Criss Angel admires a corpse on Believe.
  • Spike TV
  • Criss Angel admires a corpse on Believe.

I’d always been under the impression that revealing how a magic trick works to a nonmagician was a violation of some sacred magician code. Same as, say, not wearing at least a little bit of smoky black eyeliner. I happen to know exactly where I got that idea: an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm on which Cheryl’s cousin—played by a young Anton Yelchin—refuses to tell Larry how he did a card trick because Larry isn’t a magician; some people just are, others aren’t, he explains.

Apparently no such mandate exists, though, because ol’ Criss “Loose Lips” Angel has a new
show called Criss Angel Believe, on Spike, and he’s leaking tricks like a sieve. But only the sort-of-lame magic tricks, not the good ones that require NASA-grade technologies, like levitating Shaquille O’Neal 60 feet above your Las Vegas home while your buds Flavor Flav and Carrot Top look on.

It’s been three interminable years since A&E made the horrible decision to stop airing Angel’s previous show, Criss Angel Mindfreak, the third best thing to watch on TV while high (America’s Funniest Home Videos and Cops come in first and second). Also, Mindfreak is the best name for anything ever.

Not a lot has changed for the diminutive illusionist. He’s still skulking around the Luxor in Las Vegas, where he performs his live show, also conveniently called Believe. In fact, the show is celebrating its fifth anniversary, which just might have something to do with his return to reality TV.

What has changed is Angel’s appearance. And in only the most troublingly subtle ways. With an androgynous new jet-black bob and “refreshed” skin, Angel looks something like—and stay with me here—a plastic doll modeled to look like a gothic, anatomically incorrect post-Laugh-In Jo Anne Worley. That’s not a bad thing. If that doll were for sale, I’d probably buy one.

He also returns with a professorial streak (in the show’s logo, graphic emphasis is put on the “lie” in “believe”). Here and there, after demonstrating simpler tricks to strangers on the street or in the casino, Angel explains to his marks (and to us) how they work. In those moments, Believe is a magic show for the kinds of people who looked in closets and under beds to find their Christmas gifts weeks beforehand, depriving themselves of any fun or surprise they might’ve experienced on Christmas morning. For the more impressive-looking illusions—like the aforementioned flying Shaq—mum’s still the word. But then there’s this inherent problem: magic is less magical on TV. Angel might not use postproduction special effects or anything like that, but with an entire world of possible manipulations lurking just beyond our screens, there’s only so much we’ll bother to believe. Pardon. BeLIEve. I bet it’s still decently fun if you’re stoned.