8.5
219 votes
Louis Theroux

Louis Theroux

BBC Two 2003

The documentary work of British-American journalist Louis Theroux.

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The 10 Best Episodes of Louis Theroux

#1 - Dark States: Heroin Town

10.00

Season 1 - Episode 29

America's love affair with prescription painkillers has led to widespread dependency on opiates. But following a crackdown on their over-prescription, where does this leave the two million Americans who have developed a habit for these high-strength painkillers? With the pills now becoming increasingly expensive and scarce on the black market, vast numbers of Americans have turned to the cheaper and stronger opiate: heroin. The drug now claims more lives in the US than either car accidents or gun crime. And, for the first time in over two decades, life expectancy in the US is declining - largely attributed to the rise in fatal heroin overdoses. In Huntington, West Virginia, Louis Theroux embeds himself in an Appalachian community that is being devastated and stretched to its limits by widespread heroin use. With one in ten babies in the city born dependent on opiates and a fatal overdose rate 13 times the national average, this is the epicentre of the most deadly drug epidemic in US history. Louis spends time with the user community caught in the vice-like grip of drug misuse and follows the emergency services struggling to cope with multiple overdoses each day.

The episode was rated #1 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 1 votes.

#2 - Dark States: Murder in Milwaukee

10.00

Season 1 - Episode 31

Milwaukee is said to be one of the most racially divided and impoverished cities in the US. With spiraling gun crime and homicide rates, this Midwestern city encapsulates America's complex and troubled relationship with guns and the increasing disharmony between African-American communities and the police. In this episode, Louis spends time with the Milwaukee Police Department as they patrol District 5, home to some of the nation's deadliest streets, with a homicide rate over twelve times the national average, and follows the homicide division as they investigate one of the city's many killings. He also embeds with a family who have recently lost a loved one to gun crime, and he meets a local social activist, once a criminal and gang leader herself, who has turned her life around and is coming up with her own solution to the blight of gun crime. On the streets of Milwaukee, Louis discovers a community who is often misunderstood by, and mistrustful of, the police. Arriving at a time of heightened tension between the police and the African-American community due to a recent police shooting, Louis hears from both sides of the debate and uncovers hope in a desperate city.

The episode was rated #2 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 1 votes.

#3 - Altered States: Take My Baby

10.00

Season 1 - Episode 36

Louis Theroux heads to California, the US adoption capital, where the majority of newborn adoptions are carried out privately, creating a multimillion dollar industry. Agencies, facilitators and lawyers can earn thousands of dollars per baby by matching up pregnant women prepared to give up their newborns with adoptive parents willing to pay up to $50,000 for the privilege. Louis spends time with the birth mothers preparing to hand over their own flesh and blood, uncovering the stories of poverty, addiction and abuse that can push these women into making such a heartbreaking decision. He also meets the adoptive families, paying out huge amounts of money in the hope of being able to raise a child they can't have by natural means - but in a system open to abuse, whether the birth mum hands over the baby hangs in the balance until after the birth.

The episode was rated #3 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 1 votes.

#4 - Life on the Edge: Beyond Belief

9.00

Season 8 - Episode 1

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. 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.

The episode was rated #4 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 2 votes.

#5 - Law and Disorder in Johannesburg

8.50

Season 1 - Episode 10

Louis Theroux travels to Johannesburg to investigate the increasing amount of crime there. Many citizens are turning to private security companies, with brutal methods, to help protect them and their property.

The episode was rated #5 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 20 votes.

#6 - The Most Hated Family in America

8.32

Season 1 - Episode 5

In The Most Hated Family In America, Louis meets the Phelps family, the people at the heart of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church. The Phelps have rabid anti-homosexual beliefs, and often campaign at the funerals of American soldiers. They believe that every tragedy in the world is God's punishment for homosexuality. Subtle they are not. Theroux hangs out with the family in Kansas to find out whether there are other sides to their nature. But with any family who run websites like godhatesfags.com and godhatesamerica.com it's going to be difficult. As ever, Louis sticks manfully to the task, but the Phelps' family commune is not a place to be if you're a free-thinking liberal. Explosive stuff!

The episode was rated #6 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 31 votes.

#7 - Extreme Love: Dementia

8.26

Season 1 - Episode 21

Louis travels to Phoenix, Arizona - the capital of dementia care. He spends time at Beatitudes, a residential institution, and also with those looking after loved ones at home to try to understand the struggle of living in a world of encroaching shadows - and of keeping relationships alive in circumstances that can be among the strangest and most challenging imaginable.

The episode was rated #7 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 23 votes.

#8 - America's Most Hated Family in Crisis

8.25

Season 1 - Episode 16

Following up on his 2007 documentary, The Most Hated Family in America, Louis Theroux returns to Topeka, Kansas, for a week-long visit with the Westboro Baptist Church. He again joins the Phelps family on their controversial pickets where they try to antagonise communities with offensive slogans and anti-gay placards. But four years on from Louis's last visit, there are signs of disarray in the Phelps clan. A series of defections of family members has shaken up the church.

The episode was rated #8 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 32 votes.

#9 - Miami Mega Jail: Part 1

8.14

Season 1 - Episode 17

In the first episode of this two-part series, Louis spends time in one of the most notorious sections of Miami County Jail: the fifth and sixth floor of 'Main Jail', where many of the most volatile inmates are incarcerated. Held in large cage-like dwellings for up to 24 men, the inmates have developed a strange and violent jail culture. The men - who remain in the cells almost all the time and may only leave for yard time twice a week - live under the sway of a gladiatorial code. They fight each other for food, for status, and often just to pass the endless hours of confinement. Trips to the infirmary are a frequent occurrence as inmates are viciously attacked and beaten, but the guards say they are powerless to end the abuse.

