Categorised | US TV reviews

Tags | None

Review: The Magicians 1x1 (US: Syfy)

Posted on December 17, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Magicians

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, Syfy. Starts January 25 2016
In the UK: Not yet acquired

From many points of view, most of them commercial, Harry Potter was a great franchise. It made it to seven books and eight movies for starters, which very few other franchises managed to achieve; it also managed to reach that end point without getting worse - in some ways it even got better - which is practically unique, unless you're a dyed in the wool Fast and the Furious or Friday the 13th fan.

But it did finish, which is an obvious problem. It was also for kids and starred kids, who as well as appreciably getting older over time, precluded any possibility of sexy time except in the darkest, nastiest niches of Internet fan fiction. It was also about English people.

As such, The Magicians is an obvious attempt to fix all those issues while sticking as close to the Harry Potter template as possible. Based on the series of novels by Lev Grossman, it sees the daftly named Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph), a fantasy-book reading college graduate, discover that magic isn't just tricks involving coins - it's real.

As there's a university that offers a postgraduate course in magic, he enrolls at this 'Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy' to be trained as a magician and to maybe make sexy time with the witches. Unfortunately for Quentin, his childhood friend Julia (Stella Maeve from Golden Boy) flunks the entrance exam, so doesn't make it to Brakebills. Instead, she gives up on her previous life, and instead goes searching for magic elsewhere.

Little does either Quentin or Julia know, however, that there's an arch enemy no one will talk about at Brakebills who's laid waste to a lot of the magic community, reducing the final year of pupils to a class of four. Is he related to the group that want to recruit Julia? Only time will tell…

Despite being an obvious Harry Potter knock-off with delusions of having subtext, The Magicians isn't half that bad and bears more than a few similarities to Ursula Le Guin's far superior to A Wizard of Earthsea that help to lift it. Unlike Potter, the story is at its worst at Brakebills, when it's dealing with Quentin's fellow pupils - they may all be graduate students but they still act like they're in High School, and the show even gives us a 10 Things I Hate About You style introduction to all the campus's various social groupsThey're all completely insufferable and Quentin's not that much better, being as full of himself 'pre incident' (you'll know what I mean when I watch it) as Le Guin's Ged was before that night on Roke Knoll. 

But when it's dealing with both the real world and the darkest aspects of the magical world it's conjuring, the show actually soars and the final few minutes of the first episode are genuinely disturbing and adult. It also clever enough to know its own heritage, with a 'book within the book' that's clearly a Narnia knock-off, but like The Neverending Story, one that blurs into the 'real world' of the story.

If The Magicians can avoid its most Harry Potter-esque and its more 'adult' aspects in favour of its genuinely adult qualities, it could be a really good show. But I have a suspicion that it's much more in love with its mean girls, cliques, nerds and sexy time party!! thoughts than with telling a seriously interesting story. 

