There are currently so many magic related shows on television that American magic fans have had to choose, for the first time in many years, between programs! The real question, though, is how well magic shows are doing in the ratings.
History Channel’s heavily touted Houdini brought in 3.7 million viewers for its opening installment Monday night (Tuesday ratings are unavailable at tie of writing). While these seem like big numbers, and it is the biggest opening for any cable miniseries so far this year according to The Hollywood Reporter, it is a mere fraction of the numbers posted by earlier History Channel mini-series such as 2012′s Hatfield and McCoys, which boasted almost 14 million viewers, or last year’s Bonnie and Clyde, which drew in almost 10 million. Still, Houdini had over twice the amount of viewers as the highly discussed Saved By The Bell movie on Lifetime.
Masters of Illusion on The CW is consistently bringing in over a million viewers each airing, which is not bad for the network. Penn and Teller: Fool Us actually tends to do a bit better, but ratings also tend to be higher on Wednesdays than Fridays when MoI airs. Both series seem to be winners for the network, particularly Fool Us as it was probably cheaper for The CW to purchase the rights to the series than it was to produce a new show. This may encourage more magical imports from the UK in the future.
SyFy’s Wizard Wars, which drew big numbers on its premiere a couple of weeks ago, is not doing quite as well each week as it did opening, but that is to be expected. It benefits from two airings on Tuesdays and an additional Friday night airing. Also, we have already seen casting calls for additional episodes so it is safe to assume we will be seeing more in the future. It is also possible that Wizard Wars may inspire SyFy to experiment with more magic. They have dabbled in both producing and importing magic shows in the past (in their SciFi days).
America’s Got Talent is not a magic show, but it has featured a great deal of magic this year. So far Mike Super and David and Leeman have advanced to the final twelve and tonight we will find out if Mat Franco and/or Smoothini (above) will join them. It is possible that one-third of the show’s twelve finalists could be magic acts! AGT has been doing very well so far this season, winning the week for total viewers on several occasions.
While these numbers are not necessarily huge by network television standards (with the exception of AGT, which is not truy a magic show), it does demonstrate that there is an audience for magic on American television. When one adds in other magic related shows that have already aired this year, such as Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne, The Carbonaro Effect and David Blaine’s Real or Magic special (which was one of the ratings highlights of ABC’s 2013-2014 season), it is apparent that magic is currently establishing a foothold in the television world.