TV Cream

TV: P is for...

Paul Daniels Magic Show, The

"You've heard of the expression 'milking the headlines' ladies and gentlemen, well, could it be that they actually mean..." *produces inevitable carton of full-cream white stuff*THE NATION’S number one syrup-sporting sorceror and whiny voiced-wizard held sway over prime-time BBC1 for a hell of a long time, presenting well-honed, exhibiting his executions of classic magic tricks (which people tend to forget) in a rather annoying and charm-free way (which people can’t help but remember). For variety’s sake, various regular “segments” were contrived to bracket the routines – The Bunco Booth (“I win and you loose” read the hoarding as Daniels duped an audience stooge in the manner of an American funfair huckster, while wearing a silly hat), Under Laboratory Conditions (over-serious close-up magic with several witnesses and a superimposed tabletop camera view – Daniels’ riposte to Gellereque charlatans), House of Cards (card tricks presented from within a giant ‘card house’ set, and another silly hat) and latterly Mississippi Riverboat Magic (cartoon sting leads into old-timery period set for the usual fingertip shenanigans). Also The Magic Square, which was just The Brian Rogers Connection doing dances with ribbons. All ably assisted by “the lovely” Debbie McGee. Oh, and the extra-curricular “cream of variety acts from around the world”, who ranged from the sublime (the legendary escapologist Hans Moretti) through the quirky (crosstalking jugglers The Brothers Karamazov) to the just plain bizarre (a bloke who pretended to cut his fingers off, a bloke who threw playing cards at watermelons, and an old Heath Robinson inventor type who brought in his whimsical inventions and just talked about them). Infamous late ’80s Halloween Special ended with an iron maiden-based trick that apparently went wrong in front of various B-list celebs (who weren’t in on the sting), until – after a repeat of the Biggles Dictates a Letter PYTHON episode – Daniels turned up with a cheeky “I’m still alive, ha ha!” coda. Spinoffs included the Paul Daniels Magic Trick range (rather nifty, as it happened – boxed in odd lozenge-shaped packages and graded Blue (easy), Red (fairly easy), Purple (slightly harder) and Black (“master magician”, ie impossible) – “all from the House of Dubrecq!” as YesPaul chirped in the TV ads which he shared with Rolf Harris’ Stylophone and painttube brushes – as well as boxed sets and books), ODD ONE OUT and EVERY SECOND COUNTS (game shows) and WIZBIT (not good).



  1. Applemask

    September 16, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    That iron maiden stunt was genuinely brilliant. Enough to make you remember how genuinely good he was. And then he spoils it by remembering why everyone hates him regardless, proving incapable of praising it without gratuitiously tearing down something else (specifically Ghostwatch: “The BBC tried doing that Ghostwatch thing a few years later, but that was poorly executed. Real kids stuff.”)

  2. THX Kling Klang

    April 1, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    This was worth watching for the guest artistes alone, there was one chap who could say whatever the person he plucked from the audience was saying – at exactly the same time. Dunno how he perfected it (there was a delay of picoseconds which presumably gave him all the time he needed to do the trick) but it was really impressive.

    So was the guy who juggled with chainsaws in a true “don’t try this at home” performance.

  3. mat

    March 17, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    May Thor rest his soul. Another childhood memory, now gone forever.

  4. Droogie

    December 16, 2020 at 4:22 am

    This is random but does anyone else remember seeing this bizarre foreign illusionist act on the show? The act featured a mad scientist type in a laboratory experimenting on a robot he’s creating . The robot is in 2 halves and the scientist is testing out the top half with the head and arms ( played by an actor). He lifts the head/ torso half onto a set of legs and the robot starts walking around the laboratory Frankenstein style. The professor turns the robot off and then begins making notes with his back to the robot. But the robot comes alive again and creeps up to the scientist. The act ends with the scientist turning around too late before being ripped in half by the robot. I saw this act a few times on TV and it was absolutely terrifying! The fact it was silent apart from some creepy organ music made it even more weird and scary. Does this ring a bell with anyone else?

  5. Sidney Balmoral James

    December 16, 2020 at 8:02 am

  6. Droogie

    December 16, 2020 at 8:56 am

    Oh my word – you’re a genius Sydney! That is indeed the one.
    Thanks so much.

  7. Richardpd

    December 16, 2020 at 11:30 am

    As well as the above mentioned segments, one of the regular sets was like a cocktail bar.

    Ricky Jay was the card thrower who could get them to stick in a watermelon.

    Other guests I remember include sword swallower Johnny fox, smoke and bubble sculptor Tom Noddy, that Jerry Dammers meets Harold Lloyd lookalike who use to juggle chainsaws & appear to chop his arms off, and the ventrilaquest Richard Pryor lookalike who could send his voice around the room.

    Stunts I remember was Debbie dressing up as a witch being suspended on a spike, and when Paul appeared to be rammed while locked in a box by Jackie Stewart.

    • George White

      December 17, 2020 at 7:51 pm

      The ventriloquist I think might have been Willie Tyler, who with his friend Lester were the leading vent act in America in the 70s, alongside veterans like Edgar Bergen and Paul Winchell. They did do the Magic Show

      • Richardpd

        July 28, 2021 at 11:09 pm

        Thanks it’s been bugging me for years who the ventrilaquest was!

  8. MartS

    December 17, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    The Silverstone ‘trick’ with Paul and Sit Jackie Stewart, is here..

    It’s a great illusion. Full of misdirection, spilt second timing and a remote controlled red flag.

  9. Richardpd

    December 30, 2021 at 11:19 pm

    Great show back in the day but seemed to lose momentum in the last few years. I guess Paul was running low on new tricks, but at least it was worth watching if there was one of the better guest stars on.

    A late in the day change was the replacement of the early CGI morphing magic props titles with it’s theme like the 1990s Central jingle, with some footage of fireworks & a much blander theme. Also the timeslot began to become less prestigious moving to weekdays & cut down to just 30 minutes, the Christmas specials started drifting into the days between Boxing Day & New Year’s eve.

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