Tricky TV is a fast paced modern magic show for CITV that first aired in September 2005. Presented by children's presenter and magician Stephen Mulhern, the show features magic on the street, "wicked wind-ups", grand illusions, and teaches a number of tricks step-by-step. Season 1 aired between September and November 2005, with season 2 airing between March and June 2006. After a four year break, season 3 aired in 2010.
The show featured magic tricks ranging from making a tank vanish to making an entire football team appear. The "wicked wind-ups" included a gorilla that came to life and a cinema with exploding popcorn and unstoppable drinks machines. Classic con tricks were also exposed in "Beat the Cheat". Each show usually closed with a performance of a classic "grand illusion", such as Sawing a Woman in Half.
In Series 1, Mulhern was joined each week by one or more special guest celebrities, who often took part in a number of tricks during the show, and also usually participated in the show's closing illusion. In Series 2, the show format changed slightly, and the different special guests were replaced by Mulhern's regular co-presenter on Holly & Stephen's Saturday Showdown, Holly Willoughby, who acted as his assistant in the closing illusions.
Season 1 consisted of ten episodes, and ran from September to November 2005.
- Original air date: September 5, 2005.
- Special guest: Jennifer Ellison.
- A full-sized model gorilla comes to life, Stephen makes a dream come true for a class of schoolkids - by causing their teachers to vanish. At the beach, Jennifer Ellison is amazed by a three card trick called "Find the Lady", then gets cut into three pieces in an illusion called the “Zig-Zag Girl”.
- Original air date: September 12, 2005.
- In this episode, Stephen Mulhern attempts to make a tank disappear, a boy is put through a mangle, a cookery class gets out of hand, and a classic confidence trick is explained in Beat the Cheat.
- Original air date: September 19, 2005.
- Special guests: Caprice and Jennifer Ellison
- In this episode, Stephen Mulhern demonstrates the illusion of levitation. Joined at the beach by his special guest, the model Caprice, dressed in a black bikini, Stephen asks her to lie down on a picnic table. He then covers her body with a picnic rug, and she floats into the air! Stephen covers her head and feed with the rug for a moment, and when the cloth is pulled away, Caprice has vanished. Later, customers at an ice-cream van are served up a surprise when Caprice appears from inside the freezer. In the closing illusion, Jennifer Ellison joins Stephen, and they slice Caprice into four pieces in an illusion called the World's Largest Card Trick.
- Original air date: September 26, 2005.
- Special guest: The Cheeky Girls.
- In this episode, the Cheeky Girls help Stephen perform a trick with playing cards - by sitting on them. Plus Stephen demonstrates a trick where a handkerchief turns into an egg with a touch of magic. In the closing illusion, the Cheeky Girls help Stephen with an interesting twist on a classic illusion, a double version of the famous Sawing a Woman in Half, in which Stephen saws both girls in half and switches their lower halves.
- Original air date: October 3, 2005.
- Special guest: Bradley Walsh.
- In this episode, Stephen amazes actor Bradley Walsh with a football-themed card trick and tries to turn an old family car into something much classier. Plus, the sight of a harmless plastic spider alarms members of the public.
- Original air date: October 10, 2005.
- Special guest: Rachel Stevens.
- In this episode, magical mayhem abounds on a school trip to the cinema, and singer Rachel Stevens is amazed when Stephen performs a mind-boggling trick with her expensive ring. Plus, Stephen produces a fridge out of nowhere and encounters the Table of Death, where he has to escape from his shackles before a bed of sharp spikes falls and impales him. In the closing illusion, Rachel Stevens finds herself being sawed in half while standing up in an illusion called Modern Art.
- Original air date: October 17, 2005.
- Special guests: Jack Osbourne and Louise Redknapp .
- In this episode, Stephen transforms a poster into pop star Louise, demonstrates a baffling trick with a box of tissues, and shows the secret of card prediction. Also, guest Jack Osbourne receives some unusual help to overcome his jet-lag. In the closing illusion, Louise helps Stephen test a new illusion, called Clearly Impossible.
- Original air date: October 24, 2005.
- Special guest: Joe Pasquale.
- In this episode, comedian Joe Pasquale plays a version of Russian roulette, and Stephen tries to turn a pack of cub scouts into brownies.
- Original air date: October 31, 2005.
