Killers: Behind The Myth
Season 2 C&I (*170) 20:00 True crime
Killers are king on telly, whether it’s true-life doccies like Killers: Behind The Myth (2013-2015) or fictional characters on The Following (2013-2015, see p 57) and Dexter (2006-2013). “Society has a macabre fascination with these unremorseful predators,” explains criminology professor and former NBC Television Network vice president Dr Scott A Bonn. But the slashers on our screens are very different to the real world…
“We look at serial killers and how they’re arrested. It’s often simple blunders,” explains Behind The Myth exec producer Bill Thomas. “It’s ordinary people committing these crimes.” On TV, it’s often the opposite, with killers as intelligent as they are vicious. Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) in The Following is a university professor, while Dr Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) in Hannibal (2013-2015) is a surgeon-turned-psychiatrist. “You can’t have a dumb killer who gets the best of the world’s top law enforcement,” says The Following creator Kevin Williamson. “That said, when we did our research, there were stories from the murderers we looked at that were simply too ridiculous for TV.”
Something that real-life killers and their fictional counterparts do share is that they’re charming. “Joe has this gentlemanly demeanour,” says James Purefoy. “You can see how his victims would be drawn to him.” Meanwhile Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) in Bates Motel (2013 -current) shares the same shyness as the killer he’s based on, Ed Gein, which Ed claims helped his victims feel at ease around him. The most glaring difference however is on the outside – TV killers are good-looking, while actual serial killers look like Joe Shmoe, someone you’d walk past without taking notice.
TV serial killers Joe Carroll (left) and Dr Hannibal Lecter.