Gasping for air: David Blaine stunting

By Jae-Ha Kim
Media Life Magazine
May 8, 2006

There used to be a time when magicians were happy to pull a rabbit out of their hats. These days they don’t seem to be pleased unless they’ve tortured themselves to the top of the ratings.

Which brings us to David Blaine, the attention-loving Gen Y magician who doesn’t mind being buried alive, frozen, or drowned–all for the sake of good TV, or at least good ratings.

In “David Blaine: Drowned Alive,” which airs at 8 tonight on ABC, Leonardo DiCaprio’s sleight-of-hand buddy will attempt to hold his breath underwater longer than any human being in history.

It’s one of a slew of sweeps stunts on ABC this month as the network attempts to regain sole possession of first place among adults 18-49 after slipping into a tie with Fox. Other stunts include an Oprah special next week, tomorrow’s bird flu movie and multiple super-sized episodes of its biggest hits. Tonight’s special could produce decent ratings. Blaine’s “Vertigo” May sweeps special four years ago on ABC averaged a 4.1 adults 18-49 rating.

Now onto the other big question: Will Blaine be able to break the record by holding his breath for longer than 8 minutes 58 seconds? Yes. He’s not in this business to fail. Is there really any chance of him drowning? No. There may come a time when real-life deaths make for great primetime TV, but we’re not quite there yet.

To prep for this stunt, Blaine has spent the past week living in a gigantic fishbowl in Manhattan for all to see because what’s the point of doing this if no one can watch? For now, he has the benefit of a breathing device.

Blaine’s day-to-day routine is tedious at best. As he tells ABC News: “I would wake up and hold my breath for 48 minutes out of the course of every hour. I’d breathe for a minute, hold my breath for five minutes immediately after, and then right after that, breathe a minute, hold for six minutes and keep going for all the way up to an hour.”

The clock’s ticking, David. As for viewers, they don’t need to hold their breath out of fear that it might be Blaine’s last stunt.

A look at this week’s top TV draws

MONDAY, MAY 8

7 p.m.  WB  “7th Heaven” (D)  Jessica Biel and Barry Watson return for the 10-year-old series’ finale that features the entire cast celebrating at Simon’s wedding to Rose.

8 p.m.  Fox  “Prison Break” (D)  Michael leads his gang’s escape, but not everyone makes it out alive.

8 p.m.  NBC  “Deal or No Deal” (T)  Deal! Yes, Howie Mandel has a hit with this infectious game show.

9 p.m.  HBO  “Before Sunset” (D)  A couple whohad a one-night stand a decade ago reunite and discuss that magical evening. Dude, talk is cheap.

9 p.m.  Fox  “24” (D)  President Logan shows Jack Bauer just how dirty he can be.

TUESDAY, MAY 9

8 p.m.  WB  “Gilmore Girls” (C)  It’s a bittersweet season finale for the fast-talking mother-daughter team of Lorelai and Rory, who will move to the CW next year.

8 p.m.  UPN  “Veronica Mars” (D)  It’s graduation day for our gang, and a real nice graduation gift for viewers would be for the CW to pick this plucky little series up for a third season.

9 p.m.  NBC  “Scrubs” (C)  Dr. Cox’s confidence is at an all-time low and Eliot takes it upon herself to cheer him up. She apparently doesn’t remember all the times he’s referred to her as “Barbie.”

9:25 p.m.  Showtime  “Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior” (M)  Now that Jackie Chan isnt doing all his stunts anymore, Phanom Yeeram is ready to take over.

9:30 p.m.  MTV  “8th & Ocean” (R)  The model reality show ends its first season with more twin drama as Kelly gets a job offer from her sister’s former client.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 10

8 p.m.  Fox  “American Idol” (R)  And then there were three. This results show will reveal which contestants get to remain and warble their hearts out.

8 p.m.  ABC  “Alias” (D)  Finally, we get to see more of Sydney’s beloved Vaughn, who isn’t quite dead.

9 p.m.  NBC  “Law & Order” (D)  Michael Imperioli takes a break from “The Sopranos” to try to crack a case in which he’s the prime suspect.

9 p.m.  ABC  “Lost” (D)  We learn whether Libby survived Michael’s gun shot. Also, Locke and Mr. Ecko whup some island butt.

10 p.m.  Discovery Health  “Ultimate Plastic Surgery: Before & After” (R)  The anti-“Dr. 90210.” Doctors show what plastic surgery can do for patients with actual serious disfigurements. Not that big noses and flat chests aren’t.

