With BeLIEve, Criss is certainly setting a remarkable example not just for magicians, but really for anyone who decides to produce a reality television show. He's put together a program that has blended the entertainment value of illusions with the informative aspect of allowing us to see behind the scenes. It's a series that has brought truly ambitious moments to television without losing any of their impact in translation.
And most importantly, it has a purpose. It's not just a vanity project for Criss to show off; it's opening up the world of magic. Why do such a thing? Maybe because we haven't quite grasped just how much it requires to create these fantastic things that seem so easy.
"People that have come before me have done one television special a year or every few years. To sit here and do a television series of ten, eleven hours, a complete season, that's a wealth of material," Criss explained. "For me, that was a hundred and eighteen demonstrations. That is a tremendous order.
"To take that and couple that with ten [live] shows a week, that is a very difficult lifestyle. Physically, mentally, emotionally. It's probably why, if you look at any magician in the history of the art, no one has ever done that. Sometimes it takes some magicians three or four years to come up with ninety minutes of material." Or, if you're doing the math, two episodes of BeLIEve.
"I really attribute the ability to do what no one's really done to my incredible team," he told us. "My team is really the nexus between thinking about something and then actually doing it."
It's as much about the journey as it is the destination. By creating BeLIEve, Criss has accomplished a variety of things, whether it's reintroducing magic to a weekly audience, or educating that audience on the fact that modern magic is a lot more serious than we tend to think. As we reach this last hour of the season, he's invested countless hours and who knows how much in resources, and he's injured himself. So where's the payoff for all the sacrifice? Is it in the ratings? The commercial success? Not even close.
As always, it comes down to a love of the art, a passion that through this show, he's been able to impart to all of us.
"It is insanely stressful, challenging, demanding. This has been the most demanding, challenging project of my career," Criss reflected. "But I also remind myself that no one's making me do this. I chose this path. I'm blessed to have this opportunity. I think back to the times where I was just dreaming about this and now I have the opportunity. How could I complain?"
The last episode of Season 1 of Criss Angel BeLIEve airs tomorrow night at 10 PM ET/PT on Spike. Stay tuned tomorrow for our preview of "Ship Appearance." Until then, you can visit Criss's official site (crissangel.com) and follow him on Twitter (@CrissAngel).