Derren Brown: TV Series

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Series Ten: Derren Brown: The Experiments broadcast on C4 from October 2011

Programme One The Assassin: Friday 21 October 2011 (C4) TVWatch on 4OD

  • DB introduces the idea of conspiracy theorists who believe it is possible to programme someone to kill without them remembering it and refers to the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy in June 1958 for which Sirhan Sirhan (SS) was found guilty even though forty years later he still has no memory of the killing.
  • DB demonstrates hypnosis by sticking a girl's hands together and then performing a snap induction (by interrupting a handshake) on a member of the audience.
  • The entire audience is then hypnotised but as the 1952 Hypnotism Act forbids the braodcasting of an induction, DB explains that it is all about relaxation and focus.
    • he tells people to tense themselves physically and then relax as the release of physical tension encourages deeper relaxation
    • they are then focused on a single sensory input (his voice)
    • uses "can" to tell them what do to as it is is permissive and comfortable
    • then moves to "will", but still speaking softly and rhythmically, and repeating phrases
    He then demonstrates the successful induction as people cannot remember their names when instructed to forget them.
  • From the audience, DB picks four people and with the help of Zoltan Dienes (an expert in hypnosis and the subconscious from Sussex University) demonstrates that it is possible to make hypnotic subjects do something anti-social and damaging by carrying out an experiment where the subjects believe they are throwing hydrochloric acid into the face of another member of the audience. Even when they know the corrosive power of the acid when they receive the trigger all four throw the contents of a beaker over someone else (the acid has, of course, been replaced with water without the subjects' knowledge).
  • Two of the four are chosen to continue, and under the supervision of Dr Stuart Derbyshire (a researcher in pain and Birmingham University) they discover that without being in a hypnotic state they can hold their arm in water at 4.5°c for seven seconds; when told the water is luke warm they keep their arms submerged for two minutes until DB removes the suggestion.
  • One of the subjects - Chris - is then chosen and after being told the water is not cold, he is able to sit in the ice bath (at approximately 1.4°c) for over a minute in which time his pulse drops from 136bpm to 85bpm. In both ice bath experiments a thermal imaging camera is used to show the subjects' low body temperatures.
  • Chris's success in the studio means he is DB's chosen subject for the assassination, but he will not be told what the training is leading to. Interviews with family and friends show him as peace-loving and that he "wouldn't hurt anyone" - the same sort of descriptions given of Sirhan Sirhan by his character witnesses.
  • DB describes the MKULTRA programme run by the CIA in the 1950s and 60s and two elements he wants to create that can be seen in SS's actions: Marksman Mode (under hypnosis SS said he was firing at a target) and Spontaneous Amnesia (SS can remember a woman in a polka dot dress squeezing his shoulder but nothing after that).
  • Chris is taken to a firing range where he gets to shoot what DB describes as a Winchester 38 calibre lever action rifle. His aim is poor until DB returns him to his hypnotic state in which he is more focused: this is labelled as the 'marksman mode' and DB sets its trigger as a mobile phone ring tone. In the marksman mode he repeats his successful shooting with a different gun.
  • In order to create the spontaneous amnesia, DB associates a polka dot design with a trance state in which things cannot be remembered. DB proves this state works by getting Chris to reveal his PIN and remove his shoe in two separate tests and as this was done while DB was displaying a polka dot handkerchief, Chris cannot recall his actions.
  • Chris does a dry run of the assassination in a restaurant: DB shows him a polka dot pattern, and then plays the ringtone and tells Chris who his target is. Chris takes a water pistol and fires it. When the polka dot pattern is removed, Chris takes a polygraph test and his responses show he is truthfully denying firing the water pistol showing he has no memory of the event.
  • The real target is revealed: Chris is to assassinate Stephen Fry during a talk. A situation is contrived whereby Chris is given a box containing what he believes is a real, loaded gun to look after before the talk. Sitting in the auditorium, a woman wearing a polka dot dress comes and sits in front of Chris. Her mobile phone rings with the trigger ringtone and she then turns round and tells Chris that SF is the target. A few moments later, Chris takes the gun and shoots towards the stage. SF - being in on the scheme - falls to the floor and the audience look somewhat shocked.
  • DB appears, wakes Chris, explains the situation and that SF is alive and well. Chris is shown footage of the assassination and watches in disbelief; DB tells him that he can remember doing it and the removes the suggestions that he has planted.

