Since making his television debut on TV Nation in the mid-90s, journalist and film-maker Louis Theroux has become synonymous with documentaries involving subcultures and people on the fringes of society.
Ch1. Beyond Belief
In the first episode of this career retrospective, Louis looks back at his earliest documentaries and explores how some people’s most fervent beliefs can bring them into conflict with mainstream society. From his Weird Weekends episodes on survivalists and UFOs to his now notorious documentary about the White Aryan Resistance in California (Louis and the Nazis), Louis has always been drawn to those whose beliefs seem unusual, confused or, in some cases, abhorrent. Louis catches up again with some of his previous contributors, including Mike Cain, who he first met in the mid-90s, having moved to the hills of Idaho and armed himself for what he saw as an inevitable war with the federal government. Over 20 years later, his views haven’t changed much – but in Donald Trump, he has a president who finally speaks to him. Louis also tracks down Lamb and Lynx, once members of the white nationalist pop group Prussian Blue. They have since rejected their past and believe their story gives hope that even the most indoctrinated can change their beliefs.
Ch2. The Dark Side of Pleasure
Louis explores how America has managed to take our darkest desires, commodify them and turn them into a saleable product. From his memorable Weird Weekends episodes on porn and rap to films about Las Vegas and the US opioid crisis, this episode explores a very human tendency to jump to the dark side when seeking out pleasure – whether through indulgence, risk-taking or the joy of doing something seen as ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’. Louis re-connects with porn-star JJ, who over 20 years ago was just making his way in the adult industry but has since turned his back on that world in favour of a new life in eastern Europe. And Louis catches up once more with Katilia from Heroin Town, whom he last saw hopelessly addicted to drugs, with little sign of turning her life around.
Ch3. Law and Disorder
Louis reflects on the criminal justice system in the USA, which has more prisoners than any other country in the world. In documentaries such as Behind Bars and Miami Mega Jail, Louis spent time with hundreds of incarcerated men, discovering a world with its own rules and codes and a system that seemed to be broken. In A Place for Paedophiles, Louis came face to face with those responsible for serious sex crimes against children who were being locked up indefinitely, even after their sentences had been completed. Louis also revisits his documentaries in Philadelphia and Milwaukee, where tensions between the African-American community and the police were already at boiling point, years before the recent killing of George Floyd.
Ch4. Family Ties
Louis examines how the greatest source of love in our lives – our families – can often be the cause of our deepest pain. In his trilogy of documentaries centred around the Westboro Baptist Church, Louis explores the price the family was paying for its devotion to the distorted vision of its patriarch, Pastor Fred Phelps. With Pastor Phelps now dead, the family has been torn apart – some of its members are still utterly devoted, whilst others have left, forbidden from ever contacting their families again. Louis also reflects on how physical and mental health or forces beyond our own control can threaten to derail our family lives. He catches up with contributors from Trans Kids and A Different Brain to see how life has changed since he saw them last.