The world's worst sex change surgeon
Channel 4, 10pm

The panic room
BBC3, 9pm

Given the popularity of fly-on-the-wall documentaries about dodgy tradesmen (Plumbers/Joiners from Hell etc), it's possible some folk tuned into The World's Worst Sex Change Surgeon expecting its attention-grabbing title to provide chortles.

How wrong they were. As well as being eye-wateringly gory, The World's Worst Sex Change Surgeon told various tragic true tales about one of the world's most marginalised groups of troubled souls: those unable to accept the gender with which they're born and who seek medical assistance in embracing a new one.

Of course, in the same way that a person's new surgically created gender won't automatically prove better than their previous one, it may actually wind up not even constituting any gender at all. As it was put by one such trans-sexual voyager, Camille (nee Bernard): "I just sit here every day, waiting to die. I'm not a man. I'm not a woman."

Poor Camille had been mutilated by John Ronald Brown, a California GP and unqualified surgeon whose savage slicing and dicing skills never matched his ego. Over 25 years, Brown operated in his garage and in hotel rooms, using bleached rags to soak up patients' blood and superglue to seal their leaking silicon implants.

Before dying, in wretched conditions, Camille had spent $60,000 vainly trying to rectify the damage Brown had inflicted. Ironically, it was Brown's low fees which attracted clients who felt themselves ugly. There was something horribly apt about his cut-price business: it was one which left gaping wounds.

Now aged 83 and seven years into a 15-year jail sentence for second-degree manslaughter, Brown was unrepentant when quizzed by the makers of The World's Worst Sex Change Surgeon. "Some patients complain no matter what you do for 'em," he riposted, denying all guilt while wearing a spooky half-smile.

Oddly, when Brown's scalpel directly killed a man, American prosecutors found it hard to come up with many complainants from among Brown's butchered survivors. Admitting to being a failed transsexual must be uniquely shaming, I suppose. This was even after an earlier TV show, in 1989, had filmed Brown performing an operation that was interrupted by background screams from an inadequately anaesthetised patient. Such an occurrence was nothing unusual, Brown airily explained to the cameras, adding: "She isn't going to remember this."

Two California private eyes - smooth-talking Ron and dogged-looking Tom - wound up being given the singular task of finding and then charming sufficient unhappy shemales to ensure the case against Brown stuck. This odd job, which often entailed Ron phoning up transsexual men and wooing them by adopting a seductive Barry White bass voice, had an unexpected payback.

"In the beginning," confessed Tom, "we called them freaks and laughed about it and I'm a little ashamed of that now. You could say we had a transformation of our own."

The Panic Room is overseen by a woman who calls herself a "counselling psychologist" and a bloke who styles himself a "clinical hypnotherapist and chartered psychologist".

But forget that hooey! Because what really matters is that the show consists of phobics being pushed to the outer limits of their fears over the course of three days by being locked inside a big shiny metal box with lights set into its mirrored black floor. Don't panic after a guillotine door snaps shut behind you, you're in the Panic Room!

Huge monitors on the room's walls then show images of what the phobic most fears (cats and frogs in last night's starter). Apparently, the treatment works. However, The Panic Room still makes for TV about which you'd be right to develop a phobia.