Times Television Critic

The trend toward mystery-adventure-comedy series continues this weekend when NBC pulls “Blacke’s Magic” out of its silk hat at 9 p.m. Sunday (on Channels 4, 36 and 39).

Now you see it, now you don’t, for thereafter “Blacke’s Magic” will air not on Sundays, but at 9 p.m. Wednesdays.

Hal Linden is suave illusionist Alexander Blacke and Harry Morgan is his faintly dishonorable father, Leonard Blacke, a former shell-game artist. In the long tradition of TV crime-stoppers, Alexander is called in to get to the rocky bottom of cases that are too tough for the well-meaning, but typically hapless cops. And there will be plenty of those.

Sunday’s premiere is a pretty good little mystery in which two bodies turn up, one of them belonging to Alexander’s old pal, the Great Gasparini. We meet the Great Gasparini as he is doing his last great gasp of an act. As the TV cameras roll, he is sealed into an airtight coffin and lowered into a swimming pool for five minutes. When the coffin is raised, he is dead--from a gunshot.


Who? Why? How? You learn that in due time, as Alexander even uses hypnosis to help uncover who has bumped off the Great Gas.

Executive producer Peter S. Fischer (“Murder She Wrote”) and creative consultants Richard Levinson and Bill Link created “Blacke’s Magic,” which is one of those rare non-sitcom series in which plot is as important as style. It is also murder with a sense of humor, however, an easy breeze of a series that is neither insulting nor taxing, but always diverting.

There is nice chemistry between Linden, who is an urbane, dashing and wise Alexander Blacke, and Morgan, whose main role is to hang around in a straw hat and bow tie and sound homespun and look corny. They’re a good team, and as a bonus, they always solve the crime. As Alexander says, “It sure beats the hell out of sawing people in half.”