What I thought about: Magic For Humans (Season 3)

I had a smile on my face when I saw this one on the ‘Upcoming’ list on Netflix, and I’m happy to report that my smile was maintained throughout. This contemporary and thoughtful take on a magic show is a great watch in these trying times.

Ah yes, the famous ‘floating empanada’ trick.

What’s it about?
Justin Willman is a professional magician, and he’s really good. But this isn’t your normal magic show – there’s no ridiculous hype, no expensive props, and no sassy, over-confident magician. Instead it’s, well, human! Every episode is entered around a theme that explores the human condition. Power Trip, Vices, Home, Self Care, Know Fear, The End, and Tradition are the themes explored in this season (and the titles of each episode, in order).

Justin performs a variety of tricks in each episode. There are running themes – Magic for Susans is simple street magic for women, ostensibly whom he randomly meets on the street, called Susan. Trick Questions has Justin showing someone a trick and then immediately asking them a random question. Usually, they are too astounded to answer. Then there are larger tricks performed in locations that match the narrative of the episode.

What do I like about it?
The presentation of this show is refreshing, cute, and thought-provoking. All of Justin’s performances are either performed in the street or in a setting relevant to the show’s theme. There’s no studio audience, and the entire thing feels a bit like a documentary, with Justin as the host providing thought-provoking voiceovers while casually dropping magic all over the place. As such, the show has an incredibly broad appeal and is suitable for all ages (and indeed some of his audience are children).

Oh, and the magic? It’s good, and again, it’s relevant to the theme. Best of all, Justin just gets on with it. He’ll do a few of the usual magic flutters, like pretending a trick hasn’t worked or asking them to say a special word. But there’s no pointless hype-building – just really nice magic with genuine reactions.

What do I not like about it?
Justin claims there are no camera tricks or fakery in his show. For some of his tricks, I can agree with that statement. But there are times where he does something absolutely outrageous that I can’t accept is done in a ‘legitimate’ way. For example when he produces the exact object the audience member asked for from an empty bucket. It’s not so much the appearance of the item that’s unbelievable, but that he had exactly what they were asking for, over and over again. I suppose… that’s magic? But I’m not so sure.

Also, upon reflection, I do feel as though the tricks in this season were by and large a tad less impressive than previous seasons. That’s not to say they’re rubbish or anything, I just came away with that feeling.

Worth a watch?
Absolutely – and why not start from the first season? Episodes are only 20 minutes long (I watched this one in a day).

By the way…

  • Justin performed a magic trick at his wedding (obviously) – you can watch it on YouTube here
  • The people over at IMDB are not happy about this show, claiming it’s all fake, scripted, and uses actors. Who to believe?