One of the great problems with the quickly-produced shows is that far too many are directed like a music video, with swooping camera work that often cuts away from the performer at the wrong moment. An example comes to mind of an Ammar performance where at the climax of the trick the director moves to a long swooping shot completely missing what the performer had been building to for the previous several minutes. This cheated both the performer and the viewer because no one saw the payoff.
This happens because these shows are often shot on a very low budget without much, if any, rehersal. Many of the directors are guys who are in love with technique and style as opposed to creating a vehicle to relay content. The program is too often a vehicle for the director and not a vehicle for the performer. When that happens, everyone suffers.
This is why you often see the shots a beat or so behind the action as the director is playing catch up, not having a clue about photographing magic or what is coming next. Contrast the Copperfield specials where the star is in control, making certain the direction is just the way it ought to be.
Then there is the editing... Oulette was once quoted to me as saying that "everybody has four good minutes" and that he could find them by recording an act and editing out the stuff he didn't like. He did not do that with Penn and Teller or Bob Arno, they're much too big, but nearly everyone else got the slice and dice treatment which eliminated any real possibility of establishing a relationship with the audience.
Some of the rebroadcasts of the Sullivan show suffer the same approach with the editing removing all suspense-creating prologue. You end up with 30 seconds of a guy spinning 20 plates with no build up. Everything is climax and finale. You wonder what these guys' sex life is like.
The old variety acts knew how to work an audience, to establish rapport, to build suspense, and have a resolution that satisfied the audience.
Today's producers and directors, many of them too young to have any experience with variety, come from a "wham- bam school" of directing and producing. All they're interested in is quickly changing images, ala music videos. It is a victory of style over substance and content.
The noted actor Ed Harris once commented on his part in Alcatraz, shot and edited like a music video, that he never had a long enough scene to do any acting.
Sadly, when the product ends up being crap the producers and directors tell the network suits that "people are tired of magic," and they move on to ruin something else.
The current incarnation of lunacy is "Thirty Seconds to Fame" on, where else, Fox. It is the antithesis of what variety entertainment should be, a modern version of the Roman circus where bad acts are "killed" by audience vote.
Presumably, when the audience tires of trashing hack acts, some network will think of having the act work over a vat of sharks with the audience voting if they live or die. Doubtless there will be a steady supply of fools who'll try out for that show.