DERREN BROWN AND THE GUILT TRIP

The real Guilt Trip in the penultimate programme in hyper talented hypnotist Derren Brown’s new series ‘The Experiments’ became watching the thing at all. There were times when it was all stitched together in such a jolly japes way, like those murder mystery weekends you pay for, you either thought the victim, Jody, had to be an actor and the whole thing staged, or he was so ridiculously stupid for not twigging something was up. Especially when the actors around him were swapping plates at dinner, to make him think his memory was playing tricks on him. It’s a vital legal point to talk about guilt and to highlight that thousands every year confess to crimes they have not committed. The sadness of that in real life has much to say about society and the human condition, but it is also one of the reasons for the vital principles of British justice to allow a defence in any circumstance, and one of the reasons for Miranda Rights in the US too, so you do not actually incriminate yourself. Yet again though, seriousness was swapped for entertainment, in all the creaky piano music, the splattered blood and the procession down to the garden to lay the victim on the lawn at night. Again, no new ground was broken, because if Brown has proved hypnosis and suggestion are very real, starting with that remarkable show on ‘The Assassin’, where do you actually go from there? In this case familiarity with the subject is the enemy of an illusionist’s art. It was vaguely moving to see the release from it at the end, when Jody was confessing to a crime he did not commit, the fact that he was safe and didn’t bear a grudge, but it felt strangely empty too. It is a culture that has spread with programmes like Big Brother, or to an earlier generation with ‘You’ve Been Framed’, but people actually love to be involved, perhaps because it lets them experience extremes of emotion they just do not touch normally.

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