Derren Brown. Manipulator. Misdirector. Liar? I won't say some of the other words I've seen friends and family use about him tonight. They're too rude.
What I will say is this. I think everyone's been focusing the last two days on 'how he did it' when, in fact, what we saw on Channel 4 on Wednesday was a simple illusion that Paul Daniels could have pulled off. Camera trick, spilt screen, LED balls, time delay, who cares? However he did it, it was dead simple. As I said at the time on my Facebook status:
"Derren Brown lmao. He shows us his numbers *after* the BBC and everyone's amazed? That's not a prediction... Interested to see how he did it, except that the whole thing reeks of much simpler illusion than I thought it would be.... Paul Daniels could have pulled off that one."
Now, Brown always said his events would be events of misdirection. I think he's misdirected us entirely here. He's got the entire nation focused on a simple illusion, one that was, frankly, below him, when in fact his real trick was performed tonight. He convinced 24 people in the studio, and countless in homes around the country, that the way he did this was using 'deep maths' and 'the wisdom of the crowd'. He even showed us everything on video to 'prove' it.
For those who didn't see, Brown got a group of 24 people in a room together and got them to predict the lottery numbers. They were rubbish to begin with, getting just one right between them. He went through various iterations of the experiment. Taking the average of each number in the individual predictions - not much better. Then he got them to predict but stay in the room until after the draw so they couldn't profit from their predictions, removing greed from the equation. He sent them team building. He had them guess their numbers and averaged them again. Finally, he had them do automatic writing and, again, calculated the average of the numbers. It seemed the team got better and better. Some goes in, they even got 4 balls correct. Finally, they appeared to predict the numbers for last week's lottery. They were incredibly pleased with themselves and you could see it was genuine. It was almost convincing.
Appeared to predict. Almost convincing. As much as I'd love to believe 24 people in a room could work together and genuinely guess the National Lottery numbers, I'm afraid I can't. I don't have to think very hard to know this isn't true. It's all an illusion.
It was interesting, the way Mr Brown carried out that final prediction. The group did their automatic writing and wrote down their numbers again. This time, Brown calculated the averages. Without showing the group, he wrote them on the balls, sealed them in a tube and went on his way to the Channel Four studio. The rest is history. The group of 24 watched live and celebrated their victory. It was clear they believed.
But they hadn't seen those numbers on Derren's balls (oooer missis, sorry, couldn't help myself) until the show. Until after the actual lottery draw. Just like the rest of us. They had only seen the automatic writing they'd put on their own pieces of paper and would have had no clue what these would have averaged out at...
But how did they manage to get three numbers right, then four? We know this bit is genuine. We see their numbers being collated and averaged, right in front of us and them. On one occasion, a member of the group does the calculations and, on others, independent observers do. What happened with their previous predictions is still pretty unlikely, right? So why not believe they actually did produce the numbers Derren took into the Channel Four studios with him?
Well, yeah, it's quite unlikely they would improve over the weeks. Fairly unlikely they would ever predict four out of six numbers at the end of a number of weeks of trying. But not nearly as unlikely as guessing all six. (Reminder for those who can't remember - 14 million to 1!)
I suspect there were several groups being filmed like the one we saw tonight, going through the same kind of experiment. They did the team building, they did the automatic writing. Derren didn't know which would provide the right footage but he knew chances were that one of them would. The 24 people we saw today were the most successful of the groups and used to try to convince us that there was more to this illusion than we could possibly understand.
The real trick was to get us staring at the screen on Wednesday, finding clips on YouTube in the two days since, submitting to forums with all our theories and ideas. When the truth was, he never predicted a thing.
My favourite twitter through the whole event came from Derren himself.
"#derrenbrown is/was at the top of Twitter trends. This is very new to me. I'm not really dressed for it. Thank you, very kind. Xx" 5:57 PM Sep 10th TwitterFon
Really Mr Brown? So you can predict the Lottery numbers on live TV but not that you're going to be the biggest trend on Twitter the next day? Man, I could have told you that!
And the best Facebook update came from my mate Dex.
"Well I thought I'd give it a go. Did 10 minutes of automatic writing but all I could get was a stream of profanity and "Kill smug twat" over and over."
Derren Brown says that next week he will glue us to our sofas using hypnosis. Come on Derren, don't make me laugh. To be fair, you did that already this week. But never again....