Horizon: How Mad Are You?


how mad are you?

Do you know what I like?

I like TV reviews.

I like writing TV reviews because, given the throwaway medium, you don’t really have to put much effort in. I especially like reviewing reality TV because everyone, including those who work within the industry, takes the piss out of it. Getting paid for reviewing it? Even better – you make a few pre-judgements on the characters involved, watch the opening ten minutes and then go and do some knitting and listen to LBC. The copy writes itself.

Not my thought process, readers – but I assume this was what was going through Kathryn Flett of The Observer’s mind when she was pushed for time last Tuesday and decided to review half of Horizon’s How Mad Are You? on BBC2, presumably without even watching the bloody thing. You’ll get the picture from the laboured, unsuccessful pun that heads the piece.

I’m a lobotomy, get me out of here

Completely unfunny and guilty of trivialising the experiences of the people the TV show’s about. But – benefit of the doubt and all that – let’s assume a sub-editor wrote that piece of crap and move on to the piece itself. Brace yourselves, it’s just as bad. 

In her article, she accuses the programme of being ‘a game show, by any other name’ which simply isn’t true. The only clunky thing about How Mad Are You? was the title. Beyond that, it was a series of psychiatric tests which 10 people took part in – five of whom had a history of mental illness and five of whom were all mentally sound (as far as they knew).

There was no points system and no prize trolley. If Kathryn thought this was a gameshow, then that’s more a tribute to the fact she clearly watches too much shit TV, gameshows being her only point of reference when she sees normal people being tested on the box.

The whole point of the show was to highlight that diagnostic tests are simply an aid to diagnosis. Case studies are crucial, and the show set out to prove that three scientists can’t sit together and label mental illnesses from behaviour systems without a case history to work with. It was all about how dangerous labels can be and to prove that the brain is a complex beast that can completely cover its tracks when breaking down. Furthermore, it can completely heal or at least develop coping systems in the face of a potentially debilitating illness.

But that doesn’t bother old steamroller Flett!

She puts the word ‘science’ in inverted commas, as though this is science with a whimsically light touch. What really grates is the fact that she subtly accuses the show of being exploitative but then kicks in with a couple of tasteless ‘mad’ gags of her own. ‘But can Yasmin really be as sane as she appears… find out after the break…down!’ she jests. Brilliant stuff, right? She claims they may as well have called the show ‘bonkers’. She talks about ‘a small but strident voice in one’s head’ and then hits us with the hilarious aside: ‘yup, that’d be the old paranoid schizophrenia playing up again’! – because it’s great fun, undermining the paranoid schizophrenic for chuckles.

Perhaps the worst aspect surrounds participant Yasmin. In what was actually quite a thought-provoking piece of television, in episode one Yasmin – who in the past had spent three years plagued by depression causing her to give up work and become so detached she couldn’t leave the house – managed to elude the attention of the psychiatrist panel. They all judged her least likely to have a history of mental illness.

Flett says that Yasmin smiled ‘smugly’ when told the news. Yasmin’s recovery has been so successful that experts couldn’t see a single trace of her past condition. She rightly smiled – her struggle with her own brain had reached a point where even people who are paid to spot this stuff judged her to be completely normal. That’s not smug – it’s vindication.

A more definitive case of ‘smug’ could be, for example, the act of writing an article about a sensitive subject, jumping in feet first, completely misjudging the whole concept and then enjoying your earnings off the back of another piece of shit copy.

Well done Kathryn – quality journalism there.

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73 Responses to “Horizon: How Mad Are You?”

  1. Badger Madge Says:

    I’m really glad you wrote that SH. It’s totally made me re-evaluate the programme. I got quite upset with it last night because of the way the doctors treated their gusses and the eventual results. it was as if they were trying to cover their tracks “Oh, yes, but we got you first and then were thrown off!” I thought they were being too light hearted about it and therefore I treated the whole thing as something light.

    When of course, it wasn’t.

