The premise of the CW's Hypnotize Me, based on the UK series You're Back In The Room, is both simple and hard to believe. Each episode, hypnotist Keith Barry puts four contestants into a hypnotic state, then encourages them to complete physical challenges while under his influence. Watching these volunteers acting in an outrageous manner is certainly funny, but the show doesn't really address how real Hypnotize Me is — which could shatter the illusion for some skeptics. (Bustle reached out to The CW for comment about the authenticity of Hypnotize Me, but did not receive a response before publication).
As a spectator, it's difficult to determine how real the show is because there are different types of hypnosis. Studies done on therapeutic hypnosis, for example, have proven it's effective when combined with other forms of therapy. However, what we're seeing on Hypnotize Me is stage hypnosis, which is more accurately described as "suggestive techniques," mentalist and hypnotist Derren Brown writes in his book Tricks Of The Mind. According to him, if a hypnosis subject is acting in good faith and not faking, then they are either "trying to experience the [hypnotist's] suggestions as real" or feel genuinely compelled to follow the hypnotist's orders after being subjected to these "suggestive techniques." In Brown's experience, hypnosis is nothing more than making people especially susceptible to these suggestions.
So does that mean the Hypnotize Me contestants are, say, pretending to be a penguin because they're hypnotized, or because they're being paid to pretend to be hypnotized? Or even because they're not being paid, and just want to go along for the ride? That's sort of up to you to decide, though other iterations of the show have push back against claims the experience isn't authentic.
When Phillip Schofield, the host of the original UK series You're Back In The Room, saw criticism being lobbied against the series for being fake or hiring actors to pretend to be hypnotized, he tweeted out simply that "No, [the contestants] are NOT actors." And when a version of the show premiered in New Zealand, producer Dominic Smith told the New Zealand Herald that two of the contestants featured on the show's premiere episode were actors, but that it was purely coincidental. He said they "auditioned in exactly the same way as all other contestants and were tested for their susceptibility to hypnosis over three filmed audition sessions and assessed by a clinical psychologist." Smith was also adamant that, "On the night of the recording, they were hypnotized in front of a live studio audience."
Ultimately, whether or not you believe Hypnotize Me is real depends on how much you believe in stage hypnosis. If you think that stage hypnosis is fake, then Hypnotize Me isn't going to be the show to convince you otherwise. And if you expect people to be fully out of control and completely vulnerable to suggestion, then you may be disappointed Hypnotize Me's contestants aren't being full-on brain-washed by Keith Barry. If, however, you enjoy the art of stage hypnosis as it is, then Hypnotize Me could be your next favorite summer show.