You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

With ‘Death by Magic,’ Arthur Smith Builds on Unscripted Success

With his new show “Death by Magic,” executive producer Arthur Smith pulls off an impressive feat — expanding a television empire that is already home to some of the most enduring franchises in television.

Through his A. Smith & Co., Smith is the force behind “American Ninja Warrior” and “Hell’s Kitchen.” “Death By Magic,” which premiered last week on Netflix, is the most recent addition to that portfolio. Part of Netflix’s aggressive shift into the unscripted space long dominated by cable and broadcast channels, the show stars U.K. magician Drummond Money-Coutts recreating tricks that other performers dies attempting. Smith touts the “premium” feel of the final product. “There are some unbelievable illusions in the show, but the show is shot on location in South Africa and England and Detroit and London, India, Miami,” he says. “We started talking about the history of magic and we started talking about how we could get a bigger glossier, cinematic kind of show.”

But “Death by Magic is just part of a busy stretch for Smith, in which he is rolling at series of ambitious projects. Up next is NBC’s “The Titan Games,” an athletic competition developed with and hosted by Dwayne Johnson. Later this year is “Mental Samurai,” a game show for Fox hosted by Rob Lowe and featuring an elaborate set piece — a robotic arm that swings contestants through the air from station to station as the face a series of mental tests.

A former sports-TV executive at Fox and CBC, Smith gained experience early on working on Olympic telecasts at the latter. He applied that experience to “American Ninja Warrior,” a rare television phenomena. The show started on bottom-tier cable channel G4 before migrating to NBC, where it’s ratings grew over several seasons — to the point that it is now one of televisions highest rated summer programs.

NBC’s success with “Ninja Warrior” prompted the network to begin searching for a next-level athletic competition — and the network turned to Smith, the result being “Titan Games.” Smith will soon have four current series on broadcast television, in addition to several cable and streaming shows. The volume of programming to come out of A. Smith & Co. is far higher than a most independent production companies.

And Smith is continuing to grow. When his long time exec partner Kent Weed stepped down from the company this year, it capped a reconfiguration of the company as it begins to lean more heavily into documentary and sports programming.

But amid change Smith is confident in the company’s ability to continue to grow, to maintain its long running franchises, and to establish its recent additions as franchises on which will give the company the ability to continue to grow.

“We like to collaborate,” Smith says. “We’re really good at the the creative part and the logistics part of it. I think that’s what sets us apart.”

More TV

  • Visitors arrive at the Hudson Yards

    AT&T Sells WarnerMedia Hudson Yards Space to Pay Down Debt

    AT&T has cut a deal to sell and lease back its WarnerMedia office space in New York’s glitzy Hudson Yards development for $2.2 billion to help pare down its enormous debt load. AT&T said Tuesday it has set a deal to sell its office space at 30 Hudson Yards to an affiliate of Related Companies, [...]

  • Japanese actor Ken Watanabe poses on

    Ken Watanabe to Star in Japan Edition of 'The Fugitive'

    Warner Bros. International Television Production and Japan’s TV Asahi network are teaming to remake “The Fugitive” as a special program that celebrates TV Asahi’s 60th anniversary. Ken Watanabe (“The Last Samurai,” “Godzilla,” “Inception”) will star in the title role made famous by David Janssen in the 1963-1967 U.S. TV series and then by Harrison Ford [...]

  • black lgbtq actors hollywood representation

    TV Roundup: 'Pose' Season 2 Premiere Date Pushed Back on FX

    In today’s roundup, “Pose” gets a new Season 2 premiere date and Sara Gilbert is set to play a recurring role on Season 3 of Netflix’s “Atypical.” FIRST LOOK The TV Academy has unveiled the key art for the 71st Emmy Awards. The new design, which will be used across platforms including the Emmy’s website, [...]

  • James Holzhauer Jeopardy

    Why James Holzhauer Is Bad for 'Jeopardy!' (Column)

    James Holzhauer, who is closing in on a million dollars of game-show winnings, is on track to become the most successful “Jeopardy!” contestant of all time. And he’s become such a dominant force that a historic run has come to seem, as television, boring. Over the course of thirteen episodes and counting, Holzhauer’s methods and [...]

  • Joe Ianniello

    CBS Suspends CEO Search, Extends Ianniello in Role Through 2019

    CBS Corp. said it would suspend the months-long search it has conducted for a new leader for the company since the departure of Leslie Moonves and would instead extend the tenure of its acting chief, Joseph Ianniello, through the end of 2019. “Joe has demonstrated exceptional leadership during this time of unprecedented transition at CBS. [...]

  • Wanda Sykes Silicon Valleywood

    Wanda Sykes on Doing Business With Netflix: 'They Moved That Comma'

    MENLO PARK, Calif. — Wanda Sykes wears a lot of hats as a comedian, writer, producer and entrepreneur, and that gives her a keen sense of the ever-growing content marketplace. She also has a very clear understanding of what she’s worth in dollars and cents, as she shared Tuesday in her Q&A at Variety’s Silicon [...]

  • Jenna Hager Hoda Kotb

    NBC News Sets Joanne LaMarca as EP, 'Today' Fourth Hour

    Just after NBC News recalibrated the fourth our of its daytime “Today” program, it has named a new executive producer to oversee the show. Joanne LaMarca, a longtime “Today” staffer who left NBC News in 2017 after a long run, will return as the new head of the 10 a.m. hour that is now led by [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content