[Purchase Book Based On This Series]
If you’re not English, you might not have an instant idea of who Louis Theroux is, but if you’re American, you might remember him as the British Guy on TV Nation. But maybe not, since that show was over 10 years ago. But rest assured, he is awesome.
His show, Weird Weekends, actually WAS broadcast in the states, on the cable channel Bravo… though, unfortunately, it never seemed to have a great time slot… or, rather, seemingly no timeslot at all. A lot of times, I’d end up just flipping through the channels and discovering that someone at Bravo had gotten bored and just started putting in tapes of his show. So, there seemed to be a lot of random, unadvertised marathons. Which was great at the time, but made it near impossible for the show to get an audience in the US. Which is probably why these DVDs aren’t actually available in the US — they’re only available in the UK, meaning they’re Region 2, PAL, so you’ve gotta have a hacked player to watch these. But, well, you kinda should anyway, since a) Region Coding is stupid and b) There’s LOTS of cool stuff only available in other countries, so by not hacking your player/getting one that’s hackable, you’re really missing out.
When I got an email from Amazon.co.uk that they had an exclusive Box Set of “The Complete Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends“, I got very, very excited and ordered it instantly. After all, I’d loved this show when it was on… Granted, I hadn’t seen it since 2000, but hey. The good news is that the show is, duh, still excellent. The bad news, however, is that Amazon.co.uk and I have different definitions of the word “Complete”. See, when I see “The Complete [X]”, I tend to think “Oh, I’m going to get all the episodes ever made!” I don’t think this is unreasonable, but hey. Amazon.co.uk, however, meant “Complete” in the sense that it’s a box set of all the best-of DVDs that have been produced… 4, in fact. Being maaaybe half of the series? 8 episodes in total, plus two bonus episodes from Louis’ spin-off series “When Louis Met…”
I really wish it had been the complete run. I really wanted to see the Home Shopping episode again, but the episodes chosen were great.
It’s probably a little late in the review, but in case you’re wondering what exactly Weird Weekends was about, it’s a documentary series where Louis would go and examine different US subcultures, and sometimes try to infiltrate them. In the one on Porn, he half-heartedly attempts to be a male porn star, and in the Wrestling one, he goes to the WWE’s wrestling boot camp. (“When Louis Met…” is similar, although instead of American Fringe Elements, it’s UK celebrities.) Part of the fun of the series is that while Louis is open with his subjects about not sharing their enthusiasms or beliefs (and sometimes even thinking they’re a little nutty) — he always respects them and more often than not actually BEFRIENDS them. He remains a journalist, and while he’s not there to necessarily give them an unjudgmental platform to espouse their nuttery, he’s ALSO not there to point and laugh; he wants to UNDERSTAND them and their beliefs.
The “When Louis Met” episodes on the set are both entirely geared for a UK audience (oddly enough, since the show was produced and intended for UK audiences), and Americans probably won’t really know who the subjects are (in these two, former MP Neil Hamilton and his wife Christine, and TV Presenter/Charity Monolith Sir Jimmy Saville), but the shows are so INTERESTING it doesn’t really matter. In both cases, after the show was over, I immediately went to Wikipedia to find out more about them. The rapport Louis has with the subjects is excellent and engaging — in these two cases, since both have been in the public eye for most of their lives, it helps that they’re also completely comfortable being in front of the camera. Again, Louis isn’t there to suck up — in the case of the Hamiltons, he’s upfront with them about not believing Neil’s innocents in the Cash for Questions scandal that ended his Parliamentary career, and that’s what makes it all the more engaging. His subjects behave like real people — they like Louis (it seems hard not to), but they’re not Best Friends… but it’s not purely a working relationship either; they blow up at him and fight, but also confide in him. He’s very quiet and unassuming — he’s got a very interesting, welcome demeanor about him.
I really wish that the set had in fact been MY complete instead of THEIR complete, but any episodes of Weird Weekends on DVD is a definite blessing — and I’d love to see more of When Louis Met… as well. He’s got a current documentary series on the BBC, I believe a series of monthly specials. The most recent one is available on YouTube — The Most Hated Family in America, featuring everyone’s favorite Homophobes, the Phelps clan of the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s a very interesting, engaging documentary like all of Louis’ work. With luck, he’ll be able to get a following stateside and perhaps get more of his stuff released over here…. though I’d settle for more UK DVD releases too. Either way, Louis Theroux is an international treasure and we should welcome him into our homes, either via television or even literally if we happen to be a bit on the kooky side.