TV review: Derren Brown – Pushed to the Edge, Channel 4 (4 stars)

TV review: Derren Brown – Pushed to the Edge, Channel 4

Would you chuck a person to their death from a high building? Course you wouldn’t. Or would you . . . ?

Only the most fervent anti-mentalist would claim that Derren Brown hasn’t provided some truly staggering TV moments. From pulling the trigger on himself for Russian Roulette to convincing a woman that she was witnessing her own death in Trick or Treat, the Croydon conjuror has been making jaws drop for the entirety of this century.

If there is one criticism that could be hurled at Brown, it might be that his more recent small-screen specials have had an all-too familiar feel to them. More often than not, people have been compelled to perform illegal acts purely on the basis that either someone in authority has told them to or an unknown force has driven them to it; this might be OAPs stealing paintings from a gallery or a series of individuals conducting armed robbery.

In Pushed to the Edge, this scenario cranks up a couple of notches as we witness the slow disintegration of one man’s moral code as he switches from innocent bystander to potential murderer. The question being asked of the viewer throughout is: ‘could you be as gullible as this idiot?’ The truth is that no one could ever answer this with total honesty until they were put to the test by a highly orchestrated experiment of social compliance.

First up, though, Brown has to get his ideal subject in place, and he settles on Chris Kingston, a regular bloke (ie. not your average homicidal maniac) and 29-year-old co-owner of a printing and design company. He has no idea of the hell he is about to welcomed into when he attends a high-profile launch event for Push, a new youth charity. You’ll watch through sweaty fingers as matters get utterly out of control for Chris and he is steadily nudged towards a moment of reckoning on the roof of a very high building.

But here’s the really clever bit: all the while, the audience has been party to one man’s manipulation yet once Chris’ fate works itself out, Brown delivers a final cunning twist for the unsuspecting viewer.

Derren Brown: Pushed to the Edge is on Channel 4, Tuesday 12 January, 9pm.

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