    I did think though, that some of the tasks could have triggered episodes of mental illness (like getting the girl with anorexia to wear lycra and pose for photos) but it *was* interesting. I hope they all saw councillors afterwards though, even the ‘well’ ones.

    It did prove tho, that there’s a fine line between behavioural traits and illness and that even trained professionals can’t be relied on. At the end of the day, only the individual can get themselves better through their own strength and hard work.

  2. Swineshead Says:

    It’s the danger of reviewing after only one episode, BM – I’ve done it myself. Doesn’t really give the programme-makers a chance.

    I agree, watching some of the footage was quite hard work – especially the older geordie lady (who turned out to be completely stable) getting confused on the brain tasks. I was sure she might have had problems, but then after the ‘reveal’, I realised it was my prejudice completely informing my view.

    ‘She’s older, slightly giddy, she must be mental!’

    Anyway, my real issue with Flett is the heavy-handed puns, gags and the pop at Yasmin, who I thought was a brilliant character and thoroughly admirable.

  3. Badger Madge Says:

    Yeah Yasmin rocked. Nuff respec’ to her. So glad she managed to hide herself from them, but isn’t that also a bad thing? That someone as ill as her can slip thru their net?

  4. Swineshead Says:

    I don’t think so – I assume they’re all in the post-treatment stage of their illness – otherwise they wouldn’t have stuck ’em in there. I don’t think.

    So she’ll still carry her depression with her (in some form, perhaps medicated) but will hopefully never get to the borderline catatonic stage again as the problem’s has been or is continually being addressed and assessed.

    They were all decent people – quite a nice change to see on TV a group of non ego-driven people getting on for once.

  5. extremelisteningmode Says:

    SH – do yourself a favour then and steer clear of Flett’s Observer Magazine column. Lordy.

    Bad puns? We got em.
    Laboured writing style? Check.
    Head completely up own arse and completely sickening Ivory tower journalism pretending to speak for everyperson? Oh yes, it’s here.

    She’s a c**t.

  6. Swineshead Says:

    As a horror film fanatic, ELM, I’ve always been drawn to the grotesque.

  7. Nick T Says:

    This is a great SH.
    I understand this blog is usually for rubbish tv but it’s pleasing to read about something good.

  8. Swineshead Says:

    I had to chuck in Flett so I could have a pop at something, Nick T

  9. Lord Milky Says:

    It’s what listening to LBC does to you, quite frankly (with the exception of the two Clives – Messrs Allen and Bull).

    I hadn’t been aware of this programme until I skim read her article last week, followed by another (Radio Times perhaps) saying completely the opposite. Still haven’t got round to watching it but will have to have a look now, I think.

    For a newspaper with a generous telly section, they don’t half put some shite pieces in there sometimes.

  10. Nick T Says:

    A little seasoning is good.

  11. Nick T Says:

    I’m about to view and catalogue last nights

  12. Badger Madge Says:

    Feel free to chuck in what i wrote last week. Utterly ashamed now, sorry. (but then it is how I tend to cope with mental health issues).

  13. Swineshead Says:

    Wasn’t an attack on you at all BM… or Flett even. More the danger of writing stuff without due consideration, something I do on a very regular basis too.

  14. Badger Madge Says:

    No, I know, but I do feel bad! Aw, let’s all have a group hug.

    Sorry… I did it again, didn’t I?

  15. Do I not like that! Says:

    Theo’s out…these friendlies are mad eh???

  16. Swineshead Says:

    Nice work on stalling the flow of chat there, Mikey!

  17. Do I not like that! Says:

    Me stalling the flow of chat..? Are you mad? It was BM and her group hug.

  18. Swineshead Says:

    ‘Are you mad’…

    Mikey – that’s bloody insensitive, that is.

  19. badgermadge Says:

    No, I think the group hug kinda made ‘an atmosphere’.


    But the Theo’s out thing did throw me. WTF is Theo?

