Pushed To The Edge

17th January 2016  

Derren Brown: Pushed To The Edge was first aired on 12th January 2016 on Channel 4. The premise of the program was to persuade an unwitting member of the public into believing that they have pushed someone to their death.

This was the TV program that I applied to take part in, but thankfully wasn’t picked.

I have to say this was one of the most uncomfortable to watch TV programs I have seen for a long time. There’s always an invisible line that performers aim to tread, but this was so close to it I’m left wondering if Derren over-stepped it on this occasion.

He wanted to manipulate someone (we actually find out that he ran the same ‘experiment’ 4 times with different people at the conclusion of the show) into pushing someone to their death, echoing the terrible scenes the media show us of ISIS (Daesh, IS, ISIL – or cystitis – which I think is a better name for them) pushing gay people from roof tops.

The question hypothesised in the TV program is “can someone be pursued into committing murder?” Chris, the main subject of the experiment, is manipulated (or bullied as I will call it from now on) into pushing a man off a building.  But he doesn’t, and instead walks away from the set-up.

The other 3 subjects / precipitants / volunteers are subsequently shown pushing the man off the building in the final scenes.

To the casual observer the question that may ultimately arise is why the main participant we follow through the program the only ‘failed’ subject as opposed to the other 3 who Derren succeeded in bullying them to push a man to his ‘death’? I think the answer lies in how the experiment was set-up: I have a feeling that there may have been 2 set-ups of the process that were different between Chris and the other 3 – to me the editing suggests this.

Chris had a good back story – asked to create an app for the ‘Push’ charity.  We aren’t shown the back stories of the other 3.  I have a suspicion that they were probably subjected to the usual Derren-performance-bullying he and his team uses, so they would have known roughly how to act in such circumstances – an instant stooge, if you will (not actors or stooges, but playing along to be nice). Chris probably didn’t, hence why his story had to be shown to make it more believable.

On the theme of editing, I really don’t know why we were shown Derren sitting in a room ‘directing’ his actor bullies.  A voice-over would have sufficed, instead we got a rather smug Derren which distracted from the show. I also have no idea why they had green lights in the corner of the screen or white noise at random intervals (as a tinnitus suffer I only realised this wasn’t my ears playing up when the person I was sitting with commented ‘can you hear that?’). I suspect it was simply pseudo-manipulation of the audience with no purpose.

Apparently more than a dozen people have complained to Ofcom. “We will assess these complaints before deciding whether to investigate or not” said a spokesman for Ofcom. I’ve always laughed at this professional-complainers, but I think they have a point on this occasion.

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