Sometime true crime shows can feel more like a fun, whodunnit mental exercise, making it far too easy to forget how repulsive the depravity truly was. That’s not the case with Oxygen’s “Kemper on Kemper: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer” (debuts Saturday at 7pm).
The two-hour special is deeply disturbing as Edmund Kemper matter of factly describes a killing spree that included sex with corpses. He dispassionately analyzes what motivated him to act in taped interviews with the FBI, which used his insights to help form the blueprint for criminal psychology. Some of those sessions are shown in the doc and there’s an exclusive sit-down session with former FBI Special Agent John Douglas (author of “Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit”), who interrogated Kemper extensively.
Oxygen programming & development evp Rod Aissa knows the material is tough, but sees it as fulfilling the network’s mission to really explain the why.
“We were interested in ‘why this guy’…‘why does this one form the basis of how we’re going to put together a template or filter for how we look at serial killers and frame what happens,’” he said. “Going inside the mind of someone so horrific, who could be living next door to you or even worse, could be a friend’s son, is something you can’t turn away from. There’s this innate need to understand how a person does this and what brings them to the point that this turn happens.”
It’s been a little over a year since Oxygen rebranded as a crime network. Aissa believes it’s establishing itself from others in the true crime space by asking viewers to “take a more lean-in, a more active watching experience than just a classic retelling.”
That’s an idea that can be traced back to its long-running series “Snapped,” which dives into the psychology of why the killer is motivated to snap. It’s hard to go much deeper than the murderer who helped form the serial killer textbook.