  20. Do I not like that! Says:

    BM, If you looked at my blog these things would not be a mystery to you.
    Theo is Theo Walcott who plays for Arsenal and dislocated his shoulder in a freak training accident yesterday whilst on international duty for England. Hope that clears it up. HUG!

  21. Swineshead Says:

    I can’t bring myself to comment on the Theo debacle, Mikey. It makes me sympathise with Alex Ferguson’s take on England matches.

  22. ugeine Says:

    Why? Did Wenger not realise Theo might be an England international when he bought him?

  23. Swineshead Says:

    Wenger probably couldn’t have predicted that Theo’d play in a pointless friendly ahead of an already overcrowded Xmas schedule in what was clearly a heavy training session against a lunk like Scott Parker.

    The system’s screwed up – the whole ‘honour of playing for England’ mentality is bullshit and is just an excuse the FA uses to make heaps of cash out of another business’s assets.


  24. Do I not like that! Says:

    It’s just such a stupid time to play a friendly.

  25. Do I not like that! Says:

    I agree swines, indeed I have been thinking that there should be a two tier capping and statistic system. Caps and goals should only be counted in competitive matches. I would agree if friendlies were totally outlawed during a domestic season.

  26. Swineshead Says:

    And today’s winner of ‘Google Search Term of the Day’ goes to the weird cartoon-head who punched…

    disney nip slip

    …onto his keypad, presumably hunting for Ariel out of the Little Mermaid’s mer-knockers, or a glimpse of Snow White’s cherry pink-nips.

    Or maybe he just wanted to have a tug over a topless Walt, who knows. Either way, he’s found his way to a bunch of skivers discussing the English soccer system.

  27. ugeine Says:

    No, SH, Hell no. International friendlies are nothing new. Any manager that is even barely competent should have only one excuse for having a squad weakened by injury or fatigue through international duties (Pointless or not), and that excuse would be the fact that they can’t afford to sign a replacement player.

    My team, Northampton, can’t afford to buy people of League 1 standard and put them on the subs bench, so if we had international call ups I could see your point.

    However, we’re talking about a team that can afford to pay 12 million pounds for a teenager from the Championship. There’s no excuse for having a weak squad when you have more resources then most Premiership teams. Premiership fans, you’re all the same, just like Harry Redknapp complaining because he can ‘only’ afford to spend about 14 million in one year on strikers, you think the world ends at 20th place.

  28. Swineshead Says:

    It does end at 20th place.

    How Mad Are You?

  29. badgermadge Says:

    Ah, well if it’s football related the it’d go over my head anyway.

    Although I have slept with Theo Walcott’s (female) cousin.

    (er… when I say slept with, I mean we were both at a mate’s house on the living room floor. No sex or owt).

  30. Dave Says:

    I read sexy intercourse.

  31. Nick T Says:

    Just watched last nights Screenwash. It was so good I almost came…..

  32. extremelisteningmode Says:

    Ah, SH, in that case open up and enjoy!

    She really is annoying!

  33. ugeine Says:

    Is that back already?

  34. Lord Milky Says:

    SH – If you think Scott Parker’s a lunk, be thankful Hayden Mullins didn’t get a call up. Theo would be as knackered as Dean Ashton.

    I did have more to say on the matter, but I believe Ugeine summed it up.

  35. Napoleon Says:

    I watched that Screenwipe. What the fuck was that shitty poetry thing all about?

  36. Swineshead Says:

    The poetry bit was definitely misjudged and the Russell Brand stuff was well done but had all been said before…

    Still a good half hour mind you – though a bit self-indulgent to discuss Dead Set?

  37. Nick T Says:

    I’ll let him off that.

  38. Dave Says:

    Does anyone actually miss Jonathan Ross since his suspension? I don’t.

  39. Nick T Says:

    19 November
    John Sergeant quits Strictly
    The BBC is reporting that John Sergeant has quit Strictly Come Dancing.

    According to the BBC News website, John said in a statement: “The trouble is that there is now a real danger that I might win the competition. Even for me that would be a joke too far.”

