to solve crimes as needed.
  • Money to Throw Away: Tony does it in "The Man Who Lost Himself". Having grabbed the stolen loot from the bad guys, he releases the bundles into the wind, forcing the crooks to stop chasing him in order to grab it. He actually pockets the real cash and releases bundles of stage money to distract them.
  • New Old Flame: The two-part "The Illusion of the Curious Counterfeit" begins when a preciously unseen ex-girlfriend of Tony's arrives on his doorstep being chased by gangsters. Confusing matters is that on-screen dialogue establishes they broke up a year ago, before Tony was at the Magic Castle. But the girlfriend knows all about the Magic Castle's secret elevators and Tony's penthouse.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: "The Illusion of Black Gold" features a reclusive oil billionaire named Victor Paradine who no one has seen in person in years. The character is very heavily based on Howard Hughes.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: In "The Vanishing Lady", a kidnapped singer uses the phrases "chin up" when allowed to speak on the phone to prove she is alive. Blake thinks it was an odd thing for her to say and is sure it is a clue. Dennis' research skills eventually turn up a meaning.
  • Outside Ride: In "The Magician - Pilot", Blake and Mary Rose have to jump from a speedboat onto a seaplane being piloted by Jerry. They cling to the outside as the plane takes off.
  • Pistol-Whipping: A hitman knocks Blake out by rapping him over the back of the head with a pistol in "Illusion in Terror".
  • Pop the Tires:
    • In "Lightning on a Dry Day", the local toughs in a Town with a Dark Secret slash the tyres on Tony's Corvette in an attempt to intimidate him into leaving town. As The Sheriff points out to them, this just makes him more determined to stay.
    • The bad guys shoot out the tyres of Tony's Corvette to prevent from escaping in "The Man Who Lost Himself".
  • Ransacked Room: In "The Magician - Pilot", Blake visits Francine's apartment in search of Mary Rose. He finds the apartment ransacked and Francine beaten up on the floor. Francine's dazed words send him to a houseboat, only to find the bad guys have beaten him to it, with the houseboat ransacked and Mary Rose missing.
  • Rare Money: In "The Man Who Lost Himself", three crooks seem to be going to extreme lengths to discover the location of the relatively small sum of $24,000 stolen in a military payroll heist in Hawaii during World War II. It turns out the cash is in the form of so-called 'Aloha money'; money overprinted with the word 'Hawaii' in case the Japanese overran Hawaii. Now valuable collectors' items, $24,000 in uncirculated bills is now worth $1.6 million.
  • Retool: Midway through the program's run, the idea of Tony living on an airplane was dropped 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 (Joseph Sirola), a somewhat comical sidekick. No explanation for the changes was given in the series.
    • Max (Keene Curtis) appears in one episode, that was filmed before the Retool but aired after it began. Jerry (Jim Watkins) appears for a few episodes after the Retool begins, but the character is dropped although the actor continues to get a "Starring" credit.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Mark Hamill appears as a traumatized youth in "Lightning on a Dry Day". The episode aired in 1973: Star Wars: Episode IV premiered in 1977.
  • Room Disservice: Used by a hitman to gain access to Max's hotel room in "The Manhunters".
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: In "Nightmare in Steel", Tony thwarts a gang of modern pirates bent on hijacking a freighter carrying millions of dollars in fuel as cargo.
  • The Sheriff: Sheriff Platt in "Lightning on a Dry Day" is the "typical" small-town sheriff. It is clear from his introduction that he knows about Town with a Dark Secret's secret. Averted because at the end he turns against the mastermind, Eleanor Gilpin.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: One of the bad guys does this in "Man on Fire"; somehow managing to shoot out the chair Tony had jammed under the door handle as well.
  • Show Some Leg: In "Nightmare in Steel", Tony's Lovely Assistant distracts a pair of guards on a boat by setting up on the dock to do some painting, and taking off her jacket to reveal an extremely abbreviated top that makes it look like she is topless from the back. While the guards are ogling her, Tony sneaks on board.
  • Skeleton Key Card: In "The Magician - Pilot", a heavy uses his credit card to jimmy the lock on Tony's dressing room.
