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'Penn & Teller: Fool Us' recap: Classics vs. modern twists

Season 2 | Episode 6 | “Now THAT’S Bunny” | Aired Aug 10, 2015

This week, Penn & Teller addressed one of the classics of magic: pulling a rabbit out of a hat. In typical Penn & Teller fashion, though, they didn’t just get on stage and pull a rabbit out of a hat. As they so often do when the trick they’re performing is not one of their own invention, the presentation was part magic trick, part history lesson.

Penn explained the origins of the rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick. He explained why the top hat was the hat of choice, and how the trick has changed over the years. He explained how our increasing compassion for animal rights has changed the trick. He gave his own top hat to a girl in the audience (a girl named Cat, who looked suspiciously like Ariana Grande’s character of the same name from Victorious and Sam & Cat, by the way) and gave her ample time to examine it before calling her back on stage, where Teller proceeded to pull an actual, live rabbit out of said hat.

Even though it’s an old trick and even though Penn had just spent several minutes explaining its cliche, it was still entertaining and a little mystifying, just like I Love Lucy or Who’s on First? are still hilarious even if you know the punchline. Classics stand the test of time for a reason.

For the most part, the contestants this week (with one very notable exception) were not interested in the classics. The tricks this week were innovative and modern, even when they drew from older origins. As usual, I’ve ranked them from least to most impressive—as if I have any authority to do such a thing.

Jen Kramer: The Hermione Granger Wannabe

Penn & Teller

I actually loved Jen Kramer, and it pains me to put her last in this week’s ranking. Jen is a recent Yale grad and longtime magic enthusiast. She started a magic society at Yale and claims to have attended because it looked like Hogwarts. (Full disclosure: I loved her as soon as she said that.) Jen was adorably nerdy, and it’s refreshing to see a woman performing magic as the magician and not as the assistant. Her trick was simple but intriguing. Although it didn’t fool Penn & Teller, Penn explained that it was impressive in that it was all mental, requiring brain work rather than sleight of hand. Unfortunately, Jen’s youth and inexperience showed a little, and her presentation was just a notch below the other performers’. I have faith, however, that she will ace her card trick N.E.W.T.s shortly. (Apologies to anyone feeling alienated by that Harry Potter joke.)

Jay Sankey: The Hot Shot

Penn & Teller

Jay Sankey’s tricks had something that impressed me as much as it impressed Penn & Teller: a theme. Jay’s theme was fire, and the tricks got hotter and hotter as he went along. He started with a simple card levitation (a trick so simple and common that it doesn’t even fool me, let alone P&T), and ended on a grand finale in which he actually burned through a deck with a sparkler and speared a single not-burned card (the one his audience assistant, host Jonathan Ross, had selected). It absolutely fooled me, as I’ve seen nothing like it … but P&T weren’t fooled. Like Jen, Jay suffered from a weakness in presentation, but the trick itself was amazing to a layman like me.

Greg Wilson: The Legacy

Penn & Teller

Greg Wilson is the son of magic greats Mark Wilson and Nani Darnell. He came to the stage with a big, showstopping number, and was the only performer to go with a classic. You’ve probably seen some variation of the trick: A lovely girl climbs into a box, which is then stabbed with swords from what appears to be every angle. In Greg’s version, the box is clear, so the audience can see the lovely assistant dodging the daggers. She’s then wheeled behind a curtain and he joins her, taking with him a handkerchief marked by the judges, and purports to take her place in the box. When the swords are all removed, the person who emerges is revealed to be a second assistant, costumed to look enough like Greg to pass until the reveal. Greg appears out in the audience—and then, as a cherry on top, the curtain is opened again to reveal his famous parents. Now, this is a classic trick that wouldn’t be all that impressive if performed on Greg’s home court. But performed on the P&T stage, its mystique certainly grows.

Penn & Teller declared Greg the only winner this week, but I’m not sure that he really fooled them so much as they were starstruck and fanboying out over his famous parents, whom they obviously grew up admiring. That said, the look of pure joy and fandom on P&T’s faces was enough to make Greg’s performance my second favorite of the night.

Trigg Watson: The Hilarious and High-Tech Guy

Penn & Teller

Trigg’s act started with an iPad trick (making a vase with a flower appear on an iPad screen and then materialize as a real, 3D object), but then he unveiled a giant iPhone for his real trick. Despite the techy appearance, Trigg was really doing a card trick. I give him top marks because he had the very best presentation of the bunch. He set up the trick as a joke on Jonathan Ross—he was to pick an app card out of a pile and see if it matched the app Trigg himself had chosen from the giant phone. Jonathan is blindfolded and the audience is shown the deck of cards, and they’re all the clock app (the app Trigg has preselected from the phone). With his original choice turned away from the audience, Trigg asked Jonathan to say what app was on his card: It was Angry Birds. Trigg reacted wonderfully to the false mistake and turned his app card to the audience, revealing that it too is actually Angry Birds (even though we saw him choose the clock app card).

Then, just as icing on the cake, Trigg pulled a quick change, turning around in an Angry Birds T-shirt instead of his checkered button-up. Bravo, Trigg. You didn’t fool Penn & Teller, but I was thoroughly entertained.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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