Derren Brown: The Specials
Almost five years ago to the week that Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand were threatened with being burnt at the stake, another witch-hunt was conducted for another man merely seeking to thrill us. In October 2003, Derren Brown asked a member of the public to place a bullet in the chamber of a handgun, which the ‘mentalist’ placed against his head, finally winning a televised game of deadly chance.
The moral crusaders (Roy Hattersley and Lorraine Kelly among them) were rabid in their condemnation when it leaked out that this perilous pursuit took place in Jersey (in order to get round the UK’s firearms laws), wasn’t quite live (had the stunt gone wrong, the more sensitive among us might have appreciated that two-second delay) and the bullet was in fact a blank (forgetting that the show had already displayed the carnage a blank shot at close range was still able to wreak). All of which missed the basic point: this was staggering, stunning, edge of the seat telly. And now the whole Russian Roulette Live ●●●●● process is captured in a boxset featuring four of Brown's one-off spectaculars.
His most recent illusory wind-up is The System ●●● in which he appeared to have discovered a fail-safe method of winning bet after bet at the races. Yet the final baffling twist lends more weight to the formulaic set up. Similarly, The Heist ●●● could have been a very different affair had the essential plot (four individuals have a set of ideas and psychological triggers implanted in their brains so that when they stumble upon a lone security guard in a deserted London street, they can't stop themselves from hijacking the booty. With more information on the ultimate aim held back, the finale of The Heist could have been jaw dropping rather than simply highly impressive.
The Séance ●●●● does have its own twist, though, after a bunch of students are scared witless in a spooky old building which reeks of the spirit world. While your rewind button allows you to work out one of the key tests, the sheer terror of certain passages makes Most Haunted seem about as scary as Heartbeat while the clever denouement leaves this as one of Brown’s most creepily memorable projects.