Derren Brown still steals the TV magic show

Inside Television

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TV magic has come a long way. Today's big names are more likely to wear a hoodie than a tux. It's not just an update on the cheesy Seventies style, however: "stage illusion" is out and "close-up magic"is in.

If such an intimate form of illusion is to work on TV, magicians need a big reactions from their live audience. It's all about the look on the stooge's faces and if that face happens to be famous, so much the better. Tricked on ITV2 and the upcoming TV specials of both Dynamo and David Blaine are all stuffed with celebs.

Personally, I prefer to be awed by the magician's illusion, not his contact book, which is why my pick for the most magical time of the year is none of the above; it's Derren Brown: the Great Art Robbery, (12 Dec, Channel 4).

In it, Brown attempts to pull off a heist with a crew of OAP accomplices. Any two-bit hack can stage a disappearance, but by making society's overlooked the stars of the show, Brown goes one better: he makes the invisible appear once more.

Secret mission for man of the people

It's a long time since David Icke had a full-time job in TV, but now he's back – albeit on an internet station funded by £300,000 of crowd-sourced donations.

The People's Voice promises to "explore as many [views] as possible", but when I switched on this week the only view being explored was Icke's. He was wearing a jumper in an interesting shade of lizard-green, while explaining how "the Government is using your telly to secretly film you".

This is certainly one of the more compelling arguments for switching to internet-only broadcast.

Catch Up, 450

Legacy, BBC iPlayer

His injuries at the end of the last series did look rather fatal, but it’s still a disappointment to learn that Moriarty (Andrew Scott) won’t be returning for series three of Sherlock. The good news is Scott is also brilliant as Russian embassy official and possible KGB agent Victor Koslov in this 70s-set, spy drama.


The Real Walter White,

The coincidence of a real life ‘meth chef’ who shares the name of Breaking Bad’s anti-hero is nice hook for this 17-minute VICE documentary on how meth amphetamine has impacted one American family. Presenter Gianna Toboni visits the working class town of Bessemer, Alabama, where one Walter White is in recovery for his addiction and waiting trial for his crimes. The real Walt is less given to self-aggrandisement than “Remember my name” Heisenberg, but he still gets a little twinkle in his eye when he compares his erstwhile trade with the TV show: “I’ve seen it blue, pink and purple. When it’s white that’s when it’s perfect”


Family Guy: ‘Brian in Love’,

RIP Brian, a dog, but so much more, who was killed off in last week’s episode of Family Guy. He’ll be remembered for his love of dry martinis, great literature and Lois. This last passion transcended the usual fidelity of pet for owner and would cause poor Brian some heart-ache over the years. It’s in the fourth episode of the second series that Brian first starts to come to terms with his feelings: “Me and Lois? Come on, that’s sick! I mean, she’s my best friend’s wife!”


New Girl, DVD

Tis’ the season when we suspend our usual blanket ban on any and all Zooey Deschanel screen projects in anticipation of the annual TV showing of Elf, the much-beloved Christmas movie in which she co-stars with Will Ferrell. Consider the recently released DVD box set of New Girl season 2 as an Elf warm up.


The Choir: Sing While You Work, BBC iPlayer

Calling all Bruce Springsteen fans, blubbers and British firefighting enthusiasts: even if you’re not a fan of The Choir, you’ll want to catch this particular episode. The formula is the same as every other - choir master Gareth Malone starts a workplace choir from scratch - but this choir at Cheshire Fire Service have a passion for the job like no other, and it really comes through in their music. When they start singing ‘The Rising’, a song written to honour the firefighters involved in 9/11, you’ll be in floods. It’s definitely the weepiest episode of the series so far.