Rebecca Barry Hill: Freak out with 'dangerman'

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"I've just had an extraordinary idea," said the British man who calls himself The Incredible Mr Goodwin (Tuesdays, TV One, 7.30pm).

Have you, mate? The incredible Mr Jonathan Goodwin narrates his own show, and this is a good example of how he likes to preface his tricks. When he's not dropping dramatic quotes, he's talking us through the act. "And now I'm going to throw a dart backwards over my shoulder, looking behind me through a mirror, and hit whichever part of the dartboard you ask me to."

I paraphrased for him. But he did hit the mark. And it was incredible, despite his show-offy performance. I just wish someone else had talked him up. Or that he'd done something cool afterwards, like buy everyone watching a round of shots. Or swallowed the dart. He does like putting sharp things in his mouth.

The incredible Mr Goodwin, a name that comes with its own weather system, belongs to that modern legion of magicians, illusionists and stuntsmen who want to amaze yet come across as accessible. They're mysterious but not in a "look-into-my-eyes, the eyes, the eyes, not around-the-eyes" way.

They invite you into their world, friends, family and all. Today's self-promoting TV tricksters are also less likely to let the trick do the talking, ala their heroes Harry Houdini or Evel Knievel. Nor is there any reason for them to stay on a shadowy stage ala David Copperfield.

This breed, which includes David Blaine, Cosentino, and now TIMG, fancy themselves as the gods-next-door and, sometimes, I'm a willing disciple. They roam around in public, turning juice into Coke, scaling skyscrapers with their bare hands and freaking the hell out of people. Or so it seems. Who's to say Goodwin's dart trick wasn't his 57th take? Or that the wine bottle he smashed with a hammer and scoffed like a plate of chips wasn't made of sugar? There's also less of the "how did he do that?" that comes with Dynamo's mind-boggling illusions, and more of the "why did he do that?" that comes with provoking a rattlesnake to bite you before jumping in a coffin and being buried alive.

Goodwin is admirably passionate about escapology, which is apparently pronounced with a short 'a', as though it's a fancy way of saying sorry.

He's bald, boggly-eyed with the brawn to lift a VW, simply by imagining his daughter is pinned underneath it. He's also reasonably charismatic. Luckily, we don't see much of the "repetition" for which he credits his success at not dying. Showing the training that goes into his acts of incredible hand-eye coordination, whether it's tossing a dart or stabbing the table between a volunteer's fingers doesn't necessarily add much to the trick itself, other than to deflate it somehow. Same goes for the inclusion of his perplexed family, who talk about his odd vocation with a what-can-ya-do? nonchalance.

As for the big escapes, although they're incredible achievements, on TV they're as lacking in tension as the person who announces the punchline before they start the joke. You know Mr Incredible is going to survive or he wouldn't be on TV.

Still, he's mesmerising when he adds a surprising or sinister twist to his act. As Goodwin hung by his fingers from the top of a tall building, he asked his witness to roll a dice; when it landed on two he prised all but two of his digits from the pane. My palms sweated so much I dropped the remote. You couldn't help but laugh at his bizarre stunt involving a young woman slapping his duct-taped face every 10 seconds, until, having finally freeing himself of handcuffs, he opened his mouth and a live scorpion came out.

There was more death-defying escapism to follow, in the form of World's Scariest (Tuesday, TV3, 8.30pm). Last week it was drivers, this week plane landings and next week, daredevils. Unlike TIMG, the talking was the best part. Much like an E! Channel special counting down the 100 hottest Hollywood bikini bodies, I presumed Plane Landings was not to be watched if you wanted to feel good about yourself ever again at least when it comes to flying.

Actually this sensationalist filler was less horrifying than expected, drawing out the few seconds of aviation danger from footage of each of the 10 landings into 60 minutes of runway hell.

But it was pleasing to discover that passengers do actually have control. If there's ever a cyclone, for instance, don't get on the plane. Likewise, never go to St Bart's, where planes land on a runway the size of my pinkie finger. But my favourite not-very-scary landing, and number four on the countdown, showed a bolt of forked lightning hit a jet at night.

"What happens next is truly shocking," said the narrator. "Absolutely nothing."

I swear I didn't make that up. Maybe Mr Goodwin could jump on board next time.

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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