×
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

  • Us Television Writers and Producers Maria

    Mad Men’s’ Andre, Maria Jacquemetton Set for Series Mania’s UGC Writers Campus

    MADRID — André and Maria Jacquemetton, the Emmy and WGA Award-winning writer-producers of AMC’s “Mad Men” and consulting producers on Amazon Studios’ “The Romanoffs,” will serve as Guests of Honor at Series Mania’s UGC Writers Campus, a workshop whose participants include Denmark’s Christina Miller-Harris and Israel’s Noy Carmel. The Jacquemettons will deliver a masterclass and [...]

  • China Plans Remake of BBC Time-Travel

    China Plans Remake of BBC Time-Travel Cop Show ‘Life on Mars’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    A Chinese “Life on Mars” is in the works after BBC Studios and Phoenix Entertainment inked a deal to create a Mandarin-language version of the time-travel cop series. BBC Studios will officially unveil the format deal at Showcase, its annual programming market for international buyers, which is now underway in Liverpool, England. “Life on Mars” [...]

  • DF-10193 – L-R: Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor),

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Leads MPSE Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed up love from Cinema Audio Society sound mixers with a pair of honors at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 66th annual Golden Reel Awards Sunday night. The musical biopic scored wins for dialogue and ADR as well as sound editing in a musical. The film is nominated for sound editing at the Oscars [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" and

    WGA Awards 2019: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?,' 'Eighth Grade' Win Screenplay Awards

    In a pair of upsets, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has won the Writers Guild of America’s adapted screenplay award for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade.” The major television trophies went to “The Americans,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Homeland” and “Barry” for the [...]

  • 50 Cent Power

    NYPD Officer Under Investigation for Allegedly Telling Police to Shoot 50 Cent 'on Sight'

    A New York City precinct commander is under investigation for allegedly telling officers to shoot rapper 50 Cent on sight, a police rep confirmed to Variety on Sunday. “The matter is under internal review,” an NYPD rep said, declining to answer further questions. Deputy Inspector Emanuel Gonzalez is accused of telling officers during a June 7 roll [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content