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Posts for October 6, 2003

I thought it was in chamber six

has already discussed this in some detail, both in the post and the comments, but I started writing this before I read his, so I’m going to allow most of it to stand.

Derren Brown’s Russian Roulette was a fascinating study in psychology and showmanship. When he pretended he though the bullet was in chamber five and aimed down the room and we heard the click; the few minutes of silent anticipation that followed seemed like hours, and had me on the edge of my seat.

This despite the fact that I was (and am) sceptical about the possibility that he could come to any harm. I don’t know how (any more than I know how that Copperfield guy flew a couple of hours later (this should include a link to Channel 4′s ‘Top Fifty Magic Tricks’, but I can’t find it on their site)), but I’m sure there was no way he could possibly have blown his brains out.

The strange thing for me was that, since he showed right at the start, with the cup game, essentially how he was going to work out which was the deadly chamber; and since it was clear in that cup game example that the guy hesitated slightly before he said the number of the cup in question; I expected to be able to tell which chamber held the bullet.

However, they guy who loaded the gun (James?) was so nervous that he raced through counting one to six, with only, I thought, a slight hesitation on six.

But he’d loaded chamber one.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that’s an incredibly weird number to choose? My mind was screaming “four”, but that’s probably because it was cup four in the cup game earlier. But to put the bullet in the first chamber. I don’t know: what if Brown had decided just to start at the bottom?

More significantly, how did Brown catch the hesitation in James’s voice when it must have come on the first number spoken? Make it hard for the guy, why don’t you, Jimmy.

And what does watching that kind of spectacle do to us as viewers, to television as a medium? In Saturday’s Guardian, Mark Lawson route about potential death as media spectacle, saying:

Our culture is now so tricked out with smoke and mirrors that were Brown to fall to the studio floor under a gunpowder cloud – or, indeed, if David Blaine was carried out of his glass box in a wooden one – we could not be certain that we were really seeing what we thought we saw. In the spun world, the illusionist just joins a queue behind the politicians and other tricksters. In such an environment of lies and winks, the media need to set rules of truthfulness and keep to them.

If Brown really is risking his life tomorrow night, then it’s a moment of landmark depravity for television. But, if he really isn’t, then it’s a lesser but still terrible offence against the integrity of the medium.

And now I find that in today’s, he points out the twistedness of the David Kelly/Samaritans/Russian Roulette segue. I feel slightly unclean.