Considering it’s part of Channel 4’s Mental Health season, a title like World’s Maddest Job Interview doesn’t seem particularly sensitive. Of course, it’s Channel 4, so naturally they’ve dubbed the aforementioned season “4goesmad”.
he name is hardly as controversial as say, I’m Spazticus, (also on Channel 4), but unlike Spazticus, this isn’t a comedy programme poking fun at preconceptions of disability. It’s a documentary about a serious issue – discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of mental health. Or should that be madness?
This is the issue: According to mental health charity MIND; One in five people that disclose to their employer that they have a history of mental illness are either fired or forced out. Many believe that admitting they have or had a mental illness would jeopardise their chance of getting a job. To investigate this, Channel 4 have assembled a panel of ’employers’, Claude Littner (who you may recognise from The Apprentice, as he manages Alan Sugar’s IT firm Viglin), Elaine Holt (National Express), and Austin Gayner (a small business owner). They are to assess a group of candidates in a series of tests to work out their professional aptitude. All of the candidates have experienced the effects of mental illness, be it directly, or by proxy.
Littner and Gayner, whilst sympathetic, do admit that they wouldn’t hire someone who had been sectioned. The purpose of the exercise is to determine whether such attitudes can be justified. It’s a fantastically pragmatic approach to the issue and in combination with the “psych team” who were on hand to offer professional assessment of the candidate’s behaviour, made for interesting viewing.
Unfortunately, what I got from the documentary was ruined by an execution that was shoddy at best. The camera work was utterly out of place, frequently emulating CCTV footage and a quasi-handheld style, zooming in and out at random. This, coupled with the odd music tastes and blasts of static distortion made it seem like we were watching a reconstruction of a sexual assault on Crimewatch, not the introduction of the business professionals making up the interviewer’s panel.
As the camera zoomed in and out, gonzo style, I was reminded of when magicians gesticulate wildly as to distract the audience’s attention from their sleight of hand. It was almost as if the programme-makers believed the content to be boring and attempted to jazz it up. A real shame, as it wasn’t. The BBC has managed to make boardroom scenes as tense as anything else and Channel 4 would have been wise to take a leaf out of Auntie’s book.
Yet for all the editing capers, the script was twice as bad. My preview tape didn’t include the final voice-over, but from what I heard it could of easily been read by Vernon Kaye, or even Chris Morris. Indeed, with lines such as “touched by madness” or “experienced madness”, it could have been a Brass Eye skit on the misapprehensions of mental illness. Depressing stuff.
It’s as if they weren’t sure which direction they wanted to take the programme in. There were incredibly poignant scenes on show here, as well as the brutal realities of enduring such disorders. There’s also a cameo narration from the Come Dine With Me bloke and a bit of the Countdown theme. It’s immensely frustrating, because once you skim off all crap designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator, there’s a substantial amount of good material. It’s a shame it was treated for the most part like a silly game. When they introduce the candidates, the narrator might as well of urged you to ‘spot the mental!’
There is much to praise here – Claude Littner is great on television, even when he utters “I found her very much like me, tough, and charming”, which is akin to me saying “He reminded me of myself, muscular and charismatic”. The content of the programme is interesting, informative, and entertaining – without all the inane childishness imposed on it.