- Special guest: Peter Andre and Jennifer Ellison
- In a special Halloween episode, the show comes from the London Dungeon. Stephen displays an empty cage used for prisoners in the middle ages, covers it with a sack, and makes Jennifer Ellison appear inside. A girl is selected from the audience, hypnotised, levitated into the air, and vanished. Dressed in a black leotard, Jennifer faces the modern version of the rack - a device designed to stretch a human body. Peter Andre receives a shock when Stephen attempts a trick using a fearsome fork. Jennifer is released from the stretcher, only to find herself locked inside the Iron Maiden! With her concerned face visible throughout, dozens of metal spikes are slowly pushed through Jennifer's body, and when she is let out there her leotard has been punched full of holes. Finally, Peter and Jennifer toss a coin to see who will bebeheaded with the Guillotine - Jennifer loses, and her head is cut off!. As the credits roll, Jennifer's living head sits on a sword on a throne, shouting for someone to put her back together.
- Original air date: November 7, 2005.
- Special guest: Mischa Barton.
- In this episode, Stephen teaches special guest Mischa Barton a trick called “The Infected Ear”. In this trick, she uses a sewing needle to thread a length of dental floss through the hole in her pierced ear. Having tied it in a knot to form a continuous loop passing through and underneath her earlobe, she pulls it straight through her lobe without ripping it. Stephen also attempts an act of underwater escapology, and there's also an insight into the workings of professional magicians. In the show’s closing illusion, Mischa complains of having butterflies in her stomach, to which Stephen offers a cure. Having got her to lay down on his “operating table”, he covers her with a long box which leaves her head and feet exposed. Taking an electric saw, he then cuts Mischa into three pieces and removes her middle. When Stephen opens a small door in the side of the box containing Mischa’s middle section, two butterflies fly out. Having replaced her middle, he removes the box and helps the now-cured Mischa down off the table.
Season 2 ran from March 10 to June 2, 2006, and saw the replacement of the various different guest celebrities with Holly Willoughby, who acted as Stephen's regular assistant in the various closing illusions.
- Original air date: March 10, 2006.
- Special guest: Jennifer Ellison.
- Stephen welcomes Holly to Blackpool beach, makes Jennifer Ellison appear from nowhere, and turns Holly and Jennifer's clothes into bikinis. In this episode’s closing illusion, Holly tries out Stephen's "Beach BBQ": he puts Holly into a coffin-sized box, sets fire to it, then opens the box to reveal just a charred skeleton .
- Original air date: March 17, 2006.
- Special guest: Jennifer Ellison.
- In this episode’s closing illusion, Holly joins Stephen and special guest Jennifer Ellison on Blackpool beach for an illusion called “Bikini Blocks”. This is a double presentation of the Mis-made Girl, in which Jennifer and Holly, wearing differently colored bikinis, are placed into matching upright cabinets. Stephen then uses a number of steel blades to divide each cabinet into four equal pieces, which are then separated and mixed up. When the cabinets are reassembled and Jennifer and Holly released from them, each is wearing the other’s bikini top.
- Original air date: March 24, 2006.
- Special guest: David Beckham.
- In this episode, Stephen makes Holly’s wedding ring vanish from inside her closed hand and then reappear inside a rose, and brings a David Beckham waxwork to life. In the episode’s closing illusion, having already made Holly’s wedding ring vanish, Stephen goes one step further and makes Holly herself first float high in the air and then, while there, vanish.
- Original air date: March 31, 2006.
- In this episode’s closing illusion, “Heads Off ”, Stephen locks a sitting-down Holly into an open-fronted frame and places a small box over her head. Having pushed a small blade through the bottom of the box, Stephen then separates it from the frame, apparently detaching Holly’s head from her still-visible body. Placing the box onto a table, Stephen opens the front of the box, revealing Holly’s severed but smiling head still inside. Removing the box from the table, Stephen replaces it in the frame, removes the blade, opens the front of the box and helps Holly to climb out ready to take their bow.
- Original air date: April 7, 2006.
- In this episode’s closing illusion, “Clearly Impossible”, Stephen gets Holly to lay down on a low table. Stagehands then cover her with a pair of clear-sided boxes, from which her head and feet project. Stephen then places small wooden stocks over her neck and ankles, while Holly extends her right arm through an opening in the side of the box over her top half. With Holly firmly secured within the clear-sided box, within which she is still fully visible, Stephen takes a large steel blade and places it into a slot in the middle of the box. Pressing down on the handle, he pushes it through the box until the edge appears below the table, dividing it (and Holly) in two. Taking another identical blade, Stephen completes Holly’s division. With both blades in place, Stephen releases the catches holding the two halves of the table together. Stagehands then pull the two table halves apart. As Stephen walks between Holly’s halves, she wraps the fingers of her right hand around the edge of the upper part of the box, feeling where her lower half should be. The stagehands then push the box halves back together, Stephen locks them back together and removes the blades and stocks. The stagehands remove the boxes covering Holly, and Stephen helps her to sit up and climb down off the table to take their bow.
