British pubcaster Channel 4 (C4) is aiming to break down assumptions around mental health with a summer season of primetime programming called ’4 Goes Mad.’
The season will include a two-part special and documentaries presented by comedians Ruby Wax and Jon Richardson. The yet-to-be-titled 2 x 60-minute special will be produced by Cineflix Productions and feature a cast of eight employees, some of whom have a mental health condition, that take part in a variety of tasks and are then judged by a panel of employers.
In a twist, some of the cast members will have made ‘undercover’ appearances in other Channel 4 programs in the weeks leading up to the broadcast. Clips from those shows will also air throughout the series.
“This lively and entertaining format will encourage viewers to see the person rather than the diagnosis,” said C4 factual commissioning editor Lina Prestwood. “We’re confident that the individuals who do have a mental health problem will be indistinguishable from other contributors as they appear across the schedule and that their appearance in this series will defy deeply ingrained assumptions about people with mental health-problems – particularly relating to their ability to work.”
Programmers have worked with mental health organizations including the Mental Health Foundation and Time to Change to ensure that people with conditions such as depression, bipolar, eating disorders, OCD and schizophrenia are portrayed in a way that is “surprising and enlightening.”
“It’s encouraging to see a major broadcaster tackle this deep-seated taboo,” said Sue Baker, director of Time to Change. “We realize that, at its heart, this is an entertainment season but we hope it will turn the spotlight onto a subject that desperately needs to be demystified and open it up to a much wider audience.”
C4 will also air the Nine Lives Media-produced one-hour special Ruby Wax’s Mad Confessions (w/t), in which the comedian and depression sufferer follows several successful business people as they disclose a mental health issue to their employers, friends and family; and Jon Richardson: A Little Bit OCD (w/t), a one-hour special produced by Open Mic Productions in which the stand-up comic examines the portrayal of OCD in comedy routines.
“The over-simplistic treatment of OCD for comedy is a huge bugbear of mine, even though it’s something I use myself,” he said. “I’m looking forward to tackling the uninformed abandon with which the term is bandied about.”
’4 Goes Mad’ will also feature a bespoke website with additional information and interactive elements based on the issues raised in the programs.