Rick Lax, like any magician, loves jam sessions. Every week he gets together with Justin Flom, Bizzaro and others for a creative crash. Those sessions were so crazy that they inspired him to create a reality TV show concept.
“Sometimes our jam sessions are more entertaining than the magic that comes out of them,” Lax said. “That got me wondering how to get people to care about the magicians’ creative process. And the reality competition format seemed like a perfect fit.”
That competition starts at 10 p.m. EST Tuesday, Aug. 19, with the debut episode of “Wizard Wars.” Featuring Lax, Flom, Penn & Teller, Shimshi, Murray SawChuck, Angela Funovitz, Nathan Burton and other Las Vegas performers, magicians will compete to create the best magic tricks possible.
The show will give a spotlight to the creators of magic, who are unheralded, unsung heroes, he said. Dan Hauss, Ekaterina Dhobrokotova, Blake Vogt, Gregory Wilson and others will be featured on the show, and Dan White and Johnny Thompson work behind the scenes.
Creation, not revelation
The concept of the show might raise questions about trick revelation among magicians. Lax said that’s not the case: The creative process is featured, not the end result of a trick.
Competitors will be featured in a magic workshop, charged with meeting a goal and developing ways to accomplish that goal. While audience members will get a peek behind the curtain, it doesn’t get pulled back completely. The only methods that might get revealed are ones that don’t get used.
“Let’s say the secret item is ‘tennis ball,’ and one magician does a trick where the ball vanishes from one hand and reappears in her other hand,” he said. “If the method she ultimately decides on is a duplicate ball, we’re not going to show the duplicate ball. But let’s say that before she figured out to use the duplicate, she tried to build an elastic contraption that would bring a ball up one sleeve and down the other. That’s something we might show.”
Each episode will feature the creative process — the unique thinking that leads to moments of brillance, resulting in the creation of a beautiful illusion. The competitive format will give creators the spotlight — names that magicians know like others know pop singers.
“(The concept) means so much to me because magic creators never really get the national spotlight,” Lax said. “Guys like Gregory Wilson or Blake Vogt. You see their tricks being performed everywhere, but you so rarely get to see them in front of the cameras. ‘Wizard Wars’ is their chance to shine.”
Best network possible
According to a story on Wired.com, Lax pitched his idea to a bunch of networks. Syfy was the last pitch, and the one that picked up the idea. The pickup was double-sweet, Lax said — all because of a bunch of people who did movie makeup, and the TV viewers who watched them.
“I’m a huge ‘Face Off’ fan. Seen every episode,” Lax said. “And in ‘Face Off,’ Syfy masterfully got people who knew nothing about special effects makeup to care about special effects makeup. So the hope is it can do the same for the magic creative process.”
A magic reality show is different than other talent-based shows, because of the secrecy of methods. Lax said “Wizard Wars” focuses on laymen, but magicians will appreciate incredibly good magic and how challengers are treated with respect. The competition is intense and heated, but the featuring of quality magicians means plenty of respect between each other.
And magicians will find plenty to learn and apply to their own acts, Lax said.
“Note the show’s judging criteria: creativity, originality and deceptiveness. The best magic acts have elements of all three,” Lax said. “Think about how to make the trick your own. And think about how to make it entertaining, not just deceptive. Communication and connection are so important.”