What a charming and gently bemusing way to end Derren Brown’s generally excellent series ‘The Experiments’. It put the Yorkshire town of Todmorden on the map, with the creation of a lucky dog statue, graced with the touch of staged good chance, and was almost something out of a Paulo Coehlo novel, as the whole town started to talk about it. All the staged elements of luck, although proving that personality and belief are vital to events and interactions in the real world, ended with the doubting Thomas, actually doubting Wayne the Butcher betting his life savings on the roll of a dice, when we were already told the dog itself had no paranormal power, and winning on the third throw.

A supposed psychic weighing in in the middle, among the minor local media frenzy, was especially amusing on vortices of positive energy, but was gently handled too. So to an explosion of fireworks in a town already touched by Brown and Jason Manford. Derren Brown is charming, and essentially a humanist too, but now the irritation is of not knowing if an illusion was involved in the dice roll, and leaves the power and mystery suitably in his court. How would it have ended if Wayne had lost, and what other positive outcome had the producers up their sleeves? It proved too the hypnotic power of celebrity, and Brown was a bit disingenuous to call himself a minor one. We need and want to believe though, as something vital to all our lives, operative in both positive and negative ways, but now we believe Brown will and should be given another series. Will he do something even more ambitious, but with greater elements of seriousness in some of the experiments he enacts? Even a deeper look at some of the more possible roots of coincidence, or the fact so much of it is also about language and concept.


Filed under Culture


  1. Tony the Pagan

    Apart from the simple fact that I was in the front row of the audience and watched the dice roll all the way down the chute (that you can see me actually building on the show at one point) into the glass bowl. There were a few practice rolls off camera and Wayne’s wife handed the dice to him each time (Derren never touched it). The choice of number was the audiences and the choice of roll was Wayne’s. We could’ve done he show without Derren for what he contributed

  2. Lynne

    There was no way that that Wayne the butcher could lose as we didnt see the actual third roll of the dice, we watched a video tape (made earlier) of a time when the dice had landed on 4. It was a poor illusion and a disappointing end to the series.

    • Doh, we never thought of that! Yes, a simple and possible way to produce an illusion, though that would mean the family’s complicty.

      • Random guy passing through

        I haven’t yet rewatched the episode to see for myself, but having watched a fair few of Derren Brown’s previous programs, I believe that Derren is first and foremost a showman – he would never allow the wife and kid to be in on it – and I have my own theory in regards to the final die roll.

        At the very beginning of the show, Derren shows us how he spends time in advance to implant an idea into someone’s head without them realising it (a catchy tune). I believe he’s played two tricks on the people of Todmorden: one is the lucky dog meme and the second is actually a direct tie-in with the clip at the very start of the show. In this case, the idea that he has implanted is the number 4. And knowing that not everyone will have caught onto that idea, he didn’t even simply ask Wayne to pick the number but rather he asked for a vote from the audience (so chances of the number 4 being selected being greater than placing his hopes on just one person, Wayne).

        We only assume that the die is a random one provided by one of the locals. There is nothing to say that the die wasn’t provided by Derren and given to the local to hold on to before the final event at the town hall. While there are many theories as to how to get the die to roll on the number 4 on the third roll, my own theory is that the die has a ferromagnetic “3” side. Again, Derren is a showman and allows the die to be rolled multiple times to prove to the audience that it wasn’t a loaded die (the obvious solution). Once convinced, on the third roll, an electromagnet under the stage is turned on, the die is cast, the “3” side is attracted to the magnet and there you have it: a roll of 4. Audience erupts, the wife is relieved, and Wayne is a happy man and on his merry way to becoming a gambling addict. Credits roll.

        This is slightly more complicated than Lynne’s idea, but the electromagnet is still very simply to implement and – given the showmanship and behind-the-scenes planning involved – I think it fits more with Derren Brown’s style and previous shows/tricks, especially the indirect reference to the clip at the start of the show.

        • As a fellow Brown fan and follower of his work, I would say that this is a relatively credible theory but I personally would lean more towards this being a ‘multiple outs’ illusion. This is basically a trick with multiple layers of reveal which can be relied upon regardless of the outcome. A simple example of this is for an illusionist to hand a spectator a card and asks them to think of a number between 1 and 6. They say 4 then turn the card for it to reveal a 3 and whilst the audience wonders if the trick has ended badly, the illusionist triggers 1 of 6 stage props to reveal a huge 4. Brown has been known to use this technique on a colossal scale adding 4 and 5 layers which exploits audience memory distortion. The trick becomes so complex that its impossible to find logic in its plausibility, thus your memory of it is much more spectacular than the actual illusion. The guy is an effing genius.

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