Monday, January 14, 2008

Derren Brown - The System -- Preview and Predictions

The latest Derren Brown special, entitled "The System," is less than two weeks away. It will air on January 25th, 2008 on Channel 4 in the UK. Tragically, I will not have access to this broadcast because DB specials are net yet shown in the U.S.

But I am still excited to find out what the new special is about. DB's official website currently gives no clues. Neither does Channel 4's site.

I am going to make a few predictions. First, though, let's review Derren's past specials:

1. Russian Roulette, broadcast October 5, 2003, was the most sensational. For months in advance, Channel 4 advertised that DB would risk death by playing Russian roulette on TV. And the trick was preceded by a nationwide search for a suitable volunteer.
By way of contrast, there has been very little advance buzz for "The System" and no disclosure (to my knowledge) of the special's subject matter.

2. Seance aired on May 31, 2004. DB held a live seance on television and encouraged viewers at home to join in. After various supernatural manifestations, he revealed that it was all a sham. Like Russian Roulette, Seance was hyped for months in advance. Also like Russian Roulette, the name of the "Seance" special made obvious what the show was about.
The current special, vaguely titled "the System," gives no hint of its content.

3. Messiah debuted January 7, 2005. DB attempted to convince five authorities in religious/new-age fields that he possessed supernatural powers. Four of the five accepted his claims. Although the title "Messiah" was ambiguous, it at least hinted at the show's subject matter. Anyone aware of DB's atheism and penchant for debunking the supernatural might have guessed what the special would be about.

4. The Gathering was broadcast May 29, 2005. Unlike the prior specials, this one was actually a stage show. It was peformed before a limited audience eleven days prior to the broadcast.

5. The Heist (January 4, 2006) was perhaps Derren's most intriguing special. Through various forms of influence, he conditioned ordinary people to commit armed robbery. The broadcast was very theatrical and polished.


Does the above list of past broadcasts point toward an obvious choice for DB's next special? Mmm... if it does, I'm missing the pattern.

Here are my thoughts on possible meanings for "The System":

1. I think it is likely that DB is going to teach a system of some kind to one or more volunteers (and/or to the viewing audience).
I hope the special is about a system for beating casinos. Remember the episode where DB taught an elderly woman to beat world-class poker players? What if he taught a basically inept person how to clean out casinos in various different games? I would like to see that. He might be criticized for repeating an old trick, though.

2. DB could be debunking a system of belief. He has been quite preachy about his atheism, and I would not be surprised to see him devote an hour to attacking supernatural powers of some kind. That would be a lot like the Messiah special, though. Let's hope he has come up with something completely new.

3. It could be another stage show (e.g., to promote his new tour). I doubt it, though, because the prior live show was called "the Gathering," which seems much more applicable than "the System."

O.K., that's enough speculating for now. We will all know what the special is about very soon. In the meantime, let me know if you have any guesses of your own.

*** Be sure to read the comments (below) which add significant information to my predictions ***


Zing said...

I hear it's about Derren teaching a woman how to win at a race track...and she finally bets her entire life savings...
Will she win?
or won't she?

William_Tapscott said...

Zing - Thanks for the link! (it's pretty close to my option #1 above, I think).

Assuming the article you link to is correct, I think I can now predict how the special will go.

Say there are six horses in each race (I know nothing about horse-racing, so my choice of six here is arbitrary). I bet the "system" works like this -- DB sends out race "predictions" to 1296 people. 216 are told that horse 1 will win, the next 216 are told that horse 2 will win, and so on through horse 6.

For the next race, he only contacts the 216 who received winning predictions the first time. Of these 216, the first 36 receive predictions that horse 1 will win, the next 36 are told horse 2 will win, and so on through horse 6.

The 36 who win are included in the next predictions, with the first 6 being told horse 1 will win, and so on.

Finally, he ends up with a single person who has been given 5 consecutive correct predictions. That person then is willing to bet her entire life savings on his next prediction, which is as arbitrary and baseless as the prior predictions.

Derren will use this "system" to demonstrate how people are misled into believing that random facts have meaning.

Sounds entertaining.

James said...

Nice idea William but there's an unpleasant side effect - 5 people will lose their life savings on the final race. Derren and Channel 4 would be castigated in the press for allowing this to happen. It would make some of the reality TV fiascos of recent years look pleasant in comparison.

There is also the huge logistical problem and financial costs associated with filming so many people throughout the process.

Sure Winner said...

Yup, that's what I thought of as soon as I heard about this (this afternoon, as I don't actually follow Derren Brown or indeed future TV schedules very closely). It's an old scam but a good one!