The characters we encountered on Channel 4’s two-hour Psychopath Night (Sat) were much more the cynical political drama sort. After all, psychopaths, we were told, are all around us, but especially in law, sales, finance and government, where they often rise to positions of power. According to the psychologist Oliver James, the credit crunch is best understood as “a mass outbreak of corporate psychopathy”.
This infotainment show opted for a Top Ten countdown of movie psychopaths as a framing device to illustrate psychopathy and the tone veered unpredictably from jovial to chilling. Among the latter was a memorable face-to-face meeting with Charles “The Eyeball Killer” Albright, a Texan serial killer convicted of the murder of three women in 1991.
Albright is a creepy chap all right, but he fits the familiar psycho stereotype down to a T. By far the most surprising interview was with a high-powered lawyer called Emmy Thomas. Thomas is neither criminally inclined nor violent, but she’s still a diagnosed psychopath. Her parents first sent her to a therapist as a teenager, after they noticed her lack of empathy and penchant for cruel jokes. “I do feel a little bit like a misunderstood minority,” said Emmy. Indeed, and this entertainingly lurid documentary probably won’t have done much to help that.