Derren Brown: TV Specials

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DERREN BROWN: Fear and Faith part 1 broadcast on C4 9 November, 2012; part 2 broadcast on 16 November, 2012

Programme One broadcast on 9 November, 2012 (C4) TVWatch Part 1 on 4OD

  • DB introduces Cicero Pharmaceuticals and their new wonder drug Rumyodin which eradicates fear and was developed and tested by the US Military but has subsequently been used worldwide and DB is going to follow its first use in civilians. The viewer is introduced to four people with different phobias who are going to be treated with the drug.
  • DB explains that Rumyodin does not exist and he is, in fact, testing the placebo effect to see whether people have the innate psychological ability to make changes to their life, and he gives a quick explanation of the placebo effect.
  • The four subjects are shown round the apparently prestigious offices of Cicero and introduced to Professor Gladwell who developed the drug: such a set up is an important element of the suggestion of the success in the placebo effect; the subjects are also given proof of the drug's success.
  • The subjects are apparently injected with the drug and told of its possible side effects: there is evidence of the placebo effect working as they apparently suffer from the side effects, and one person who was afraid of heights is able to look over a balcony without fear. This shows the placebo effect working as they were injected with a saline solution.
  • One of the subjects, Nick, a journalism student, is usually crippled by his shyness, but after the drug he is interviewing people in the street and intervenes when his director is involved in what is a staged confrontation.
  • The subjects all keep a video diary of the positives - confirmation bias - to help their belief in the drug
  • Taking another pill allows the subject with a fear of heights to cross a bridge, and although a girl with a fear of singing in public starts busking, she is unable to sustain it.
  • DB interviews Nick apparently at the end of filming to give a sense of closure, but later that day a staged fight breaks out in his local pub and he intervenes to save his friends
  • DB reveals that there are many other participants, but they have been told not that Rumyodin eradicates fear, but cures allergies, improves intelligence (although one participant rumbles the placebo in her video diary), and stops smokers smoking: all are shown to have been successful
  • DB returns to Katie who has the fear of singing in public and arranges an audition for her: she does the audition, but does not get the job.
  • Dan, formerly with the fear of heights, sits with DB on the railings at the top of a viaduct at which point DB tells him it is a placebo: he accepts this and DB explains that the placebo has given him permission to change his life and resulted in a shift in his attitude.
  • The placebo is revealed to all the participants in the all the groups, and 'Rumyodin' is shown to be an anagram of 'Your Mind'
  • DB returns to Katie again, and has given her a song to learn on the basis that knowing it was a placebo should serve to empower her. He meets her later and hypnotises her, takes her to a dressing room where she is made up, and then given a five minute call in which time she has to warm up and put an evening dress on. She prepares herself and then goes on stage to sing the song in front of an audience made up of all the other participants and DB. As she finishes, to thunderous applause, she is shown mouthing 'You bastard' to DB.

Programme Two broadcast on 16 November, 2012 (C4) TVWatch Part 2 on 4OD

  • DB explains the premise of the programme is to explain religious experiences by psychology and give an athiest an experience of religious conversion
  • Satanic Rite The studio audience is told that this section is not being filmed, and DB confirms they were all asked to bring a photograph of a loved one. Only 11 out of 160 people agree to perform the satantic rite in which they have to stab their photograph repeatedly and read a pledge of allegiance to Satan: one person is chosen and carries out the process. DB points out that in a highly sceptical audience, only 11/160 people were willing to do this and humans are therefore hard-wired to believe
  • Supernatural Belief After being told about hauntings in a crypt a group of athiests and agnostics try, individually, to sit there in it in darkness for 15 minutes; clips of several of them getting very uncomfortable within the few minute or so are shown, but Natalie, a stem cell researcher, is unimpressed and sits alone quite happily.
  • The Conversion Experience Stage 1: The Challenge DB explains the experience will be as a result of the participant's 15 minute conversation with him in which God is not mentioned. Natalie's credentials as an athiest, sceptic and scientist are establihed
  • Behaviour Test Filmed before the show, a group of participants play the buzz wire game and have to count, by pressing a button, the number of times they make a mistake. They do this both with supervision and without supervision, and without supervision 3 of the 4 players cheat by deliberately miscounting. A second group also play the game, but this group is told that a chair in the room is haunted (and going to be featured on 'Antiques Ghostshow'). Using Jesse Bering's hypothesis, with a 'presence' in the room people will not cheat, and the counts are duly accurate. DB suggests that as language evolved it was easy for people to be cast out of societies so moral behaviour and conformity became essential and the easiest way to support this was through such a divine presence.
  • The Conversion Experience Stage 2: The Father Figure With 15 minutes of the conversation remaining, DB anchors the idea of a father figure and links it to God in Natalie's mind.
  • The Conversion Experience Stage 3: The Master Plan With 8 minutes remaining, DB discusses a relationship of Natalie's which did not work out and links this to an idea that there is a grand plan as it worked out for the best: this is then connected to a sense of awe and wonder. In religious terms, this is part of a core belief in God's agency.
  • The Peppermint Test DB tells the viewers to close their windows, turn up the bass on their television and remove any scent of mint from the room. He opens a bottle of peppermint essence and members of the studio audience are asked to raise their hands as they smell it. Some do, but he reveals it was water in the bottle and it was in fact due to a low bass note of 18.98Hz being played which connects with the part of the brain which registers smell. This is then played for the viewers so they can experience the mint smell (although around 10% may smell a citrus scent). DB then explains that it was all nonsense and anyone who smelt anything succumbed to the placebo effect.
  • The Conversion Experience Stage 4: The Leap of Faith With 5 minutes remaining, DB discusses how we sometimes have to trust out intincts with Natalie and uses the example of her applying for the show, which is out of her usual rational behaviour. In the voice over he explains how belief needs evidence, and how humans are very good at finding patterns in randomness.
  • Patterns in Randomness DB shows some photographs collected by Richard Wiseman in which humans have a tendancy to see faces in unexpected places: he explains this is an example of pareidolia in which the brain tries to make sense of what it is seeing. He then shows a sequence in which a participant was selected for a new show he was making called 'Intervention': the show's premise is that he will alter the world around the person to have a positive effect on their life, and gives a demonstration of how he can control events. However, there is no intervention whatsoever, but the participant's video diary shows her attributing greater power to random events around her which lead to her self-realisation and self-improvement.
  • The Conversion Experience With 1 minute remaining, DB leaves Natalise alone in a church, she stands and immediately starts crying and clasps her hands together in a prayerful gesture. DB returns and she calms down and explains how she suddently felt an unconditional love for God which conflicts with her own beliefs.
  • In a conversation with DB in the show she explains how she felt all the love in world coming to her and finding it overwhelming. DB says he is duty bound for her not to leave with a religious belief he has given her, so explains the process as the viewer has seen in.
  • DB concludes the show by noting that having a belief can lead to people's happiness, so does not challenge what people may, or may not, believe.

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