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Author Topic: Derren Brown
Spearmint Rhino
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I know he's a very 2003 thing to talk about, but I was so crazy-busy in 2003 that I hardly watched any TV, so until the advent of Telewest Replay/Virgin Choice, I had no idea what all the fuss was about...

For a while, I've been meaning to start a thread about how utterly, heroically brilliant I think Derren Brown is, but there's almost too much to say, and I couldn't decide on my way into it.

But I just watched last Friday's Trick Or Treat, and it contained one of the most fucked-up yet compelling pieces of television I've ever seen.

Their victim this week was a 28-year-old psychologist called Jules. She pulled the Trick card. Having planted a hidden camera in her dashboard, Brown and his team noticed that Jules had a careless, hands-free driving style, which gave them the idea for their trick.

Luring her into a faked-up beauty salon for a supposed free spa treatment, they got a Hollywood special effects guy to secretly make an exact cast of her face.

Then, they got her to drive to a deserted piece of Berkshire woodland, where Brown hypnotised her and made her stand rooted to the spot. When she woke up, still rooted to the spot, she saw a car crash scene, seeing her own dead body (an actress of similar build and hair, wearing the replica face and the exact same clothes) in the driver's seat, while police, paramedics and the driver of the other car scurried around ignoring her, apparently not seeing or hearing her.

It was all horribly convincing, reminiscent of the way that nightmares feel. (Or, and I guess this was intentional, the out-of-body view of proceedings that the credulous believe that the dying or recently dead experience.)

She kept pinching herself, and un-confidently assuring herself "This is really happening. I am really here."

Eventually, after the other people had gone and it was just Jules and the wreckage, her phone rang. "Hi, this is Derren."

Before the credits rolled, captions assured the viewer that Jules had been psychologically evaluated beforehand to ascertain that she could handle this, that everything had been explained to her afterwards and she'd been debriefed and counselled, and - to hammer home the justification of desert - that she's been driving more carefully ever since.

OK, brilliantly done (if very fucked-up), but it wasn't Brown at his best, because he's hardly in it. Apart from the hypnotism part, any production team could have pulled the same prank.

But anyway, yeah, Derren Brown. Fucking unbelievably brilliant. Crucially, he's a total sceptic, and doesn't pretend for a moment that what he does involves any kind of supernatural hocus-pocus. Rather than 'magic', he calls what he does a mixture of "psychology, misdirection and showmanship" (I think those are the words he uses, anyway).

If you pay enough attention, the stuff you can learn from him about the way the human mind works, and the power of suggestion, is extraordinary.

Of all his shows, I think my favourite is Messiah, in which he travels around America making fools of New Age con merchants, convincing Christians to become atheists, and converting atheists into Christians.

The most interesting, though, is the Inside Your Mind DVD, with the commentary playing, in which he explains several of his techniques. Revealing, incidentally, that his 'explanations' during the shows proper are often examples of misdirection themselves: he'll lead you along the garden path to thinking you've worked out how he's doing it, then at the last minute he'll pull a metaphorical rabbit out of the metaphorical hat that completely throws you.

And yes, he's just a little smug. But I don't mind that. He's kind of likeable with it. I do realise that my view of him isn't widely-shared. When I picked up the aforementioned DVD, at the Notting Hill Music & Video Exchange the other week, one of the staff had written 'TWAT' on the pricetag.

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Stumpy Pepys
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I agree, although I think it's important to remember that he is a magician. I suspect that sometimes he imparts a lot of "psychology" to dress up what are probably standard conjuring tricks.

Messiah was great telly.

Only thing is, he always reminds me of Tony Le Mesmer

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The Horse
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I think he's great. I just started reading his book today, and it's a lot of fun. It's obvious, some might say painfully so, from his writing style that he's got a well-thumbed copy of Paperweight by Stephen Fry on his shelf, but that's OK by me. He's made me laugh out loud four or five times already. And it's a good insight into his driven-geek personality.

