Derren Brown’s balls

“Please tell me you haven’t complained to Channel 4 about Derren Brown…”

Well…”complaint” is very strong, although that is the word I used in the letter. Ultimately my request has been for Channel 4 to explain a couple of points rather than a green-ink rant demanding cancellation of the series or such like. It wasn’t an angry letter at all, to be honest, more concerned. Both the so-called magician Brown and Channel 4 themselves should be able to handle themselves against a cynical northerner.

Throughout August Channel 4 broadcast a number of teaser-trailers and commercials for “The Event”, a Derren Brown fronted programme in which he claimed the Lotto numbers would be predicted…live. He even paused just like that, as they do when revealing the winners on Big Brother. With some further information on the months of preparation, Brown claimed in the days immediately preceding the broadcast on Wednesday, 9 September, that the prediction would go ahead live. The claim was followed up in national newspapers earlier in the week.

What followed of course was not a live prediction, the main point of query in my letter to Channel 4. Using a mix of “as live” recording techniques and split-screen recording, Brown did not predict – live or otherwise – the lottery numbers. He even went on to broadcast an “explanation show” the following Friday attempting to fog the issue further by inventing a concept of “Wisdom of the Crowd”, sounding more like something from a David Icke book.

On a number of Brown websites and forums, questions about the “live prediction” have surfaced from fans and cynics alike. Some fans have used the phrase “jumping the shark”, slightly angered that Brown’s live prediction claims were nothing more than a mild case of false advertising. His “stunt” has been “rubbished” by mathematicians who claim his “averaging” technique made no sense at all. I have known people use far more convincing reasons behind Grand National selections than his contrived “averaging” explanation.

Illusionist Brown’s pretend magic is as entertaining as any end of the pier “turn”, which effectively he has now become. Like a Uri Geller for the digital age his career is somewhat behind him, now having to “sex up” his claims, such as being able to literally do the impossible by predicting the workings of a lottery machine. Had Channel 4 broadcast a simple disclaimer advising viewers that the show was merely entertainment and not a prediction, no letter of complaint would have been sent by me.

So was my letter pedantry? Jealousies? Were any ordinary person to claim they could predict the future only to come up with an obviously faked stunt there would be understandable outrage and derision. Channel 4 may well have tricked many viewers into thinking the show was real. I have not made a habit of complaining about television programmes, nor do I see fans of Brown as being of questionable intelligence for liking him. My issue is with his attempt to call a staged and partly pre-recorded stunt a “live prediction”, something Channel 4, his producers, and of course himself, knew to be false.

No reply as yet, I’ll update if anything comes.