Reality Stretches Believably ~ The Carbanaro Effect

There are very few things that can put a smile on my face every single time. Magic shows are one of them. That makes The Carbarnaro Effect my anti-happy pill.

Michael Carbanaro is a magician who sets up in various locations like second hand stores, doctor’s offices, army supply stores, and basically tricks total strangers into believing they have seen something impossible. Like any good magician, his act is as much about the ability to win someone over with a charming personality and a winning smile as it is to stun them with the trick. Because with a few exceptions, he is his own “pretty girl” assistant. He has to be the distraction as well as the performer.

Stage magic is one of those things that I already know has an explanation behind it. I know that every single trick I am seeing is a carefully choreographed and well planned act.

One of my very first appearances on stage was as the assistant to a stage magician way back when I was in the first grade. I just did as the magician told me and I held the props and I was still as much a part of the audience as anyone else, because to this day I can’t tell you how he did any of the stuff he did. As an adult, I still have that sense of wonder and amazement every time I see someone like that kid with the card tricks in Marblehead and Carbanaro on television.

But I’m just tuning into the show as the invisible fourth wall viewer, as protected from the subject of the magic trick as the hidden cameras situated throughout the break rooms and offices that are Carbanaro’s sets. His show has been on the air for at least three years that I know of and that doesn’t take into account how long he’s been practicing the show.

My questions is always how long does he have before everyone starts seeing him and thinks, “Oh, I’m totally on camera, aren’t I?”

Then what’s keeping the people who have been tricked from tweeting it once Michael makes the big reveal at the end? I assume he reveals himself at the end of every clip, we just don’t see all of them because the editors have to decide the overall theme of each show. But then you have the really memorable episodes like the one from the most recent season with Shaq. It’s only a matter of time before the Internet is saturated with Tweets, Facebook posts, and the blog posts of second rate authors who just happen to like the show, and then the Carbanaro Effect will have to transform into a box set.

I also have it in the back of my head that there are people out there who don’t like to be pranked and tend to take things personally. I’m guessing there are scouts for TruTV who go out and try to get a general feel for the kinds of people that frequent an area. Shoppers at a second hand store tend to be very casual and relaxed, so you’re not as likely to get someone who responds with, “Oh yeah, well here’s my magic trick. I’m going to magically turn two eyes into one!” BAM!

This questions comes to me from a completely different reality TV show that takes a CEO of a company, dresses him up like the average starting level employee, then sends her into the working environment to see how things are really run behind the scenes. Presumably a camera crew is always following them, so it’s not like hidden cameras are all over the place before the CEO arrives there.

My personal theory is that Undercover Boss has been secretly filming for decades and we’re just seeing the backlog of cut together episodes. Because people aren’t stupid. You see some pockmarked face kid filling out a job application with a camera crew and sound equipment all over him, eventually you’re going to think that either a movie is being shot at this location, or that the kid is really a seventy year-old man who owns the company. And how Youtube is not flooded with videos of these shoots taking place is beyond me, but my overall point is that the shelf life of reality shows like this can’t be very long.

Even the perverts were starting to recognize Chris Hansen. Even though sex crime stings are still happening even now, practiced by police divisions all over the world without the help of Dateline, nearly every pedo who goes online remembers the decade of television that actually made people feel sorry for them. And I’m sure they’re only mildly surprised whenever they see that it’s not actually the iconic reporter who won an award for his work on the series.

Personally, I hope to see many more episodes of the Carbanaro Effect in years to come. Better yet, I want Dateline to do another series of To Catch a Predator, only instead of being confronted by Chris Hansen, you would have Michael Carbanaro appear from behind the curtain to interview the suspect with a clip board that makes a loud buzzing noise every time the suspect lies.

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