    BBC One controller Jay Hunt said: “We are very sad to see him go.”

  40. Nick T Says:

    I miss them both from Radio 2.

  41. Napoleon Says:

    That Russell Brand stuff was the same as that article you linked to. Funny though. I moaned a bit about him repeating the same joke about who listens a bloke in a house ranting; then I remembered I do that almost daily, so am not one to talk. In all, I thought it was alright, but it could have done with being a bit longer and missed out that rubbish poem thing.

    And why hasn’t that Paul Ross thing been brought to my attention before? Can you get it on Virgin?

  42. Napoleon Says:

    Dave – His Radio 2 show could do with being back on. They’ve had that rubbish Richard Allinson on since his suspension, and he’s unlistenable to.

  43. Nick T Says:


  44. Nick T Says:

    Paul Ross has been co presenter on the Radio London breakfast show for a few years now (I think( and STILL hasn’t stabbed Jo Goode in the neck yet. He must be deranged

  45. Nick T Says:

    Richard Allinson = Safe pair of hands = unlistenable

  46. Swineshead Says:

    Just been in touch with Kathryn Flett. Her response to the article can be broken down to three bullet points:

    – I don’t respond to the kind of people who call me a ‘cunt’ – I didn’t
    – All bloggers are jealous of people who get paid to write – nice!
    – I have been depressed myself – moot point

    Thanks for that, Ms Flett

  47. Napoleon Says:

    This throws up a bit of a problem for me: I’m a blogger, and I get paid to write. Am I going to disappear up a black hole or something?

  48. Napoleon Says:

    Isn’t Collins a blogger wot gets paid to write too? And Mingles? And Graham Linehan? And weren’t you paid for your football doo-dah, Swineshead? Edna’s newspaper work further adds to this conundrum … as does Stephen Fry’s (that jealous blogging bastard). Hmmm …

  49. Swineshead Says:

    You shouldn’t exist, Napoleon. What are you thinking, mingling with the proles?

    No good ever came of blogging says Flett.

    In fact, fuck it, I’m so annoyed by her snidey response that I’ll stick it up here in a bit.

  50. Dave Says:

    How much would one get paid for an article in The Observer/ Guardian? I might send them my spiffing article about the popping sound geese make when you accidently reverse over them in wildlife centre carparks.

  51. Napoleon Says:

    I feel like I’m living on borrowed time now …

  52. Swineshead Says:

    Right to reply…

    19/11/2008 10:42


    You’ve every right to reply… but you may think it beneath you to comment
    on an unpaid blog.



    On 19/11/2008,
    kathryn flett wrote:

    You’re right — after nearly 25 years in journalism I don’t really need to
    defend myself to the kind of people who call me a ‘cunt’. And you’re right
    — I don’t write the headers, but hey, whatever…
    I find there’s a common theme amongst blogs and those who respond to them,
    which is an ill-disguised resentment of those of us who get paid to write
    stuff for a living. It’s one of the reasons I don’t Blog for my employers

    But I’m as entitled to my opinion as you and your readers are entitled to
    yours. I have suffered from clinical depression in the past, and been an
    in-patient, so it’s not an entirely uninformed opinion, either, and though
    I think Jasmine and the rest of the ‘contestants’ have done brilliantly, I
    still question the entire premise of the show. Anyway, thanks for

    From: Swineshead
    Date: 19 Nov 2008 12:33
    Subject: Re: Right to reply…
    To: kathryn flett


    I should point out that I didn’t call you a ‘c*nt’ at any point – somebody in the comments section may well have done but I can’t control everything that is said in there – I don’t have time. Apologies, however, if you were offended.

    I was asking more about your response to my point that your article was offensive and riddled with hypocrisy.

