Magic is all about tricks, isn't it, and tricks really can fool the wise. So is Uri Geller magical? More to the point, has he been fooling the wise all his life? Well, if so, he must have started young. Born in Israel in 1946, he says he first became aware of super-sensory talents at the tender age of four - while he was slurping soup a spoon broke asunder in his tiny mitt. He notes his parents, not surprisingly, were shocked; however, his mother recovered sufficiently to tell wee Uri he must have inherited secret powers from distant relation Sigmund Freud.

When he turned 11 the family, perhaps low on cutlery, moved to Cyprus, and here they stayed until Uri was 17 - old enough to return to Israel and serve as a paratrooper. He fought in the Six-Day War of 1967, but dispatches fail to mention whether he exerted any force over enemy canteens.

During 1968 he worked as a model despite an uncanny resemblance to David Hasselhoff with a haircut. But the following year he revealed to the world his telepathy and psychokinesis, and two years later, having plugged his spoon-bending act to audiences across Israel, he was a household name.

In 1972 he left Israel to conquer the planet. In Germany he used his mind to halt cable cars. In America he met the world's leading scientists. He also took part in laboratory experiments at Stanford Research Institute, where, it's said, he guessed the throw of a die eight times out of 10. Perhaps more astonishing were claims by the US Naval Surface Weapons Center at Silver Spring that Uri caused Nitinol, a super-hard alloy, to ''deform in a manner contrary to its inbuilt properties'' - yes, Uri had bent the top brass.

His name can still excite the curiosity of millions; there are those, however, he rubs up the wrong way. His arch-critic is the stage magician and militant rationalist James ''The Amazing'' Randi, who wrote

a book to prove Geller is no more than a parlour magician.

There have been many TV appearances during which Uri has failed to perform. On these occasions he has said he cannot simply turn his powers off and on. Hmm . . .

Perhaps the most pointed indictment of Geller's gifts has come from the Italian branch of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), who alleged a videotape proved he had clandestinely manipulated a watch and spoon on a TV show.

Yet Uri continues sporadically to pop up with astonishing acts. In 1991 he stopped Big Ben, a feat repeated twice, most recently in May 1997. But get this: the clock stopped at 11:11 - Uri's mystical number. Whoah!

Uri can also miraculously remove wonga from the wallets of ordinarily commonsensical shoppers. The world is awash with his paranormal paraphernalia: autobiographies, self-help tomes, do-it-yourself mind-power kits. Why not set about the Ikea fork drawer this Christmas with Uri Geller's Parascience Pack, complete with ''high quality brass dowsing rods, genuine rock crystal, and much, much more for testing, enhancing, or using your psi abilities''?

Now based in England, Geller contributes to many journals, including lads' mags. He has also moved into inventing, currently promoting a device no home should be without - a personal earthquake detector. He also likes to drive around the Middle East - ''to those countries which still don't have peace treaties with Israel''.

Uri Geller: trick or treat? Judge for yourself tonight, but choose Cup-a-Soup for your TV supper.

Uri Geller appears on You Only Live Once, BBC1, 9.30pm.