Time has been kind to The Magician (NBC, 1973-1974), the offbeat action drama starring Bill Bixby as Anthony Blake, a modern-day Count of Monte Cristo who, after clearly his name after years of imprisonment on a false espionage charge, uses his vast wealth and resources to help other victims of injustice. Unlike most television crime stoppers, Blake didn’t carry a gun – in fact, he abhorred violence, relying instead on his skills as a magician as his only arsenal against evil.
Despite its intriguing premise, not to mention the star power of leading man Bill Bixby, the series was a marginal success at best – if indeed a series whose network run lasted but 21 episodes can be construed a success. And yet, The Magician has lived on since its cancellation, finding new audiences in overseas syndication and on U.S. cable television, while sparking a renewed interest in the performance of magic over the past 30 years. In that respect, despite its limited number of episodes, The Magician continues to have the kind of far-reaching impact that few television shows ever achieve.
We paid tribute to The Magician earlier this week on Talking Television with Dave White, from its uneven network run in 1973 to its ongoing legacy today – a legacy that, as our guest J. Kingston Pierce noted on the program, no doubt received a boost in 1994 when it became permanently part of the X Files mythology). We also announced the URL for the online petition asking Paramount Studios to formally release The Magician in DVD; if you wish to sign that petition, you can do so by clicking here.
Our tribute to The Magician was the second of two programs honoring the career of Bill Bixby; the first program originally aired on Tuesday, April 15, and featured J. Kingston Pierce, as well as actor/musician Brandon Cruz, Bixby’s co-star on The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, and Renee Tufo, who is leading a campaign to win posthumous induction for Bixby in the Television Academy Hall of Fame. If you would like to see Bixby inducted in the TV Hall of Fame, there’s a petition for that as well, which you can sign by clicking here.