I've always loved magic. If a magician is performing, I want to watch. I know enough about the art to occasionally figure out a trick, but even that doesn't make it less enjoyable. It's the showmanship and the surprise that really grabs me.
And it started with The Magic World of Allakazam."
The show was broadcast on Saturday morning when I was a kid. It was conceived by and starred Mark Wilson, who, though in his 30s at the time, had been performing magic professionally for 15 years.
There was some belief that magic wouldn't work on TV, especially on videotape, since everyone would think things were edited. Wilson had a simple solution: make as few cuts as possible to make it appear as though you were watching it live. He also insisted on a live audience to further show that things were not fixed in the production. With these precepts in mind, he created The Magic World of Allakazam.
Wilson's illusions were not groundbreaking. They were versions of traditional magic tricks*, done in a simple and straightforward style. Wilson would dress up the magic with scenarios revolving around Allakazam. His wife Nani Darnell was his assistant, and Bev Bergeron played Rebo the clown**, who added some straight slapstick to the mix.
The show was and an instant hit and a staple of Saturday morning TV for several years, first on CBS and later on ABC before going into syndication. It showed that magic could work as televised entertainment.
Wilson went on to create several other, less well known shows, most notably, a series of Magic Circus specials. He continus to be a popularizer of magic and has written several books on the subject. It looks like he's branched out to DVDs, including videos of Allakazam.
I think that most television TV magicians own Wilson a debt.
*Insert Arrested Development reference.
**A character name later used on Babylon 5. Creator J. Michael Straczynski would have been about the right age to be watching The Magic World of AllakazamI when it was on.