Marc Summers’ Mystery Magical Tour, also known as the “Mystery Magical Special,” was a special aired by Nickelodeon in 1988 and then through the mid-nineties. Marc Summers’ popularity is difficult to explain by modern standards, but the important thing to know is that he hosted a game show called Double Dare that helped put Nickelodeon on the map. I guess he was sort of like the Eighties’ equivalent of Scott Rogowsky, if kids were actually interested in his post-HQ Trivia career. But if those kids tuned into Mystery Magical Tour hoping to get their usual dosage of green slime, they were in for a rude awakening.
It turns out Mystery Magical Tour is extremely a magic special, centered around showcasing the tricks of Lance Burton and, to a lesser extent, Tina Lenert. It’s also a celebration of the Magic Castle, the famous magician’s club in Hollywood, where most of the special is set. But how they get there is worth noting too: the special begins with Marc Summer driving three kids home after a movie. The kids are not his kids, as they call him “Marc,” so maybe Nickelodeon was selling the fantasy that you too could one day hang out with Marc Summers without being accompanied by any other adults. Anyway, they’re forced to take a detour which causes Marc’s car’s tire to go flat.
They pull up in front of the nearest building, the Magic Castle, looking for a phone. There they see John Astin (who is dominating this Shocktober between The Addams Family and Mr. Boogedy) dramatically quitting his job as the resident magician. Marc and the kids go inside and find the club to full of all sorts of spooky tricks: there are hidden passageways, talking stuffed animals, even a phone that rings despite the cord being cut. When they realize they’ve become locked in, Marc and the kids look for clues and end up stumbling into a main stage area, where Lance Burton performs for them.
Lance Burton, like Marc Summers, was quickly rising to prominence around this time. He’d end up earning 13-year gig at the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas in 1994, the longest contract given to a Vegas entertainer at that time. Here he shows of his skills at sleight of hand, pulling long candles and birds out of nowhere over and over. He also reappears at the end of the special doing another routine pretending to be Marc Summers’ hands. Finally, there’s a swordfight that ends in a pretty spectacular illusion that I won’t spoil here.
The other magician featured by the Mystery Magical Tour is Tina Lenert, who might technically be a mime? She enters after the kids see Burton’s first performance and go looking for Marc, who has disappeared after entering a phone booth. They end up in a lounge and hide behind a couch when Lenert enters dressed as a janitor. She finds a jacket and puts it on her upturned mop, then puts her gloved hand through one of the sleeves and does an act where she pretends the mop is a person. The mop dolls her up by combing her hair and giving her new clothes and jewelry, ending with them in a tender embrace. The kids sneak out before finding out if this goes any further.
In the end, Marc and the kids find out their tire has been magically repaired and they head back out into the night, but not before telling a fellow traveler who ran out of gas to check with the Magic Castle. It feels like an abrupt ending, but I didn’t care because I loved the fact that this was a half hour special. Even though this was heavily rerun when I was growing up, I don’t remember every seeing the Mystery Magical Tour. However, that didn’t stop me from being nostalgic for how extremely nineties cable TV this felt. Especially the goofy music, which really sounds like someone was having a blast with their first synthesizer. If you’re into that vibe and some pretty solid magic, I recommend you look this one up on YouTube.