Programme Two The Gameshow: Friday 28 october 2011 (C4) Watch on 4OD

  • DB tells a volunteer who enjoys thrill seeking to imagine tossing a coin three times. Each time the volunteer has to say whether it has landed on side A or B. The first time DB shows a card he is holding matching the volunteer's choice; the second time the choice of A or B relates to a vegetarian or mean hot dog (the vegetarian volunteer picks the vegetarian sausage); the third time it relates to two doors, one made of balsa wood the other made of mahogany, at which the volunteer will have to throw themselves. The volunteer breaks through the balsa wood door and lands on a crash mat; DB reveals that both doors were made of balsa wood, but the one the volunteer did not choose had a two storey drop behind it.
  • DB introduces his new gameshow - Remote Control - in which members of the audience have a 50/50 choice of whether an unsuspecting member of the public's evening will be pleasant or disasterous. Kris - the unsuspecting subject - is introduced to the gameshow's audience who believe he is the focus of the show. Kris is in a bar where everyone else is an actor and responds to DB's instructions and the audience will see the outcomes as they happen. It is explained to the viewer that the experiment is really about the audience who through 'mob mentality' will behave in a way they would not necessarily behave under other circumstances. DB uses the concept of deindividuation to explain this and it is emphasised by each member of the audience wearing a mask to make them anonymous.
  • DB gives the audience a range of choices such as having a woman flirt with Kris or having her accuse him of touching her inappropriately, getting a free drink or having to pay for an additional round. The audience enjoy watching Kris's discomfort as he is accosted by the girl's boyfriend and the barman charges him for more drinks.
  • Between the choices, a member of DB's team is shown exploring Kris's flat and at the audience's instigation DB encourages him to disrupt things, pry into his possessions and ultimately smash a television.
  • The audience continue to be offered choices but they become more extreme and Kris is, in response to the audience's choices, accused of shoplifting, arrested and told he has lost his job. In the final choice, when he has been released by the police, the audience vote for him to be kidnapped by a group of masked man. Kris is shown running to get away from the kidnappers but he runs into a road and is hit by a car. In the gameshow's studio the mood suddenly changes from one whereby the audience is laughing as Kris's misfortunes to one of horror as they realise what has happened. The live feed is stopped and DB leaves the studio floor and the audience are shown sitting in a stunned silence.
  • DB returns and explains the experiment to the audience and that the fatal crash at the end was staged. Kris is safely home and finds a new TV and letter of explanation from DB but the audience are left shocked as they realise of what they were each capable as part of a crowd.

Programme Three The Guilt Trip: Friday 4 November 2011 (C4) TVWatch on 4OD

  • DB explains the way in which guilt has been used throughout history as a means of manipulation and introduces the premise of the show. A volunteer - Jody - who applied to be on one of DB's shows, but told he had been unsuccessful, is selected as he is such a "really nice guy" there is no way he would ever be guilty of murder. DB has set up a false conference called 'Student Futures' at which Jody has been invited to speak about his career as a recent graduate. Everyone else at the country house venue is an actor and the main players - all named after Cluedo characters - are introduced. Over the course of the weekend Jody will be manipulated into confessing to a murder which he did not commit.
  • Phase 1 - Creating Guilt: situations are contrived in which Jody is made to feel guilty and each time this happens one of the actors places a hand on his shoulder and DB rings a bell to anchor these actions with a feeling of guilt; in one example, Jody gets to meet Tim Minchin (of whom he is a great fan) and is led to believe he has offended him.
  • Phase 2 - Doubt Memory: Situations are created in which Jody's recollection of details and events is challenged. Initially the changes are small, such as the colour of a speaker's tie changing, but also include a room's layout and furniture changing and the food on Jody's plate being swapped during a meal. In the final step of this stage, it is announced that a precious necklace has gone missing and someone suggests that they last saw Jody with it. He denies it, but then finds it in his room: he hands it in but is clearly confused.
  • Phase 3 - Create Motive: Throughout the weekend, the murder victim - Dr Black - has been speaking rudely to, and about, people and then in a game of croquet with Jody he cheats. Although only minor details they provide a context in which Jody has negative feelings towards him.
  • At the end of the evening the house party enjoy a drink of champagne and once Jody has gone to bed, DB places him in what he describes as a 'hypnopompic state'. While seemingly asleep he is taken outside and duly wakes up later in a very disorientated state.
  • During breakfast the news of Dr Black's murder during the night breaks and the police come to investiage. Everyone is interviewed and Jody clearly feels unnerved as the triggers are used to make him feel guilty and he questions the reliability of his memory.
  • When the police have left, Jody walks to the nearby village to the police station and hands himself in, admitting to murdering Dr Black. After the confession, DB appears and Jody is told the truth that there has been no murder and even the walls of the police station are made of paper. As DB breaks through the paper the whole crew of actors are waiting to celebrate Jody's innocence with him.

