“You’re gonna see a puppy teleport,” Rick Lax says, too calmly. Maybe because he’s also talking about earthworm pickpockets and Spam cooking in someone’s bare hand. That’s a taste of the ferociously inventive magic on Syfy’s new competition show, Wizard Wars, the first of six episodes airing August 19. Similar to the chefs battling on Chopped, challengers on WW are surprised with items like mannequins, pirate costumes and mini-fridges, and they must devise a trick fast and perform it live for a chance to take on the “wizards” and win $10,000.
As the show’s creator and magic consultant and one of its producers, Lax (a former Weekly staff writer) brainstorms many of these items and essential equipment for the set’s magic and tool shops, where teams of contestants get very, very creative. WW has star power—Penn & Teller are among the judges, YouTube phenomenon Justin Flom is one of the resident wizards, and challengers include headliners Nathan Burton and Murray SawChuck—but Lax says the format is true to the pilot he and Flom shot in his Vegas apartment with some buddies and dollar-store props.
“Within the magic community the buzz is very strong because all of the contestants have walked away from the show happy, whether they’ve won or lost. They see that this is a show that respects the magic and respects the magicians.”
The high-stakes game of creativity, deception and showmanship is entertaining, but WW’s greatest charm might be its less-scripted moments, when the singular personalities and skills of these artists are free to tumble. I found myself rewinding the screener of the first episode over and over, trying to spot mechanical secrets of disappearing a bowling pin into a paper bag or bending a wine glass just by looking at it. However hard I squinted and theorized, I was still amazed—and stoked for an upcoming episode where Billy Kidd makes a leaf-blower, a calculator and a balloon into something mystifying.
Wizard Wars Series premiere August 19. Tuesdays, 10 p.m., Syfy.