The Magicians suddenly appeared on Prime (not sure where it was before, if it was in the UK at all), and as it’s a show people seem to have been somewhat obsessed with, I decided to give it a chance. On episode 3 now and I’m still making up my mind about it. It’s essentially about a pair of posh-ish New Yorkers (Quentin and Julia, even their names are posh, even by British standards!) who were about to go to top Ivy League universities, when they got effectively invited to try out at an university for actual wizards. One got in, the other didn’t. There’s also an elaborate subplot involving a Narnia/Five Children and It-esque series of novels which may or may not refer to a real place, and other characters appear at the university and outside as things go on.
The main difficulty, and I’m not sure if it’s a bug or a feature, is that Quentin is a fucking twat. He’s extremely lacking in self-confidence, slightly paranoid, fearful/cowardly, grasping, has flashes of rather extreme aggression (which interacts poorly with his cowardice), and is quite nasty and controlling towards Julia (who isn’t actually his GF or anything, though he clearly wishes she was). I think the show knows all this. The show clearly doesn’t love him, and at one point it was explained to him that he was neither particularly clever, nor particularly good at magic (both of which are evident). He feels, in many ways, like a sort of realist deconstruction of Harry Potter (who, likewise, was neither particularly clever nor particularly good at magic, except that for assaulting people). Honestly I want to slap his pouting face and mock his '90s hair every time he’s on screen (a lot of the clothes and some of the hair in the show have a curiously '90s vibe, which I think is actually caused by the intersection of modern clothing and dressing like a wizard - certainly the mid-'90s was the most wizard-y way people have dressed since the 1970s).
But the other characters are a lot more interesting, and whilst most of them could be fairly described as “dicks” (to be fair, so many people at university were, on some level, “dicks”), so far they’ve made the show worth watching. Julia is certainly the only one who comes off as a mostly decent person (and I am including all the professors, people from not-Narnia and so on here). The production values are surprisingly high, too.
I’m just like, not entirely sure I can take “Hogwarts for Assholes” (I mean, not that Hogwarts wasn’t already that… what is it with wizards and being twats? I blame Gandalf and Merlin) indefinitely, but there are hints that I won’t have to, and Julia being fairly down to earth (if a little manipulative and self-deceiving) really helps it so far. Arjun Gupta as Penny (a huge dude despite his name) is also at least a fun asshole who rags on Quentin a lot and has his own problems.
I’ll say this - at least it has characters with actual personalities with some complexity and conflict, which is better than, I dunno, the majority of shows on TV, where characters just have a random collection of character traits, or quirks, seemingly painted on a flat surface, and aren’t allowed to have serious negative traits, unless it’s so they can very rapidly “overcome” them.
Edit: Oh wow okay yes this show gets better and escapes “Hogwarts for Assholes” before too long. I have to admit that I guessed the big plot twist but only the episode before, but it still worked. Episode 9 could basically be titled “Well that escalated quickly!”. Penny remains awesome. The whole thing is kind of like a darker-toned, more grown-up, but less snappy Buffy in a number of ways (mostly good ones, though not entirely). The whole thing is definitely to some degree a response to Buffy and Harry Potter (the books this is from started being published in 2009), not just cheaply influenced by or attempting to replicate, but there’s some actual analysis/deconstruction and so on.
The one accidentally humorous thing is that at least two of the minor characters in it are played by actors who were also in the similarly “Magic University”-themed The Order (which is much trashier and more directly Buffy-esque, but also sometimes easier to take), both in somewhat similar roles (one nigh-identical, as a promising student who fails a key test). There are some similar dynamics/relationships in The Order, too.