Derren Brown: TV Specials

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Specials (DVD 2008)

Derren Brown - The Specials includes The System.

DERREN BROWN: The System broadcast on C4 on 1 February, 2008

  • DB introduces the programme from Sandown Park race course and his ability to predict the winners of horse races 24 hours in advance. He explains that six weeks previously he informed a randomly selected woman which horse would win in a particular race. It won and she was hooked. DB continues that he repeated this and she bet increasingly large sums of money. For the programme she has got together all of the money she could and is risking it on a final race.
  • The bookmakers' role and betting odds are explained before DB talks about his fascination with winning systems and introduces the woman, Khadisha, who he anonymously introduced to 'The System'. She relates how she received the e-mails anonymously and how the first prediction came true. She then starts keeping a video diary to show her placing her bet and winning on the second, third and fourth races.
  • DB suggests that the problem with the concept of 'The System' is that constantly predicting winners defies probability. DB then shows himself tossing a coin ten times in controlled conditions and getting heads each time.
  • Comments from bookmakers and racing journalists are shown: each saying how such a system is impossible - the bookmaker is always the winner.
  • DB meets four racing experts to convince them that it is possible for him to have a system; he introduces the likelihood of a system working as having odds of 1.48 billion to 1. DB then numbers each of the four experts and gives them each an envelope. The experts are then given a free choice of one of five hundred photographs. The experts then bring their photographs each stand on a randomly selected spot on the floor. An envelope is opened which reveals a prediction that the order they will stand in is 1-3-4-2 which matches their randomly chosen spots. DB explains the odds of getting this prediction correct was 1 in 24. Each expert shows their selected named photograph and it transpires that their initials match the initials of the person on their chosen photograph, and there was only one photograph out of the five hundred which matched their initials. DB explains the odds of getting this correct was 1 in 61,752,747,000. Each expert then opens their envelope and an enlarged photograph in each envelope matches the photograph they each chose. DB then explains that odds of their chosen location and their selections matching up are therefore 1 in 1,482,065,928,000. Standing back in 1-2-3-4 order the numbers on the back of the experts' photographs string together to give 1,482,065,928,000. DB therefore concludes that he has proved that although unlikely it is possible to predict something when the odds are only 1 in 1.48 billion.
  • For the fifth race, Khadisha is invited to Newbury race course and has been given the name of The System's winning horse, still anonymously, twenty-four hours previously. Her horse wins and she is then introduced to DB who tells her that there will be one final prediction from The System and she should get as much money together as she can to place on the final race.
  • DB then explains The System in terms of alternate therapies: if they work for you, you have faith in them. However, when such therapies are tested over a statistically significant sample they are not shown to work. In The System, Khadisha believes in it because, from her perspective, it always works.
  • DB explains that achieving ten heads in a row when tossing a coin is likely to happen if you toss the coin enough times: to get the ten in a row took over nine hours of filming him tossing the coin.
  • Khadisha is shown borrowing money to make the bet than she cannot afford to lose.
  • She meets DB and having collected 4000 DB gives her the final tip and puts the bet on for her.
  • DB explains the way The System works: at the start of the project he contacted 7776 people who were divided into six groups. A six horse race was chosen and members of each group were sent the same prediction: a sixth of the 7776 people (1296) believe in The System as their prediction won. This sample is split into another six groups and each group is sent another prediction from a six horse race; all 1296 people keep a video diary. After the race only 216 people will now believe in The System. After the third race this becomes 36, and then after the fourth just six people are left. These six are then invited to Newbury and each place a bet on their prediction in the six horse race. Khadisha's horse wins and she is then left as the only person believing in The System. For this final race there is, therefore, no system: just DB, Khadisha and the five horses in the race. DB now describes The System not as a horse racing system but as a belief system designed to convince just one person that they can win repeatedly and risk money they cannot afford to lose.
  • The final prediction turns out to be wrong and Khadisha has lost 4000. However, DB explains when he went to place the bet he changed his mind and put the money on a different horse instead. Khadisha checks her betting slip and it is for the horse that won. She leaves with 13,000.
  • Viewers are told that participants who lost during the first four races were offered a complete refund of any bets they placed.

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