After the brilliance of the first in the hypnotist Derren Brown’s new series ‘The Experiments’, he rather shot himself in the foot with Remote Control. Under the guise of a new Game Show he got the audience, wearing white face masks to make them anonymous and part of the snarling crowd, to vote on whether a victim should experience nice or nasty events, in a filmed evening, using actors around him he did not know about. It is perfectly true they voted to take him straight down the nasty path, to the point of losing his job, having his TV smashed, being arrested and then kidnapped. That led to a staged escape and a car accident, although by then the victim had been supplanted by an actor, so it was just shock effect.
But firstly it was little surprise, since in the studio setting, and with continuous encouragement from Brown, they were constantly given permission to push the ‘drama’. You imagine too that they assumed that in the long run the victim would be protected from real harm, as in fact he was. But more importantly, just like the TV evangelist programme, when a theatre was filmed at a different angle to look fuller than it was, there were moments when the either-or votes may have gone in favour of the bad over good turn of events, but you were not told by how much, unless it was 80% for the bad right at the start. 60-40 was not so terrible for the human race, at one point, especially when being encouraged.
It was all rather distasteful in the end, however shocking it was a producer invaded his house and was encouraged to smash his TV with a base-ball bat. It was the show itself that set up the pretence he had lost his job. It taught us nothing new about crowd behaviour, human cruelty, or manipulation and indeed Brown is making a deal of money out of it. He has great talent, but is best when he pushes the envelope with more serious programmes like the one on ‘The Assassin’ and links to real cases like Robert Kennedy. Not only did this audience feel under Remote Control though, but the wider audience too, and for the sake of what TV is constantly about, entertainment. The medium is the message!