Related entries

  • December 18, 2015: What have you been watching? Including Childhood's End, Legends, Limitless, The Expanse and Supergirl
    Reviews of the TV I saw in the week ending Friday 18 December 2015
  • February 3, 2016: Third-episode verdict: The Magicians (US: Syfy)
    A review of the first three episodes of Syfy's The Magicians
  • February 1, 2016: What have you been watching? Including The Magicians, The X-Files, Stan Lee's Lucky Man and Okkupert
    The TV I watched in the week ending Monday 1st February 2016
  • February 14, 2016: What have you been watching? Including The Man From UNCLE, Sicario
    The TV I watched in the week ending Saturday 12th February 2016
  • February 20, 2016: What have you been watching? Including Vinyl, Wanted and Vikings
    The TV I watched in the week ending Saturday 19th February 2016
  • March 14, 2016: What have you been watching? Including Flaked, The Intern, Lucifer and Billions
    The TV I watched in the week ending Monday 14th March 2016
  • March 4, 2016: What have you been watching? Including Ófærð (Trapped), The Shannara Chronicles, Lucifer and The X-Files
    The TV I watched in the two weeks ending Friday 4th March 2016
  • March 21, 2016: What have you been watching? Including Spotlight, The Americans, Second Chance, The Magicians,
    The TV I watched in the week ending Monday 21st March 2016
  • April 2, 2016: What have you been watching? Including Banshee, Blå Ögon (Blue Eyes), The Catch, Supergirl and The Americans
    The TV I watched in the week ending Saturday 2nd April 2016
  • April 15, 2016: What have you been watching? Including The Tunnel: Sabotage, 12 Monkeys and Scott Pilgrim vs The World
    The TV I watched in the week ending Friday 15th April 2016
  • September 26, 2016: Review: Van Helsing 1x1 (US: Syfy)
    A review of the first episode of Syfy's Van Helsing
  • December 22, 2016: Question of the year: what were you favourite new shows of 2016? Here's my Top 12!
    What have been the 12 best shows I've seen in 2016?
  • January 30, 2017: What have you been watching? Including Fortitude, The Magicians, The Flash and DC's Legends of Tomorrow
    Reviews of 24/1/17-30/1/17's episodes of DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Fortitude, Lethal Weapon, Lucifer, The Magicians, Man Seeking Woman, Six and Timeless
  • February 6, 2017: What have you been watching? Including Detroiters, Amadeus and Cardinal
    Reviews of 31/1/17-6/2/17's episodes of Cardinal, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Fortitude, Lucifer, The Magicians, Man Seeking Woman, Riverdale and Timeless
  • February 27, 2017: What have you been watching? Including Doubt, Patriot, Training Day and Billions
    Reviews of 13/2/17-27/2/17's episodes of 24: Legacy, Cardinal, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Fortitude, The Great Indoors, Lethal Weapon, The Magicians, Man Seeking Woman, Powerless, Son of Zorn, Timeless, Billions, Doubt, Patriot and Training Day
  • February 13, 2017: What have you been watching? Including Fortitude, The Great Indoors, The Magicians, Powerless and Son of Zorn
    Reviews of 7/2/17-13/2/17's episodes of DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Fortitude, The Great Indoors, Lethal Weapon, The Magicians, Man Seeking Woman, Powerless, Son of Zorn, and Timeless
  • March 13, 2017: What have you been watching? Including Arrival (2016) and The Americans
    A review of Arrival (2016), as well as 6/3/17-11/3/17's episodes of 24: Legacy, The Americans, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Imposters, Legion, Lethal Weapon, Man Seeking Woman, The Magicians, Powerless and Taken
  • March 6, 2017: What have you been watching? Including Chicago Justice, Prime Suspect 1973 and The Blacklist: Redemption
    Mini-reviews of Chicago Justice, Prime Suspect 1973 and The Blacklist: Redemption, as well as 27/2/17-6/3/17's episodes of 24: Legacy, Billions, The Flash, The Good Fight, Imposters, Cardinal, Fortitude, Legion, The Magicians and Man Seeking Woman
  • March 20, 2017: What have you been watching? Including Lethal Weapon, The Good Fight and Legion
    12/3/17-19/3/17's episodes of DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, The Good Fight, Imposters, Legion, Lethal Weapon, Making History and The Magicians.
  • March 27, 2017: What have you been watching? Including The Arrangement, Midnight Sun, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
    Mini-reviews of the first few episodes of The Arrangement and Midnight Sun, as well as of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Plus reviews of 19/3/17-25/3/17's episodes of DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, The Good Fight, Imposters, Legion and Th...
  • April 24, 2017: What have you been watching? Including Girlboss, Doctor Who, The Magicians and Fortitude
    A mini-review of Netflix's Girlboss as well as reviews of 3/4/17-23/4/17's episodes of The Americans, Doctor Who, The Magicians and Silicon Valley
  • April 3, 2017: What have you been watching? Including Imaginary Mary and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
    Mini-reviews of Imaginary Mary and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. Plus reviews of 26/3/17-2/4/17's episodes of The Americans, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, The Good Fight, Imposters, Legion and The Magicians.
  • April 18, 2017: What have you been watching? Including Return of the Mac, The Good Fight, Imposters and Doctor Who
    A mini-review of Return of the Mac. Plus reviews of 3/4/17-17/4/17's episodes of The Americans, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Doctor Who, The Good Fight, Imposters and The Magicians.

Allowable comments

You can leave just about any kind of comment you like. You can argue, suggest I am (or anyone else is) wrong, leaving general messages of love – anything. However, you absolutely can't leave messages that attack other commenters (or me), are simple variations of "your review sucks" or that are misogynistic, racist, homophobic, etc: your comment will either be edited or deleted and you'll be barred from leaving any further comments. We want to keep it civil here.

Spoilers

You can hide a spoiler by putting <spoiler> before it and </spoiler> after it. Hover over a spoiler to reveal it!

Featured Articles

Twin Peaks

Lynch at his best in years