11:35 p.m.  NBC  “Tonight Show” (T)  Nick Lachey makes an appearance to bleat out his latest Jessica-done-him-wrong ballad.

THURSDAY, MAY 11

8 p.m.  WB  “Smallville” (D)  The season finale ends with Lois and Martha in peril, and Lana oblivious to Clark’s considerable charms.

8 p.m.  Fox  “That ’70s Show” (C)  First Kelso, then Hyde, now Fez? Jackie, Jackie, Jackie–girlfriend needs to aim higher.

8 p.m.  PBS  “Soundstage” (T)  Backed by a 16-piece orchestra, Sheryl Crow sings cuts from her album “Wildflower.”

8:40 p.m.  NBC  “My Name Is Earl” (C)  Earl and his brother wait for karma to slap them some good luck, but end up broke instead.

11:35 p.m.  NBC  “Tonight Show” (T)  Jay Leno had better nail down his sofa. Tom Cruise makes an appearance to chat about his baby, his fiancé and “Mission Impossible III.”

FRIDAY, MAY 12

7:30 p.m.  The N  “Instant Star” (R)  With her CD all done, Jude’s record label throws her a celebratory shindig in this season finale.

8 p.m.  CBS  “Keith Barry: Extraordinary” (T)  Ireland’s Keith Barry leaves the creepy magic stuff to the likes of David Blaine and charms celebs like Jessica Simpson and Rachel Hunter with his more traditional card games.

8:30 p.m.  FX  “Auto Racing: NASCAR Busch Series” (S)  Matt Kenseth beat Kenny Wallace in this event last year. Tonight, in the live event, the drivers are looking to shake things up again on Darlington Raceway, NASCAR’s oldest big track.

9 p.m.  NBC  “Las Vegas” (D)  There’s a big wedding planned for the third-season finale. Guests sharing a nice chicken dinner at the reception include Dean Cain, Jerry O’Connell and uberchef Wolfgang Puck.

9 p.m.  BBC America  “The Thick of It” (C)  Satirical like “The Office” (the original British version), this English series stars Chris Langham as a government official who doesn’t quite have what it takes to get the job done.

SATURDAY, MAY 13

6 p.m.  HGTV  “International Furniture Show 2006) (T)  Check out all the furniture you love and can’t afford. Hosted by Gail O’Neill and Mark Totty, whose last name is very fun.

8 p.m.  CNN  “Chasing Angelina–Paparazzi and Celebrity Obsession” (T)  A documentary about the stars and the paparazzi who love them. Or who love to make money off of them, anyhow.

8 p.m.  TLC  “Little People, Big World” (R)  The Roloffs have won enough viewers to warrant a second season. In the first-season finale, Zach nervously prepares to go on his first date.

9 p.m.  Starz  “Lords of Dogtown” (M)  Heath Ledger stars in this extreme skateboarding flick where the stunts are more important than the plot.

10:30 p.m.  Cartoon  “Justice League Unlimited” (K)  Aw heck, there’s no school tomorrow. Let the kids stay up late to catch the season finale, where the heroes must form an alliance to beat their foes.

SUNDAY, MAY 14

7:30 p.m.  Fox  “King of the Hill” (C)  Tom Petty lends his voice to the 10th-season finale as Lucky, who’s out to win Luanne’s hand in marriage.

8 p.m.  CBS  “Survivor: Panama–Exile Island” (R)  The first two hours shows the players being narrowed down to the final two contestants. The winner is announced in the third hour, which takes place on a live reunion show.

8 p.m.  NBC  “West Wing (D)  The critically acclaimed drama ends with a series finale that will tug at heartstrings. Bartlet leaves the White House after Santos is inaugurated.

8:30 p.m.  Fox  “Malcolm in the Middle” (C)  Malcom finally escapes his loving but annoying, dysfunctional family as he prepares for life at Harvard. This is also the show’s swansong episode.

8 p.m.  NBC  “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (D)  The crime drama ends its season with two back-to-back episodes. The first showcases the sleuthing techniques of hinky Goren and Eames as they try to nab an arsonist. The second has Logan and Barek searching for a killer who bludgeoned his last victims.

9 p.m.  VH1  “Surreal Life” (R)  This tacky (but addictive) series ends its sixth season with Tawny Kitaen finally doing what she’s wanted to all year long–stripping off her clothes to show she’s still as hot as her Playboy centerfold roomie.

A = awards show or special, C = comedy, D = drama, DD = daytime drama, G = game show, K = kids, M = movie, N = news/documentary, R = reality, S = sports, T = talk/variety show.

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