Let me first say that Lev Grossman is something of a inspiration to me. The series is loosely based on the novels but it's also amazing.
Childhood was not a pleasant time for me, nor was it for a lot of us, especially fans of speculative fiction. The term escapism was always tossed about in English classes (where incidentally we didn't learn English, we read books. The first time I heard what a gerund was in Spanish class) as a lesser form of serious literature. Any serious consideration of the "literary canon" will reveal this distinction to be completely arbitrary.
And God forbid anyone read anything because they enjoy it.
Quentin Coldwater, the main character in the magicians is a bit of a fuck up, who grew up reading books about a magical land called Fillory (which is a like Narnia). Many times in the series he states that the books saved him from killing himself. And this is where I love the Magician's critique and homage to the fantasy genre.
A troubled child escapes from reality for many reasons. For some, there is a heroic purpose and a clear cut definition of good and evil. For me, I felt unsafe and powerless. At school, bullies were always a looming threat. At home I found myself in trouble for infractions. So I really liked the concept of having special abilities that would even out the unfairness of what others could do to me.
There is an amazingly acted sequence when the characters literally bottle their emotions that includes one of the best lines ever delivered, "I concur. Feelings are bullshit." This bon mat is followed by the immediate return of emotion, where each of the actors gives a stunning (and character specific) performance as they are overwhelmed by their bottled up feelings.
It was one of those rare over-the-top scenes that actors live for.
What I like so much about the series and books is that there is a real dimension to the characters. They're flawed and irreverent, but they feel real and surprisingly grounded. The real action comes from their struggles with themselves and arguably the series could stand well enough on its own without all the magic. But it's just so great. But the magic is really cool.
The hand gestures deserve a special call out -- they use a choreographer for "tutting" which is intricate hand motions. It's quite amazing when the characters cast spells.
All in all, it's a show you should be watching.
I've included a tutting video for your pleasure and amazement....