Seance was his best one, I reckon. A load of young fools experiencing everything fools experience in seances, with us playing along at home because we've all been misdirected into choosing the same creepy-looking woman, Jane, apparently at random from a selection of dead people. When he's stopped throwing things round the room and whatnot, the credits roll and we see Jane, a very much alive actress, getting out of a van outside and strolling in, ready to shit the fools up further.

Another good one was the cold reading in the last run of Trick of the Mind. He got people to draw round their hands, give him a personal object of theirs and tell him their star sign. Then he gave them a detailed, long analysis of their characters. Most thought it was uncannily accurate. They'd all been given exactly the same thing. It's reprinted in full in his book.

[ 23.05.2007, 11:59: Message edited by: The Horse ]

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Spearmint Rhino
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To Stumpy - Oh, he admits that a lot of his tricks are updated versions of classic magician's tricks (for example, when he said "that was out-of-this-world" at the end of one of them, it was a nod to the original guy who performed a famous trick of that name).

I think, rather than saying "Brown is a magician", it's more instructive to look at it the other way round: "everything other magicians do is misdirection and psychology too".

[ 23.05.2007, 11:48: Message edited by: Spearmint Rhino ]

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The Horse
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Oh, and half the fun is spotting when he's pretending to use suggestion but is in fact using sleight of hand, and so on. He's completely open about that.
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TV's 'Mr P'
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I think his honesty and openness about what he does is what makes Brown so compelling. I had Mr Baynham on the blower raving about the 'car crash' stunt (in much the same terms as SR above). Wish I'd seen it.
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Spearmint Rhino
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TVMP - it's still there, if you've got posh cable.
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The Horse
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Or 4od.
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The_Liquidator
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I concur fully with SR and the Horse on Derren Brown. Trick or Treat is a fantastic programme. My personal favourites so far are the young lady who he re-taught to play the piano and the old lady who came second in a big poker tournament in Vegas, having never played the game before in her life.

Edit

I should also point that she only came second because she caught a horrendously bad card on the turn (the second last community card dealt in Texas Hold 'Em, for those who don't know the game) and had spent the whole day calling bluffs and bullying seasoned pros off the tables. The way he taught her to read people was phenomenal. I want some of that coaching Derren, you funny bearded genuis.

[ 23.05.2007, 12:06: Message edited by: The_Liquidator ]

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TV's 'Mr P'
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I've got posh Sky - is it on E4 or owt?
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Super Sharp Shooter
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Props for Derren Brown for me too, awesome. That thing where he was walking down the street in blackpool, quick-fire hypnotising people as they passed by and making them hand over their wallets and watches was hilarious and unnerving and brilliant. You wouldn't want him marrying your sister or anything, though, would you? Sinister bastard.
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Spearmint Rhino
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I dunno. I got it on Virgin's Catch-Up TV thing. (Annoyingly, it takes a few days to turn up on there, so I missed some of this series completely, assuming it was never gonna show.)
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Ginger Yellow
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quote:
Oh, and half the fun is spotting when he's pretending to use suggestion but is in fact using sleight of hand, and so on. He's completely open about that.
Yeah, a lot of the wow factor comes from him mixing an impressive but clearly far from impossible mental feat (memory related, usually) with a basic magic trick. Like that time with the chess masters, which finished up with a gratuitous "pscyhological feat" that turned out to be a simple envelope switch. Unless you know what he's doing when he's doing it, however, it seems gobsmacking. This new series has been a bit disappointing if you ask me. The episodes are too short and the pacing seems off.

In this particularly instance, he was pretty lucky she didn't try tapping anyone on the shoulder or grabbing them and just stood there instead.

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The Horse
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quote:
You wouldn't want him marrying your sister or anything, though, would you? Sinister bastard.

He is indeed single.

[ 23.05.2007, 12:06: Message edited by: The Horse ]

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Battylad
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I love it - he is on normal channel 4 on a Friday night - the other week he put a guy in a Photo booth in London, sent him to sleep then transported the whole booth to Morocco and the poor bloke found himself walking up in another country with no idea of how he got there and his passport in his pocket - the reaction was priceless, but how scary would that be!!
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