  • Sleeping Dummy: Tony leaves behind one made out of balloons when he escapes from a jail cell in "Lady in a Trap".
  • Slipped the Ropes: Somewhat averted in "Lightning on a Dry Day", when Platt handcuffs Tony and pretends that Tony is his prisoner. Tony escapes the cuffs on his own, and even Platt seems surprised.
  • Slippery Skid: In "Nightmare in Steel", Tony is being chased through a ship when he causes his pursuers to skid and crash by spraying machine oil on the floor. Later in the same episode, he causes the leader of the pirates to trip and fall by tossing a handful of bullets under his foot.
  • Stage Magician: Tony's day job is as an illusionist and escapologist.
  • Staircase Tumble: In "Man on Fire", a female Con Man fakes a fatal staircase tumble as part of a plot to convince The Mark that he is a murderer.
  • Stolen by Staying Still: In "Ovation for Murder", Tony breaks a friend out of the jail wing of a hospital and then conceals him in a linen closet on the same floor. This convinces the real criminals that he has escaped, while allowing him to convince the police that her never left the secure floor.
  • Sunglasses at Night:
    • One of the bad guys in "The Man Who Lost Himself" constantly wears sunglasses, even while creeping around a darkened hospital at night. It becomes even more ridiculous when he and his partner start shooting out the lights so they can escape.
    • In "The Illusion of the Cat's Eye", Tony wears sunglasses while driving at night.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: In "Lightning on a Dry Day", Blake visits the small town of Elm Ridge, North Carolina after meeting a young man who was rendered catatonic by something he saw near there. The locals make various attempts to run him out of town before he eventually discovers that the town matriarch is manufacturing illegal rejuvenation drugs, and the young man witnessed a Treasury agent who got too close to the truth being burned alive.
  • Trash Landing: In "The Illusion of the Curious Counterfeit", Tony escapes from the gangsters who are chasing him by jumping from a second storey landing into a huge pile of trash—which seemingly consists of cardboard and rags—in the alley.
  • Unwilling Suspension: In "Illusion in Terror', Blake is suspended by his ankles and left to die in a burning barn.
  • Vanity License Plate: Tony drives a white Corvette with the licence plate 'SPIRIT'.
  • We Help the Helpless: Tony is independently wealthy, and will freely use his skills to aid anyone he thinks is facing injustice.
    • After the Retool, this conceit is pretty much forgotten, and Tony mostly only helps friends.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After the Retool, Max and his son disappear without mention (except Max appears in one episode filmed before the Retool that was aired afterward). Jerry disappears without mention five episodes into the Retool, although actor Jim Watkins continues receiving a star credit.
    • The SPIRIT jet that Tony used before the Retool disappears and is never mentioned. Given he lived there, its disappearance without a trace is unusual.
    • Janet in "The Illusion of the Curious Counterfeit". The whole episode is written to bring Tony and Janet back together as a couple, and work out Tony and Janet's father's vitriolic relationship. However, Janet disappears without a trace in future episodes.
  • Witness Protection: In "Illusion in Terror", Tony's Girl of the Week turns out to be in witness protection. After her photo appears in the paper, syndicate hitmen turn up looking to kill her.
  • Worthless Treasure Twist: Inverted in "The Man Who Lost Himself", where three crooks seem to be going to extreme lengths to discover the location of the relatively small sum of $24,000 stolen in a military payroll heist in World War II. It turns out the cash is in the form of 'Aloha money'; money overprinted with the word 'Hawaii' in case the Japanese overran Hawaii. Now valuable collectors' items, $24,000 in uncirculated bills is now worth $1.6 million.
  • Yellow Peril: The villain in "The Illusion of the Lost Dragon" is a descendant of warlords who used to rule Szechuan Province, and who regards anything that originates from there as his property. This includes demanding daughters of Chinese immigrants as tribute. Although he mentions that he is of mixed race (presumably to explain why the white actor playing him does not look Chinese) he dresses in ancient Chinese armour, and lives in a palace surrounded by Chinese servants.


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