So, Derren Brown’s Lottery Prediction Thing

  • 9/10/2009 12:58:00 am
  • By Mark Gibbings-Jones

So, Darren “Stop Calling Me Darren” Brown’s lottery prediction stunt passed over without a hitch – he actually did successfully predict the numbers before they were drawn. Well, something like that anyway. Luckily, because we’re astonishingly farsighted*, we recorded both the More4 and BBC One transmissions between 10.34pm and 10.41pm in our Topfield Freeview box’s picture-in-picture mode.

(*Well, because TV’s Steve Berry** tweeted a comment at us mentioning the idea at 10.29pm, leading to us scrabbling around like berks trying to remember how Super PiP works, but you get the gist.)

(** Are you famous? Unlikely, as you’re reading BrokenTV instead of eating a cocaine in That London, but anyway. If you are, why not contribute to Steve Berry’s charity Doctor Who book? Go on, it’s for a good cause.)

We’ve even uploaded it to YouTube. Here’s the video. Try to ignore the fact it isn’t in proper widescreen mode because our DVD recorder isn’t very good. In fact, we’re willing to be ‘sponsored’ by any companies willing to send us a free Blu-ray recorder.

So there it is (yes, we know there’s a “Config mode: ON” banner there). How did he do that, then, eh? Here are three of our potential explanations:

1) The far side of the balls were covered in an E-ink surface, which could be controlled remotely by a crew member. E-ink is a real thing, by the way, not something we’ve made up. However, while it’s relatively flexible, we’re not sure you can coast a ball with it like that.

2) Some kind of remote controlled Etch-a-sketch type pen inside each of the balls, again, remotely controlled by an unseen crew member. After all, we reckon the first time Etch-a-sketch was unveiled it would have been regarded as tantamount to witchcraft.

3) Brown had simply used an invisible man, or possibly a ghost, to hide inside the draw machine on the Lottery Draw set, and simply place the designated balls inside the tube at the correct moment. The simplest explanations are often the right ones.

Frippery aside, there’s some clever misdirection from the mouth of Brown on tonight’s live feature. The mentioned legal reasons for not screening more than a snippet of the live BBC One show on Channel Four was surely true enough, but his claim that “after a meeting with Camelot […] I can’t show you the numbers until just after the result of the draw has been announced” is likely to be misdirection - he could easily have countered "What? I'm just stating my prediction of the numbers, you're the ones announcing them? I'm not even going to claim I'll get all six correct". His claim that “we don’t know exactly what time the draw will be shown on BBC One, we just hope it’s while this ten minute show is live” is certainly misdirection, as the timing of the lottery draw is assuredly fixed (apart from during exceptional circumstances – if a huge breaking story had kicked off at 10.20pm things would have been derailed) – especially as the Thunderball draw was going on at the exact moment Brown was saying those words. He even says “we are hoping it will happen at some point in the next ten minutes” as the Thunderball draw is finishing.

Also, he states that “tonight, I’m going to try and predict at least five of the six lottery numbers”. Clearly, the chances of doing so are still as close to astronomical as dammit given the surrounding hype, but then that’s merely akin to an old car salesman’s trick of saying “is that more than you’d hoped to spend?”, with the aim of Johnny Carbuyer feeling compelled to prove he does have that extra few hundred quid to splurge on a motor after all, thank you very-bloody-much. In this case, Brown slightly lowers the bar for success, knowing that when he clears it comfortably after all, his feat seems more impressive.

You’ll note his repeated claims (both in recent press for the show, and in the show itself) that it had taken him “a year or preparation” for the live Lotto stunt. If that really were the case, and if the “prediction was made earlier on today” (as he claims), why weren’t the numbers displayed as a great big fuck-off painted mural on brickwork behind a silk curtain, instead of “on some ping-pong balls”? Because, quite clearly, the numbers were added to the balls after the draw was made.

All that said, it’s still great to see things like this going on. We especially like the way Brown makes out he’s so excited and uncertain about the events as they unfold, as if it were the first time he’s done something like this. It’ll be interesting the ‘reveal’ on Friday, just as long as he doesn’t go along the made-up “well, I felt that we were due to get number 39, because I’m magic” route. By definition, all “TV magic” is merely distraction and/or illusion, but for everyone over the age of ten, the fun really comes from working out how the frigging chuff they actually did the thing they’ve just done. On Friday night, hopefully, we shall see.

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