Derren Brown: Apocalypse – Channel 4

This time Brown isn’t just attempting sleight of hand or a quick trick with no ramifications; he totally subjected young man Steve to a physically and emotionally corrupt situation.

Isn’t there something intrinsically immoral about his apocalypse? How Channel4 got away with broadcasting a show where the possibility of future psychological damage seemed so high, if Steve truly believed the con, is almost shameful. What if in genuine panic Steve had a sudden heart attack? Were ALL the zombie actors trained paramedics? And the line of questioning that follows over the psychological implications of the ‘experiment’ is a necessarily cynical and incredulous one.

However much the illusionist claims to have the welfare of his unsuspecting member of the public (victim? guinea pig? mercy-forsaken soul?) at heart by having psychologists and a medical team watch him throughout, if the experiment hadn’t been conducted before, then what certainty really is there about its after-effects? But countered by innumerable reminders that he was being monitored and Steve’s post-apocalyptic ramblings that he really was quite thankful that he had been part of the experiment, the show glossed over the more serious ‘what ifs’ to focus instead on whether Derren could both pull off the depth of the stunt and use it to ‘improve’ Steve as a human being.

Watching how Steve reacts is, admittedly, both fascinating and terrifying, and presumably was even more intense for his family – who somehow thought subjecting the ‘lazy’ young man to fight/flight situations in order to make him value his life was a good idea. Brown has been investigated by OFCOM more than once before, but not for his phone hacking in this programme: in fact, his Apocalypse received more criticism for how staged the end of the world scenario seemed, and for the possibility that Brown had hired a professional actor to play Steve.

Gripping for many reasons; the Truman Show with a zombified edge.