Programme Four The Secret of Luck: Friday 11 November 2011 (C4) TVWatch on 4OD

  • DB performs what appears to be a mindreading trick on a spectator in a pub: the spec is told to think of a song and as DB is pretending to read his mind a three piece band appear behind the spec and start playing the song he has picked. DB reveals that on three occasions during the day he and his team have sung, played or whistled the song - The Verve's 'Drugs don't work' - in the spec's earshot.
  • DB explains the premise of the show is the power to spread and idea and he shows how three months previously he started a rumour in Todmorden that a statue of a dog in the park is lucky. To avoid being associated with it, he sends Dawn Porter (DP) to the village posing as part of a documentary and she simply asks people if they have heard about the lucky statue. Seven residents are chosen and their luck will be monitored over the following weeks.
  • A couple of weeks later DP returns to Todmorden and the rumour appears to have started to spread locally. Of the seven locals, five identify positive things that have happened to them since they started stroking the statue, including lottery wins and a new job. Of the remaining two, one talks about her positive attitude and willingness to take opportunities, and Wayne - a butcher - simply repeats his mantra about being unlucky.
  • To show that what is perceived as luck is more about people taking opportunities, DB creats three situtions in which Wayne could be lucky. However, he throws away a fixed scratch card, fails to respond to a market researcher who will pay him 20, and walks past a 50 note on the pavement.
  • Hidden camera footage shows that visits to the statue are increasing and DP takes a group of locals to Blackpool to play on the arcade games. DB shows that their belief in the power of the lucky dog makes them play for longer, and concentrate for longer suggesting they are in a state of mind to win.
  • To show the difference between people taking opportunities, two landlords are stopped in the street by a woman whose car has a flat tyre and asked for help; it is made clear that the passenger of the car is the comedian Jason Manford. The first publican sends them to a garage round the corner, but the second - unable to help herself - fetches someone who can help them. As a result, Jason does a free set at her pub which is, unsurprisingly, full thereby showing how taking opportunities can - seemingly - result in good fortune.
  • DP reveals that the legend of the statue is spreading as a journalist from Halifax is interested in the story. The psychic Sally Morgan also visits the dog and talks about it being positioned in a "vortex of energy". Clips from a local radio show include reports of people seeing themselves as lucky recently.
  • DB visits Todmorden at the end of the three months to reveal the whole experiment. He visits Wayne who had eventually taken advantage of an opportunity having been followed around by a large lorry emblazoned with an instruction for him to phone a particular number, and shows his the previous three failures to take advatange of opportunities. He then discusses with the locals a way in which to test the lucky dog - still not revealing he was behind the legend at this point: they decide on the roll of a die with someone betting on the outcome.
  • The build up to DB's meeting is shown, and people are bidding on the amount they would gamble on the roll of a die.
  • The meeting arrives and DB reveals his entire deception and summarises his actions as having inadvertently created a lucky dog, but that it must be viewed from a certain perspective: that the idea should be embraced so that people can approach their lives differently. He then reveals that one local has bid 1000 and has commented on the slip that it is their life savings. It transpires that it is Wayne and he has taken the opportunity that has been presented to him.
  • The audience vote on the number 4 as the lucky number - for his 1000 stake, Wayne will receive 6000 back if the number is rolled - and Wayne is asked to nominate on which of four rolls will the number appear. He nominates the third roll. The first roll is a 2, the second is a 6. Wayne drops the die down the perspex tube for the third time and it lands on a 4: his luck has changed and he takes home the 6000.

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