- Original air date: April 14, 2006.
- In this episode’s closing illusion, “Neon Nightlife”, Stephen locks Holly in a tall vertical frame, and pushes a number of illuminated neon bulbs through her body from back to front.
- Original air date: April 21, 2006.
- In the closing illusion, “The Disembodied Princess”, Stephen locks Holly inside a tall cabinet, from which her legs project at the bottom. Pushing steel blades through the top and bottom of the cabinet, Stephen divides Holly into three. Opening the front of the cabinet, he shows that, while Holly’s head and legs are still there, her middle from her neck to her knees has completely vanished.
- Original air date: April 28, 2006.
- In this episode, Stephen uses a small tree house for a Big Trick and teaches magic in the Secret Circle. In the episode’s closing illusion, “The Stretcher”, Stephen locks Holly inside a tall cabinet, from which her head, hands and feet project through small holes. With Holly locked in the box, Stephen then starts to push and pull her head, hands and feet around, stretching and crushing her to impossible sizes.
- Original air date: May 5, 2006.
- In this episode’s closing illusion, “Modern Art”, Stephen locks Holly inside a tall vertical cabinet and cuts her in half while she’s standing up.
- Original air date: May 12, 2006.
- Stephen attends a school in Denbigh and puts a schoolgirl called Sophie through an illusion called the Wringer where she is flattened. In this episode's closing illusion, Through the Eye of a Needle, Stephen locks Holly inside a wooden barrel, which is then pushed up against a second empty barrel, and Holly magically moves from one to the other.
- Original air date: May 19, 2006.
- The episode’s closing illusion is “The Guillotine”. Holly, in character as "Polly with her Trolley" is strapped to a wooden board, lowered into the stock of a giant guillotine, and then beheaded. After the credits roll, Stephen lifts a cover from the trolley to reveal Polly's grinning head.
- Original air date: May 26, 2006.
- Stephen transforms a mother into his assistant, complete with sequinned costume, and makes her vanish in a puff of smoke. Later he takes to the high seas for an illusion with pirates, and gives views magic tips in the Secret Circle. In the closing illusion, "The Slicer ", Stephen cuts Holly into nine pieces.
- Original air date: June 2, 2006.
- In this episode’s closing illusion, “Girl Through Glass”, Stephen shows the camera a vertical frame containing a large solid piece of glass. He then shows the camera a pair of smaller frames, each of which is covered in long black streamers. Stephen then fits the smaller frames into the larger one, one on either side of the sheet of glass, showing how the streamers completely cover a section of the glass. Stagehands wheel in two low tables, placing one on either side of the sheet of glass, each touching the smaller frames with the streamers. Holly then enters and lays down on one of the tables with her head facing the glass. Placing his hands on Holly’s feet, he pushes her towards the glass and she slides effortlessly through the streamers and the sheet of glass, and onto the table on the other side of the glass. With Holly halfway through the sheet of glass, Stephen stops pushing. The stagehands re-enter and place wooden boxes over Holly’s body, leaving her head and feet exposed. Stephen then takes a solid steel blade, and slides it between the sheet of glass and the box containing Holly’s upper half, and then slides a similar blade between the glass and the box containing her lower half. The stagehands then take hold of each table and pull it away from the glass, separating Holly into two halves. Stephen then removes the smaller frames from the sheet of glass, showing that the glass is still solid and free from holes. With the smaller frames replaced and the Holly's halves pushed back into place on either side of the glass, the blades are removed, and then the boxes. Stephen places his hands back on Holly’s feet and gives her a hard push, sending her all the way through to the other side of the glass. Stephen then helps her up off the table to take their bow.
Tricky Quickies is a cut down version of the show which has a duration of 5 minutes. Series 1, 10 editions. Series 2, 15 editions.
Tricky TV was first broadcast in the 4pm slot on ITV from 5 September 2005. Creative consultant was Paul Andrews. The show's executive producer was Vanessa Hill for The Foundation. Series 2 was produced by Ian France and directed by Paul Andrews.