| 7.2°C Dublin

TV Review: Believe me, David is no Derren

David Meade: Make Believe (BBC1) Come Dine With Me Halloween Special (Ch4) Extreme Couponing (Discovery Real Time) --- "This is a show all about the paranormal," promised Northern Irish illusionist David Meade at the beginning of his new series Make Believe.

Oh goody! Something a bit spooky for an underwhelming Halloween -- just the ticket. Sadly, the only thing the rather drab Make Believe made you believe is that Derren Brown has nothing to fear from Meade or any of the other illusionists treading in his path.

Brown is the absolute best at what he does because of his glittering showmanship. He's a terrific performer and his live stage shows, which have become an annual staple of Channel 4, are wondrous, funny, thrilling, audacious and ingeniously realised.

His more elaborate TV projects, such as the current Apocalypse (which concludes tomorrow) and last year's The Experiments, are often thought-provoking and -- especially in the case of The Experiments 'gameshow' episode, where an audience briefly thought it had caused a man's death -- chilling demonstrations of how easy it can be to manipulate people's emotions and actions.

Far from being out of the ordinary, Meade, a cheerful, chatty, bespectacled chap whose website says he also has a sideline as a motivational speaker, drags the art of the illusionist back to earth with a dull thud.

Working on a small stage in front of a standing audience, he pulled off some bog-standard mentalist shtick, guessing the name of a woman's mother concealed inside an envelope, and then bent some spoons.

In filmed inserts he read the palms (not wholly successfully) of random passers-by concealed behind an artificial wall, and had an encounter with bare-knuckle Traveller boxer and Celebrity Big Brother winner Paddy Doherty at the latter's home.

The trick where he had Doherty select an item from around his house and then made a near-perfect drawing of it, sight unseen, was impressive. So was the bit back in the studio when Meade, heavily blindfolded with duct tape, got an audience member to write a random five-letter word ("House") on a blackboard and promptly dashed off a drawing of a little house.

But any sense of wonder was muffled by a cheap and tatty production lacking in sparkle. The real trick for an illusionist is not what you do but the way that you do it.

By far the scariest thing about the Come Dine with Me Halloween Special was seeing horror movie legend Robert Englund, aka pizza-faced, razor-clawed child-killer Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, crossing cutlery with Z-listers like "medium" Sally Bercow, tiresome topless model Nicola McClean and Katie Price's ex, the cross-dressing cage fighter Alex Reid.

Can work in Hollywood really be so hard to find for such an iconic actor? Still, even without his claws Englund was a cut above the rest. When McClean announced she was serving "bloody tart" for dessert, he quipped: "She IS a bloody tart, isn't she?"

If you were looking for genuine scares, however, you had to turn to Extreme Couponing (or "cueponing" as some irritatingly insist on pronouncing it), which focused on frighteningly obsessive individuals who forego pre-Christmas shopping completely and then hit the shops at the crack of dawn the day after the big event, in order to get what they want at reduced prices.

All but one of them were women, such as Faatima, who dragged her daughter and long-suffering husband around the shops for 12 hours, and Missy, who spent five hours more than that buying gifts that would see her through a whole year.

The exception was Joel, who's 16-going-on-50 and managed to pick up $500 worth of clothes and toys for $100. That's a pretty impressive saving and, in his case, it's for a good cause: he donates everything to a children's hospital. Living with any of them must be an ongoing nightmare, though.

David Meade: Make Believe 2/5

Come Dine With Me Halloween Special 1/5

Extreme Couponing 2/5