TV Review: ‘Penn & Teller: Fool Us’

Penn & Teller: Fool Us TV

Simple, low-key (read: cheap) and a great deal of fun, “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” manages to wed some of the pizzazz associated with old-fashioned variety shows with the peeking-behind-the-curtain quality of “Breaking the Magician’s Code.” Not that the central duo really blow the lid off the tricks that are demonstrated, but they explain enough to show the point at which they can discern how they’re done – and share in the audience’s admiration when they can’t. The approach brings a game-like component to what’s otherwise just a magic showcase, and makes this U.K. production a shrewd summer acquisition for CW.

Hosted by Jonathan Ross, “Fool Us” features a handful of European magicians performing what amounts to their best trick in front of Penn & Teller and a live studio audience. Those who completely stump the duo regarding how it’s done win the chance to perform at the P&T venue in Las Vegas, along with the benefits of receiving the pair’s seal of approval.

The competitors aren’t novices, so all of the tricks are pretty impressive. And Penn & Teller (OK, Penn) do a nifty job of articulating what makes them special or not, and whether they can tell how the illusion was achieved, by asking questions about elements like the box, die or deck of cards involved.

In a sense, this is a lot like “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” another CW transplant, where, as Drew Carey was fond of saying, “everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.” But the idea that viewers might actually learn something about how magic works – coupled with the interplay between Penn & Teller, Ross and the contestants – lifts this above just the average Vegas magic revue.

The premiere also closes with Penn & Teller performing a trick, providing a reminder of how deftly their act mixes comedy, magic and playfully letting the audience in on the gags.

“Fool Us” isn’t built for a long run, necessarily, but the number of episodes slated for summer (nine) sounds about right – and offers the prospect of perhaps turning this into a utility player if the show exhibits any kind of pulse.

Granted, those aims are pretty modest, but the good news about this sort of acquisition is that ratings-wise, at least, there’s not much pressure to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

TV Review: 'Penn & Teller: Fool Us'

(Series; CW, Wed. July 30, 8 p.m.)


Produced by 117 Prods. and September Films for ITV.


Executive producers, Andrew Golder, Peter Davey, Peter Adam Golden, David Green. 60 MIN.


Featuring: Penn & Teller. Host: Jonathan Ross  

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  1. Christian Engblom says:

    I saw the entire series, and I for one, was left wanting more of the same. I thought the magic was mostly very fooling and original, and loved that we, as an audience, were allowed a peep into the closely guarded “inner circle”. Some of the magicians, who performed, were very “underground” indeed. A real treat, to some quality magic.
    I hope they decide to do it again. If not a season 2 in Great Britan, then a season 1 in the US.

  2. I sat through this show twice and that’s enough for me. Garbage. It’s different variations of the same nonsense. And, as someone below mentioned Penn is a real egomaniac. This is boring. They should’ve just kept the show’s Showtime name of “Bull $hitt”.

  3. asdf says:

    The show is a good pickup, but obviously there’s a limit on how many episodes they can air. I suspect they ran out of european magicians worth showcasing. At three acts per episode, even if they only did 12 episodes per season, that’s still 36 performers. And the original run padded things out with performance acts (like the quick change artists) that while very entertaining to watch didn’t really have anything novel from a purist magic standpoint and so was “delighting the audience rather than fooling it”.

    I hope if they decide to record more episodes that they keep Jonathan Ross. He did a good job of keeping things witty and fun, and he had a wonderful chemistry and contrast with Penn.

  4. Someone who really knows says:

    Obviously you both are not only ignorant but just plain old stupid! I’ve also seen the shows and they are beyond good. Take your personal trash talk and hateraid and point it somewhere else. Love em or hate them P&T are nothing but good human beings and truly phenomenal magicians. Go FOOL US!

    • Bobby Dobbs says:

      “Someone who really knows says”: You might want to look in the mirror while you print something like ‘take your personal trash talk and hateraid’ at someone after calling other people ‘ignorant and plain old stupid’ for not having the same opinion that you do.

  5. Jules says:

    This show stinks. Saw several episodes of the foreign version. Absolute trash. The plot – do a trick and see if Penn & Teller (not the audience). Boring and uninteresting.

    • KKL says:

      Penn could not possibly be a bigger egomaniac and blowhard. Impossible. Agreed that’ll you’ll be bored silly after one episode. The other one, the little simpleton, may well as not even be on the show, as all he does is make big eyes and cover his mouth like a geisha.

      • Edward says:

        That is P&T’s act, and enough prople like it (me included) to have made them a lot of money. And the little simpleton, as you call Teller, is actually the main magician if the two. He is the one that designs most of the tricks, does the hard parts. Penn’s role is part distraction.

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