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To Binge or Not to Binge Episode 27: “Magic for Humans”

Hannah Allred
(Graphic by Hannah Allred | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

“Magic For Humans” is hard to describe. It’s like street magic videos a teacher would show in class at the end of the school year mixed with light-hearted information content of the late Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” and with Tim and Eric-style editing for flavor.

Season Recap
Being the debut season, there isn’t anything to recap, but boy howdy, the show is pretty darn magical. I hope you’re ready for a lot of oohs, ahs and confused screeching.

To Binge or Not to Binge
Hosted by prolific magician and experienced reality TV show personality Justin Willman, “Magic for Humans” follows Willman as he performs themed magic tricks on unsuspecting men, women and families on the street. Each episode has some theme, like “Love,” “Terrifying Tech” or “Self-Control.”

As a performer, Justin Willman is a very funny and charismatic guy that almost always seems to be smiling. As a magician, I’m pretty sure this man is a true-to-life warlock that sold half of his soul to a dark patron and now must roam the country performing illusory magic tricks. After one of his tricks is done, in the following moment of shock and awe, Willman steals a sliver of your soul to feed the Elder God of Trickery.

Overall, I think he’s fantastic. Willman is the heart of the entire show. If you tried to make this show with someone on the edgy side of magic, like David Blaine or Criss Angel, it wouldn’t be as wholesome.

Earlier I referenced “Parts Unknown,” the food-centric travel show, where the late, great Bourdain would travel the world, eat exotic and strange foods and talk to the local people about their lives and cuisine. “Magic for Humans” takes a similar underlying tone of learning. Willman even mentions this theme in the pilot episode and trailers: in his show, he is “using magic to master the art of being human.”

The show teaches us something about perception and the human psyche, as well as our relationships to one another. A segment that reminded me the most of “Parts Unknown” is in the episode “Guilt Trip,” when Willman is sitting down with a gaggle of mothers talking about the art of maternal guilt. (Gaggle? Tribe? What would you can a group of moms? Leave a comment down below with your ideas).

In two recurring segments, “Magic for Susans” and “Trick Questions,” the show uses a familiar-sounding sting and editing style, like classic Tim and Eric sketches. (Tim and Eric themselves — Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim — are both executive producers of “Magic For Humans”).

It’s an easy show to get through, and the episodes are all a little under 30 minutes. My mom and I finished the show in one night and still wanted more. In all honesty, out of all of the Netflix Original series, this is one I’m most hopeful about getting a second season or more.

Best Episode
Out of all of the six episodes, my favorite would would have to be “Express Yourself.” Like all episodes, it’s fast-paced, but I feel like the jokes (especially the line “It’s never safe to stare directly at Willem Dafoe”) and magic tricks are just slightly over and above the base level.

Similar Shows
“Brain Games,” “Breaking the Magician’s Code” and “The Road Trick.”

Trigger Warnings
The episode “Love” gets a little sexual, but other than that it is a very family friendly show. Most adult jokes will easily go over children’s heads. Netflix does suggest it as a TV-14, which I agree with, but still, “Magic for Humans” is pretty safe for those on the younger side.

5 out of 5
“Magic For Humans”
Available to stream on Netflix
6 Episodes, roughly 3 hours

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