"The closest our galaxy can boast to a Jedi Master."
"A hundred years ago they would have burnt him at the stake."Derren Brown is a prolific magician and hypnotist whose TV work mostly involves combining these two skills into something popularly described as 'psychological illusion.' His shows often utilise so many layers of secrecy and deception that nobody involved ever quite knows where they stand.
— Bizarre Magazine
Derren Brown's Channel 4 shows:
- Mind Control (2000-03)
- Russian Roulette (2003)
- Trick Of The Mind (2004-06)
- Seance (2005)
- The Gathering (2005)
- The Heist (2006)
- Trick Or Treat (2007-08)
- The System (2008)
- The Events (2009)
- Derren Brown Investigates (2010)
- Hero At 30,000 Feet (2010)
- The Experiments (2011)
- Miracles For Sale (2011)
- Apocalypse (2012)
- Fear And Faith (2012)
- The Great Art Robbery (2013)
- Pushed to the Edge (2016)
Derren Brown's stage shows:
- Derren Brown Live (2003-04)
- Something Wicked This Way Comes (2005-06)
- An Evening Of Wonders (2007-08)
- Enigma (2009-10)
- Svengali (2011-12)
- Infamous (2013-14)
Derren Brown's work includes examples of:
- An Aesop: Usually along the lines of 'don't let life pass you by' or 'don't be held back by fear.' Alternatively, 'never ever trust Derren Brown.'
- The Cameo: Appears briefly in the Sherlock episode "The Empty Hearse", as part of a theory of how Sherlock survived jumping off a building, where he puts Watson to sleep for a few minutes.
- Candid Camera Prank: Most notably in Apocalypse, where he contrived a Zombie Apocalypse at the expense of one man, and in The Heist, where he conspired to make ordinary middle-managers commit armed robbery.
- Chekhov's Gun: His live shows are full of them in the form of numbers, props and throwaway lines.
- The Chessmaster: Derren himself plays up to this trope in a way that combines general benevolence with mischievous glee.
- Compelling Voice
- Comes Great Responsibility: It's obvious that he could use his ridiculous intelligence to beat casinos or the stock market, yet he chooses to remain a stage hypnotist and author. Awesome.
- Consummate Liar: Derren again.
- Cruel to Be Kind: The idea is that upsetting and frightening experiences help bring his subjects' strengths to the fore. Although sometimes, as in Trick Or Treat, it's just For the Evulz.
- Deal with the Devil: A central motif of Trick Or Treat in particular.
- Escape Artist: One of the episodes of Trick Or Treat involves him secretly training a girl how to escape from a tied-up sack thrown into a cold lake, while her hands and legs are zip-tied. Then, after a few months, she's kidnapped out of her home and taken to a lake early in the morning. She succeeds, by the way.
- Even Evil Has Standards: His TV shows are always accompanied by assurances that the victims are assessed as 'stable' by psychologists and that no lasting harm will be caused.
- In Miracles For Sale, the team makes the decision to abandon its fraudulent contract with an American PR company on moral grounds, even though lying to Americans is still very much the focus of the show.
- The Everyman: Most of the subjects/victims.
- Helping Granny Cross the Street: The practise for watch-stealing attempted in The Great Art Robbery.
- Humans Are Bastards: One show involves Derren using an audience to vote on what happens to the subject of his Show Within a Show. He notes to the viewers that the audience's options get crueler and crueler as the show goes on, proving his point that anonymity removes moral restrictions. One can imagine the audience's reaction when their vote causes the subject to be hit by a car and die. Naturally, this was all set up by Derren to demonstrate to them the danger of their actions.
- Just Following Orders: Pushed to the Edge is designed to demonstrate how people succumb to peer pressure and the desire to follow and authority figure's instructions. The opener shows a man abducting a woman's baby just because a voice on the phone introduced himself as a cop and told him she was the one who had abducted a child. The rest of the show is structured to make people get in so deep that, in the end, most end up committing a heinous act due to peer pressure. Out of four subjects, three ended up pushing a man off a ledge to avoid jail time.
- Manchurian Agent: Several of his shows involve programming people to do something illegal with scary results.
- Manipulative Bastard: Ironically, Derren's reputation for being able to bend people to his will makes them more suggestible and easier to manipulate.
- Mental Time Travel: Derren performs a trick that, supposedly, allows David Tennant to do this. And yes, he specifically picks Time Travel-related stuff for the actor known for his role as the Tenth Doctor. First, he puts David into a trance, supposedly having him go back in time to a particular date and describe what he sees. Then he shows him an old newspaper article describing something similar. Later, he puts David into another altered state and has him engage in "automatic writing", comparing his results to an article from The Guardian three days later. David quite honestly calls Derren a witch.
- Scenery Porn: The live shows. Everything about Svengali, for instance, is a huge nod to Derren's Victoriana habit.
- Show Within a Show: Fake ones often serve as a cover for manoeuvring subjects into position or preparing them for the real stunt. Members of the public have fallen prey to fake TV shows in Fear And Faith, Miracles For Sale, The Heist, Messiah, The Gameshow, The Secret Of Luck... it's a wonder they keep falling for it.
- Staring Contest: Derren shows off his skills in winning these without saying a word or making a gesture. He gives a man a splitting headache just by staring at him.
- Straight Gay: The handsome, charismatic mindreader on Channel 4 is gay? Gasp.
- This doesn't stop him from demonstrating how to successfully pick up women using his skills.
- Taxidermy Is Creepy: A long-time collector of dead things, Derren doesn't seem to mind having this applied to himself. Once he actively exploited it. As Chris Addison said:If you go into your flat, and there's a big stuffed peacock on the mirror above the mantelpiece going all the way down, you don't think "that's a bit much." You think, "that sets off the pickled chimp quite nicely."
- This Loser Is You: His subjects are usually everymen who happen to be highly suggestible.
- Transparent Closet: To his family and friends.
- "If anything, I was disappointed to learn that it wasn't much of a surprise. Possibly my penchant for interior decor had given the game away."
- Trickster Mentor: About as close to the supernatural archetype as real life allows. His subjects come through their experiences/ordeals the better for it, having learned some important lesson in some really unconventional (and often profoundly unpleasant) ways.
- Unreliable Narrator/Unreliable Expositor: His key trick in a way. He often lies about exactly what tricks he is using and he often uses sleight of hand and claims it to be psychological manipulations. Not that it isn't effective.
- Wicked Cultured: This devilish man enjoys Bach and Mahler, crafts masterpiece portraits in his spare time and did Law & German at the University of Bristol.
- Xanatos Gambit: Especially in The Great Art Robbery, where the supposed thief could have just taken it but gets caught. However, he wasn't the thief at all, his (almost) identical twin was. Therefore, not only did they steal the painting anyway, they didn't even lie when they said the thief was the person in the picture they gave the curator.