Derren Brown: The Gameshow Analysis.


On friday at 9pm Derren Brown presented the latest version of his series of ‘experiments’. This episode was called ‘The Gameshow’ The basic premise of this show was that Derren hosted a new gameshow called ‘Remote Control’ where Derren chose a ‘contestant’ at random and then filled his night out with a bunch of actors and people in on the show, the audience in the studio were then given a number of 50/50 choices about how the contestants night would go, the options were always 1 positive and  1 negative. Whichever the audience chose, the actors being watched would act the scenario out for the audience, the scenario’s being offered got more extreme as the evening went on (more on that later).

The experiment draws comparisons to Phillip Zimbargo’s Stanford Experiment which saw a number of students at stanford university reanact prisoner and guard scenario’s to surprising results.  The ‘officers’ ultimately subjected some of the ‘prisoners’ to torture and the subjects, all of the people involved in the experiment went against their usual standards and morals as the experiment shown signs of de-individualisation.

Derren’s experiment was to look at this idea of de-individualisation. He said that it was this, that made people turn into cyber-bullies. take part in riots or shout abuse at celebrities on shows such as Big Brother. all beacuse they are either under the guise of anonminity or because they are part of a crowd where they encouraged to go with the flow of it.

As mentioned before the show was set-up to seem as real as possible, although the contestant had no idea he was being filmed, he was not the real subject of the experiment, the audience was. As mentioned before the audience were given 50/50 choices throughout the show. they were also presented with white masks which were to ‘protect their anonyminity’ during the show. The show began with an X factor style introductory video of the contestant that he made during the audition stage of Derren’s proposed show (whatever was proposed was different to what he was actually being interviewed for) This gave the audience the opportunity to feel like they knew him. I found it interesting that they ended the video with the contestant admitting honestly that he had cheated on his girlfriend, I think this was a deliberate move so that the audience could feel like they are justified in punishing this man later on in the show.

While all this was going on, they had set up the shows producer to go into the contestants house and look through his personal belongings, again to make the audience ‘feel’ like they knew the contestant better, again the coverage here presented a fairly negative view of him, looking for anything that could get a reaction out of the crowd, e.g a little bit of mess in an otherwise tidy room.

The audience always chose the negative reaction for the contestant on the show, to begin with to be honest this was completly expected, the options on the negative side always seemed more ‘entertaining’ from an audiences point of view, but they were mostly harmless fun (although I can only say that knowing it was setup, had I been the contestant I don’t think i’d like some of the accusations thrown at me). but then it got more serious, the man ended up being told he was going to be fired from his job and ended up getting arrested for a crime he did not commit, then came the real horrible side to the gameshow experiment.

Before the final ‘ad break’ the audience were presented with two options yet again, they were to let the man off and reveal the premises of the show and award him £10,000 for his troubles OR have him kidnapped and dragged away to a secret area for further punishment. the audience voted but before the results were revealed we caught up with the producer who was searching the contestant’s bedroom, on the audiences request he ended up smashing his Television a clear indicator of where the vote was heading. unsurprisingly the audience decided on the kidnapping, making the show 100% negative in terms of the choices the audience had made.

We were then shown a scene where the contestant was left to walk home after being given a caution from the police, he begins to walk home but then we see the attempted kidnap happen, the contestant manages to run off but he is then run over by a car at full speed. The screen turns off at gasps are heard from the audience. the cameras in the studio still roll and the audience are left with the realisation of what they were a part of, their decisions led this man to get run over, his fate is unknown. they all take off their masks, many are now very reluctant to being filmed.

Derren returns and reveals the premise of the real show. He reveals that all of what was seen was true apart from the final kidnapping scene which was shot earlier in the day with a stunt double. the contestant returned home after the police caution to find a brand new television and a letter explaining what had happened to him and why.

The results of this show did not shock me in the slightest but I found it an entertaining show that made the audience (both in the studio and at home) consider their own sense of right and wrong, does it alter when in a crowd of that size? I certinanly believed it did and this show backed that up. De-individualisation can be positive as well as negative, think for example of singing along at a concert or cheering for your favourite sports team, but this shown the powerful negative effects of this mentality. A very interesting watch that is available to see on 4OD if this hasn’t spoiled too much for you.


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