Ruby Wax's Mad Confessions, C4, Monday
The World's Maddest Job Interview, C4, Wednesday
The Angel, Sky1, Tuesday

You don't have to be mad to watch this ... and it probably won't help you handle these gimmicky treatments of mental health issues

When did you last hear someone say, "I think I'm depressed"? Or nonchalantly deliver an amateur diagnosis of OCD or an eating disorder of a colleague, say? Allusions to mental illness – and to specific, medical classifications way beyond "crazy" – trip off our tongues nowadays. So it was strange that much of the publicity around Channel 4's "4 Goes Mad" season that kicked off last week, focused on a supposed taboo around discussing mental health issues. We might be using the terminology incorrectly, abusively even, but we can barely shut up about what's going on in our own or other people's heads.

That was good news for Ruby Wax's Mad Confessions. Wax did her big reveal a few years ago, when she fronted a charity campaign identifying herself as one of the 25 per cent of people in this country to suffer from a mental health condition – in her case, depression.

Here, in between some signature setpieces, such as running around the Priory pointing out spots where "the anorexics left their food and we would steal it", she sent out a Twitter request for people with successful careers and mental health issues, who'd be prepared to reveal their condition to colleagues – on camera, natch. There wasn't a shortage of volunteers. Wax's final three – a chef, a marketing exec, and an industrial designer – were high-flyers with nice families who seemed relatively relaxed about detailing their difficulties, whether OCD or depression. Their confessions to colleagues went off well, and I suspect it wasn't just an effect of the camera. This was, it has to be said, mental illness viewed via a middle-class prism – serious to be sure, but in these circles depression and stress increasingly have a conversational currency, even if it's of a shallow kind. So it offered neither the demographic nor the mental health conditions for confronting taboos around the subject.

If the ethics of Wax's programme seemed fraught, it had nothing on The World's Maddest Job Interview, in which eight contestants – some of whom have mental health conditions – vied for a theoretical job from a trio of hardcore business bods, among them that scary guy who does the interviews in The Apprentice, Claude Littner. All three confessed to reservations about employing anyone with a history of mental illness, so naturally the twist was that they weren't told who were the sufferers ("those who have been touched by madness" as the voiceover put it) and non-sufferers.

Unapologetic in its trashy reality approach (Apprentice-meets-Dragons' Den-meets-Playing it Straight), it aimed, no doubt, to pull in people who wouldn't tune in to worthier documentary fare. Certainly, the subject – enabling those with a history of mental illness to get back into the workplace – is important, but everything about this felt beside the point.

No spoilers, in case you plan to catch up, but I doubt anyone will be shocked to learn that the corporate brains ended up selecting a few people who'd previously suffered from mental-health issues, again OCD and depression, as favourites. All had proven themselves intelligent, competent and charming. Hurrah! A victory over prejudice! Well, not really. Discrimination here has less to do with stigma or misguided fear than cold-eyed capitalism.

Just as some employers look at women of a particular age and see "maternity leave" in neon above their heads, their concern isn't that these people are raging loons 24/7, but the not inconceivable possibility of a relapse. Had you put these people through their paces when in the throes of an acute phase of their condition, their capacity to do their job would have been completely different. That's not a justification for discrimination, but obscuring the real problem meant the grounds for the gimmicks felt shaky indeed.

Billionaire mobile-phone mogul John Caudwell was jokily pitched the question "Are you mad?" in The Angel, another Apprentice rip-off, less controversial but also devoid of humour or suspense.

In each episode Caudwell, the titular "angel", selects one of five budding "entreprenoors" (as presenter Amanda Byram likes to say – often) for a £100,000 investment in their business – the unhinged element being that he doesn't know what that business is and claims to be judging on personality alone.

Last week, Hermione, who described herself as "Mark Zuckerberg with breasts", got the cash. Caudwell will donate the profits to charity, which is jolly nice, but since he eliminated one contestant for not taking the opportunity to slate another, he has pretty interesting ideas on what constitutes good character.

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones