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Spoiler alert: Do not read this story if you have yet to watch Derren Brown’s “The Push.”
Derren Brown wants to make you happy with his latest Netflix special, the uplifting and mind-blowing “Miracle.” That’s the exact opposite emotion provoked by his previous one, “The Push.”
“The Push,” which aired earlier in Brown’s native U.K. as “Derren Brown: Pushed to the Edge,” focused on Chris Kingston, a member of the public who was billed as the lone person unwittingly chosen for a social experiment with life-or-death consequences.
After he is led through an escalating series of incidents staged by the show’s producers without his full knowledge, Kingston was faced with the demand that he “push” a man off the edge of the building to his certain death, or risk going to jail for his role in an incident that was staged earlier in the evening.
While Chris ultimately does not push the guy, who turned out to be an actor harnessed to a bungee cord, viewers soon learn that three other people played out the entire series of incidents as Chris did — and they each pushed the actor off the roof. Yeah, they (in their own minds) actually killed a dude.
Brown admitted in the special that he employed many actors to help play out the story of a charitable benefit gone horribly wrong. But the magician/mind-reader was very careful with his words in the TV show, and he purposely did not even introduce viewers to the possibility of other guinea pigs like Chris until the very end.
So were those last three, who come on very suddenly, actors? Some of Brown’s detractors on the internet have argued that his phrasing suggests that that’s the case.
“No, of course not,” Brown told TheWrap on a phone call to promote “Miracle.” “No, I never, ever, ever, ever use actors. It would be ludicrous to have [actors]… knowing they were in on it.”
Brown said he didn’t have any advance expectations on whether any of his experimental participants would actually go through with the big push.
“If they had pushed four times, you know, that would have been one show,” he said. “If nobody pushed, that would have been a different show.”
Of course, it might not have actually become a TV show — or at least not a good one — if it hadn’t “worked.”
“It was what we were hoping for,” Brown said of the results.
Another leading question among those still affected by the end of “The Push” — like this reporter, clearly — is how Brown & Co. could possibly get permission to air something that would seemingly ruin the lives of the three unwitting “murderers.”
The four subjects all signed waivers — both during a vague and totally benign casting call months before the hidden-camera experiment as well as after they were subjected to the charity benefit from hell.
Brown insisted that all four are doing just fine emotionally, though he suspects that many of them learned a lesson about the dangers of submitting to peer pressure. “It’s been a positive journey, though they took a dark rollercoaster to get there,” he said.
The filmed stage show “Derren Brown: Miracle” debuts on Netflix at 12:01 a.m. on Friday. “The Push” is still available on Netflix.