The episode was rated #9 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 28 votes.

#10 - A Place for Paedophiles

8.09

Season 1 - Episode 11

Louis has gained access to Coalinga Mental Hospital in California, which houses more than 500 convicted paedophiles who have been deemed unsafe for release.

The episode was rated #10 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 22 votes.

#11 - America's Most Dangerous Pets
8.09
Season 1 - Episode 19

According to some reports, there are now more tigers in captivity in the US than in the wild in the whole of Asia, as well as large numbers of lions, bears and chimpanzees. Travelling to America's heartlands, Louis Theroux spends time with an Oklahoma man who has bred and collected over 150 tigers, visits the woman who privately owns one of America's largest collections of chimpanzees, and finds himself in uncomfortably close contact with a number of big cats and dangerous primates.

The episode was rated #1 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 23 votes.

#12 - Miami Mega Jail: Part 2
8.08
Season 1 - Episode 18

Louis Theroux concludes his exploration into Miami Mega-jail, one of America's largest and most violent of jails, a holding pen for almost 6000 un-convicted inmates. Louis goes deeper into the jail system, meeting an alleged triple murderer facing a possible death sentence. He also follows a group of forty or so younger inmates who have escaped prison by pleading guilty and agreeing to attend a four month military style boot camp. Among them is a 14-year-old boy facing a possible ten year sentence for armed robbery if he can't survive the boot camp's relentless and brutal training and indoctrination programme. Many will drop out and receive prison sentences, but for a handful this will be their second chance at life.

The episode was rated #2 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 26 votes.

#13 - Extreme Love: Autism
8.06
Season 1 - Episode 20

Louis visits one of the best schools in America for autism. He meets the students and their families to get a glimpse of what life is like for them and to experience the pleasures and the strains of one of the most extraordinary kinds of relationship.

The episode was rated #3 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 32 votes.

#14 - Dark States: Heroin Town
8.04
Season 1 - Episode 29

America's love affair with prescription painkillers has led to widespread dependency on opiates. But following a crackdown on their over-prescription, where does this leave the two million Americans who have developed a habit for these high-strength painkillers? With the pills now becoming increasingly expensive and scarce on the black market, vast numbers of Americans have turned to the cheaper and stronger opiate: heroin. The drug now claims more lives in the US than either car accidents or gun crime. And, for the first time in over two decades, life expectancy in the US is declining - largely attributed to the rise in fatal heroin overdoses. In Huntington, West Virginia, Louis Theroux embeds himself in an Appalachian community that is being devastated and stretched to its limits by widespread heroin use. With one in ten babies in the city born dependent on opiates and a fatal overdose rate 13 times the national average, this is the epicentre of the most deadly drug epidemic in US history. Louis spends time with the user community caught in the vice-like grip of drug misuse and follows the emergency services struggling to cope with multiple overdoses each day.

The episode was rated #4 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 25 votes.

#15 - Altered States: Love Without Limits
8.00
Season 1 - Episode 34

For hundreds of years, romantic relationships in western society have been based on the idea of monogamy: two people, together, for ever. But with nearly half of all US marriages ending in divorce, perhaps the traditional model is no longer fit for purpose. In Love Without Limits, Louis travels to Portland, Oregon, the heart of a movement seeking to rewrite the rulebook on how we conduct intimate relationships and experience family life. Portland, whose city motto is 'Keep Portland Weird', is seen as the US capital of polyamory and ethical non-monogamy, the practice of openly and transparently having multiple relationships that go further than just sex. Louis embeds himself with families who have made the bold decision to open up their relationships in a number of different ways, whether inviting others into existing relationships or allowing partners to seek romance elsewhere. He discovers that for many, more partners means more love and more happiness. But for others, multiple relationships have led to jealousy, upset and broken hearts.

The episode was rated #5 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 1 votes.

#16 - Life on the Edge: Family Ties
8.00
Season 1 - Episode 44

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.

The episode was rated #6 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 1 votes.

#17 - Life on the Edge: The Dark Side of Pleasure
8.00
Season 8 - Episode 2

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.

The episode was rated #7 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 2 votes.

#18 - Gambling in Las Vegas
7.96
Season 1 - Episode 4

This programme follows Louis investigating the high rollers and those who manage casinos in Vegas. Dr Martha Ogman was one of the main characters of the show and as the interviews with her took place it became evident that she was clearly addicted to gambling. Near the end of the programme it was revealed that in just seven years, she had lost in excess of $4 million. All in all Louis was $4,590 up from $3000 at the end of what he called his "blowout night" playing Baccarat in addition to turning $500 into $700 on his first foray into gambling at the Blackjack tables. As an interesting aside, the money gambled was his own, not part of the production budget.

The episode was rated #8 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 25 votes.

#19 - Drinking to Oblivion
7.91
Season 1 - Episode 26

Louis visits King’s College Hospital in London where he meets patients suffering with alcohol addiction and the medical staff trying to assist them. He spends time with the patients and their families to discover the effect of the addiction on their lives and loved ones.

The episode was rated #9 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 32 votes.

#20 - Louis and the Nazis
7.88
Season 1 - Episode 3

Louis Theroux travels to California to meet the man dubbed "the most dangerous racist in America"; Tom Metzger. Louis meets him, his family and his publicity manager as well as following him to skinhead rallies and on a visit to Mexico.

The episode was rated #10 Best episode of Louis Theroux from 42 votes.

Last updated: oct 09, 2020

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