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Mind Control with Derren Brown
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Derren Brown's act is built around deception and manipulation. Though they're entertaining to watch, some of his tricks probably aren't a lot of fun for the people who are conned into handing over their valuables on camera. Brown always returns the goods afterwards, but the victims come across as gullible and naïve, and Brown sometimes takes obvious delight in fooling them. That said, not all of his stunts are deceptive. In some episodes, he uses his impressive people-reading skills to discern, for example, how much cash people are carrying or what pickup lines women would fall for. These sequences are just as much fun for the participants as they are for viewers. Language is clean overall (with occasional bleeping of shocked reactions), and while there's some drinking, it's mostly incidental and in the background.
What's the story?
After spending years perfecting his unique combination of people-reading skills, intuition, misdirection, and suggestion, the self-proclaimed \"master mentalist\" has developed an uncanny ability to size people up and tell them what to do. Derren Brown has been a phenomenon in the United Kingdom for several years; now he brings his act Stateside in MIND CONTROL WITH DERREN BROWN, a collection of vignettes demonstrating his varied and impressive talents.
Is it any good?
Like any good magician, Brown won't say how he does his tricks -- though he sometimes drops a few hints. Part of the fun of Mind Control is trying to figure out just how he pulls off his outrageous stunts. In one sequence, for example, he asks random strangers on a crowded street to hand over their wallets -- and they do! Later he convinces shopkeepers to accept blank pieces of white paper instead of money and walks out of a jewelry store with a ring worth several thousand dollars. Brown can even guess how much cash people are carrying, and what pickup lines will work with a group of women.
But this isn't exactly a magic show; in fact, Brown never really defines his act, other than to announce that everything is real. The show might benefit from just a bit more explanation. When he makes a crowd of people raise their hands in unison, for example, it might have been even more entertaining if Brown had told the audience that they were watching a massive exercise in the power of suggestion. Still, Brown is unlike any other magician, and Mind Control is fascinating to watch -- even when he seems to be taking a bit of mean-spirited delight in fooling people.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Brown's tricks. We've all heard that magicians never reveal their secrets, but those tricks are typically so impossible that viewers are content to let themselves be tricked. Brown's stunts seem much more in the realm of the possible and can make viewers even keener to dissect his technique. How do you think he manages to convince shopkeepers to accept blank sheets of paper instead of cash, for example, or make a crowd of people spontaneously raise their hands? Why would a stranger hand over his wallet when Brown asks for it? Would the show be more interesting if Brown explained some of his routines, or would that just spoil the fun? What do you think of his attitude toward the people he tricks? Does that change how much you enjoy the show?