An example of a brilliant idea done well, "Penn and Teller's Magic and Mystery Tour" has the two Las Vegas magicians being wowed by others for a change. Instead of being the featured performers (they do step up to do a trick here-and-there), they visit China, Egypt and India to see both the culture and magic that are being performed there today. With Penn providing witty, slyly sarcastic (on Tea houses... "They're like Starbucks, except they don't have coffee, they have tea. That's why they're called teahouses.") and insightful commentary and Teller silently providing his own thoughts, we get not only a look at some great stunts, but also learn more about the culture of the country and history of magic in the country.
They first hit China and see a performer who does a pretty remarkable mask trick, which not only entertains, but tells a story. That is really one of the most enlightening and interesting points of some of the magic seen here - how it's not only to dazzle the eyes, but the mind. During their trip to China, they hear from many of the performers that the tricks that they are known for have been passed down to them, with some going as far back as ancient history. Another amazing scene has the duo heading to a acrobatic school and walk through as kids who look like they've still got a way to their teens do some pretty amazing stuff.
Other highlights from China include an incident where Penn and Teller get in a car accident with a hay truck and then have a local master come to their hotel to show them coin tricks. All three have a good laugh when the duo share a trick, but we don't get to see the details behind how it works.
The next stop for Penn and Teller is Egypt, where they first head to find out more about the cup and ball trick, which originated here. While looking for members of a group of magicians, the duo run across people doing the ring trick that the two saw a lot of in China. Afterwards, Teller speaks (!) about the trick in a brief interview (we also hear more from Teller in a few additional interviews throughout the episode.) While Teller gives a performance of the needle trick, another guy seems to be putting on a sideshow by eating a glass and chomping on a brick. Another highlight is a man who claims to be one of Egypt's best magicians doing a snake swallowing trick.
Finally, the magical duo head to India, where they seek out a performance of the legendary rope trick and other incredible feats, including a guy who swallows a steel ball and coughs up more than 1. Interestingly, we also see local authorities come in to stop the show, as India's government doesn't take well to street performances, associating them with crime. Afterwards, the two chat about performing on the street in America and having cops tell them not to after their show. However, the punishment in India is much more severe. Other highlights in India include Penn playing a loud American tourist in a bit with a local magician.
Overall, "Penn and Teller's Magic and Mystery Tour" is a great deal of fun, as the series is entertaining in so many ways - Penn and Teller are great, respectful hosts, we learn more about different cultures, hear more about the history of magic in different societys and see some great sights - both in terms of tricks and landscapes. Although I'm a fan of the duo's series "Bulls--t", I would have liked for them to have continued this show beyond a short mini-series.
Note: There are a few scenes that are not for the squeamish.
VIDEO: "Penn and Teller's Magical Mystery Tour" is presented by Acorn Media in approximately 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is consistently very good, with only a few very minor concerns. Sharpness and detail were pleasing throughout much of the show, with only a couple of minor instances of softness present.
Some slight instances of shimmer and a couple of tiny traces of pixelation show up, butno edge enhancement or faults with the elements are seen. Colors remain bright and vivid, with no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: The stereo soundtrack provides crisp, clear dialogue and environmental sounds/ambience.
EXTRAS: Production notes, bios and four deleted sequences.
Final Thoughts: Anyone who's a fan of travel shows or Penn and Teller's previous efforts should definitely check out this great mini-series. Acorn Media has provided a DVD with fine audio/video quality and a few good supplements. Highly recommended.