    The fact that you’ve been depressed yourself is moot. You don’t mention it in your article, so it bears no relevance whatsoever to the sarcastic, withering tone of your piece. I doubt it would garner much sympathy from the participants in the show either, thrown in as an afterthought as it was in your email.

    I love the old jealousy line you take. I’m very happy working in another field entirely, thanks – blogging is merely a hobby. The jealousy card is now a staple of the columnists armourery and reeks of snobbery. I’d avoid it unless you want to further detach yourself from the people who read your articles.

    I only resent the stupidity inherent in your article. All readers like me ask is that you think a little before submitting copy. You attack the participants as much as you attack the premise of the show. A second draft might have helped.


  53. Nick T Says:

    I get paid to blog in the same way I get paid to scratch my arse…

    I’m not jealous of journos because of this http://nicktann.blogspot.com/2008/10/simpering-twats.html

  54. Dave Says:

    SH – Interesting.

  55. Swineshead Says:


  56. Nick T Says:

    “I find there’s a common theme amongst blogs and those who respond to them, which is an ill-disguised resentment of those of us who get paid to write
    stuff for a living”

    I don’t know where she gets this idea from. I read plenty of blogs and I’ve never picked that up.

    We all know she doesn’t think that though eh, just trying to elevate herself.

    *scratches arse*


  57. ugeine Says:

    It’s a wonderfully naive view, that’s for sure.

  58. ugeine Says:

    I think she’d rather just have a little dig at SH rather then actually respond to his points. I think the reason she’d rather have a dig at him rather then reply to him is she probably realises he’s right.

  59. Napoleon Says:

    I’ve had a quick scoot through my own blog, and the closest I can get to a ‘common theme’ is rampant xenophobia – is that the same thing as ill-disguised resentment of those that get paid to write for living? Forgive me, but I thought it was ill-disguised resentment of the bloody Germans?

  60. Swineshead Says:

    I’m enormously jealous of Flett, in truth.

    Whenever I see her on TV in the third series of Grumpy Old Women I find myself screaming ‘it could have been me!’ at the television.

  61. Napoleon Says:

    Am I one of the last people left in this country that would rather not appear on telly if at all possible? I fear cartoonists would have a field-day with my big ears and gigantic nose.

  62. Swineshead Says:

    I think it’d be bloody awful.

    I can barely speak in front of five people – speaking before the nation would probably kill me.

    Especially on Grumpy Old Men or Women.

    Lawnmowers – what’re they all about then, eh?! They don’t even work half the time and then there’s yer garden shears! Pah!

    *Cut to Rick Wakeman*

  63. Napoleon Says:

    And the way things were so much better in the old days. All you had to worry about then was getting home in time for Grange Hill, whether you had enough money to buy a Wham bar and your maths homework.

    Oh, and the constant threat of nuclear annihilation …

  64. NewsGush: Kathryn Flett Responds « Watch With Mothers Says:

    […] Original email exchange here […]

  65. Nick T Says:

    Who is this rampant Xenophobia?

    She sounds feisty!

    Not foreign is she?

  66. badgermadge Says:

    “but hey, whatever…
    paid to write stuff for a living.”

    You sure she’s a writer? She’s sooooo eloquent.

    I blog. I get paid to write.

    Silly woman.

  67. John Q Wagonwheel Says:

    ‘ey up, SH’s rewritten version of her reply has gone. Cease and desist, eh? Bit late, love.

  68. Ms. Tilly Anne Fortescue-Smythe Says:



  69. Swineshead Says:

    A nice way to finish up:


  70. John Q Wagonwheel Says:

    That was an excellent little review. I’d imagine that being the executive chairman of Mind gives him slightly more experience than having been in hospital a bit.

  71. Storm Says:

    I know Yasmin personally. I watched the first episode on the BBC’s iplayer (as I have no TV).

    If I said I was proud of my old friend, that might sound patronising. But if I say that I was proud WITH her, that comes closer to the mark. I think she had every right to be pleased and, yes, vindicated by her success.

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