Wednesday, April 23, 2008

And for My Next Act ...

My brief appearance last week as a guest on the KSAV “global radio” series Talking Television with Dave White, during which I had the chance to yap some about Bill Bixby’s 1973-1974 NBC-TV series, The Magician, left me thinking about another show that combined crime and larceny with legerdemain: Blacke’s Magic.

Featuring former Barney Miller star Hal Linden as Alexander Blacke, a full-time magician and part-time sleuth, and the ever-wonderful Harry Morgan (Dragnet, Hec Ramsey, M*A*S*H) as his not-quite-reformed con man father, Leonard, that 12-episode NBC series from 1986 was created by William Link and Richard Levinson of Columbo and Mannix fame. As Wikipedia explains, the cases facing the Blackes usually “tested logic against seemingly magical crimes,” and were done with an edge of wry humor. Unfortunately, the series vanished faster than you can say “abracadabra.”

Blacke’s Magic owed its inspiration in large part to Bixby’s The Magician, even if no public acknowledgment was ever made. (Regarding its concentration on “impossible crimes,” Blacke’s Magic may also owe a debt to George Peppard’s Banacek.) In both the Bixby and Linden series, the idea of a working illusionist tackling crimes with as much dexterity as he brings to pulling flapping doves from his sleeves or breaking out of locked cabinets was the same, and it remains a promising one.

Here’s the opening to Blacke’s Magic, for anybody who doesn’t remember it. And also for those of us who do.

By the way, guest host and TV historian Ed Robertson has invited me to return to Talking Television with Dave White on the evening of Tuesday, May 20, to chat more about The Magician and its late star. How could I say no? I’ll let you know details later.

READ MORE:NBC’s Blacke’s Magic, Magician as Detective,” by John J. O’Connor (The New York Times); “Vigil of the Shepherds,” by TomCat (Beneath the Stains of Time).


Anonymous said...

Two points about BLACKE'S MAGIC:the two-hour pilot by Levinson & Link lifted its murder gimmck from their BURKE'S LAW episode "Who Killed Merlin The Great?"Everything else about the episode was changed. (2) One of the later episodes written by Lee Sheldon used a plot from the last episode of EDGE OF NIGHT, which Sheldon had put in to try to get a pickup from another network or cable outlet when ABC cancelled EDGE. I hope somebody puts out a DVD of this show as I wasn't able to get allof them on tape. Mike Doran

J. Kingston Pierce said...

That's great info, Mike. I didn't know about those plotting duplications.

And you actually can pick up DVDs of BLACKE'S MAGIC, though not through usual commercial sources. A Web site called Old Time Favorites TV Shows offers the full 12-episode set for $13.99.

Another old TV source that I've found useful is I see that it also has BLACKE'S MAGIC for sale. Good luck.


Dave White said...

There are a lot of Dave Whites in this world, aren't there?