TV preview, Louis Theroux: Dark States – Heroin Town: meeting the disillusioned of America
Theroux's latest series of explorations start with a visit to West Virginia to see its drug epidemic first-hand
Is Louis Theroux’s whole faux naive schtick wearing a bit thin? We will soon have a chance to find out in Dark States, as the gangly inquisitor for truth deploys his very familiar style on three surprisingly under-covered aspects of current American life.
This week it’s “the most deadly drug epidemic in US history” which is undermining the lives of thousands of Americans in parts of depressed West Virginia. It is impossible to look at what has been happening there and not reflect on how these people, their jobs and futures long lost to globalisation, also turned to that political narcotic, Donald Trump. Theroux rightly avoids the overtly party political in his work, and sticks to allowing these victims – and that is the right phrase – to tell their own stories in their own ways, and allow the viewers to make their own minds up.
For a British viewer, I suppose the thought also arises: what if Brexit fails to deliver jobs and prosperity and social cohesion in the way promised? Where then will the disillusioned of this country turn? Theroux’s next assignment should be closer to home.
There is another thought that comes to mind, though, but I happen to think that his interview with Jimmy Savile, which was talked about so much after Savile’s death and uncovering, did nothing to damage Theroux’s credibility. Yes, he failed to uncover the truth from Savile himself, but that voluntary confession of evil, or even some accidentally word or gesture, was never going to happen and had anyway had evaded many bigger figures than Theroux over many decades. At any rate, Theroux has found better territory in this series – gun murder and sex trafficking follow.
The most famous comb-over in history comes in for some much deserved adulation in Sir Bobby Charlton at 80. Personally I reckon the old boy could have as ridiculous a barnet, up to and including a syrup, as he desired given his titanic achievements in sport and the old-fashioned art of becoming a national treasure. I suppose comparisons with modern football culture – money, basically – are a little fatuous, so I’ll leave those to others who know more about sport.
Instead, I think we can simply revel in a career that gave much to England (including a World Cup) and Manchester United (championships and trophies), and wonder at how it was only this year that Wayne Rooney overtook Charlton’s 40-year record as the top goal-scorer for his club (250 goals). Like that other legend of the era at MUFC, Georgie Best, you should be content just to observe the sheer skill and talent on display. With a heritage such as that, you can see why Manchester United fans sometimes feel a sense of entitlement.
Now that Doctor Foster has finished, I should remind you that the alternative psychodramas of Rellik (BBC1) and Liar (ITV) reach their penultimate episodes on Monday night. Though neither has attracted quite the attention that Suranne Jones and Bertie Carvel’s performances did in Foster, they are both gripping and emotionally mauling dramas, of a type the British public seems to cherish.
If you want a real-life version of that sort of thing then turn to An Hour to Catch a Killer with Trevor McDonald. Although this sounds like one of those hopeless programme ideas Alan Partridge once reeled off to the controller of BBC Television (some of which have subsequently been commissioned on the real world), this in fact combines a still brilliant broadcaster with compelling stories how murders get solved.
It isn’t a great week for comedy, which is a shame, but there’s always the beautifully observed W1A mockumentary about the BBC, and new series on Dave of Red Dwarf, which some of us recall with great affection. Still an unacceptable comedy drought though, for reasons that aren’t clear.
Otherwise you can continue to enjoy the staples of autumn programming: The Apprentice is undimmed in its ability to unearth the most absurd junior entrepreneurs, while Strictly Come Dancing does much the same for the world of celebrity. How many of its vast viewing audience do so ironically, I wonder?
Antiques Roadshow, something of an antique itself, is back on a Sunday evening. Its inexplicable success seems to me down to a national passion for living in the past and an equally basic desire get rich, if only vicariously. It isn’t much about craft or social history, else they’d never ask how much the punter, or antecedent, paid for it, nor have the experts tell the punter what it’s worth. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t give much for the Antiques Roadshow at auction, even if they threw Fiona Bruce in for a job lot.
Louis Theroux: Dark States – Heroin Town (BBC2, Sunday 9pm), Sir Bobby Charlton at 80 (BBC1, Sunday 8.30pm), Rellik (BBC1, Monday 9pm), Liar (ITV, Monday 9pm), An Hour to Catch a Killer With Trevor McDonald (ITV, Thursday 9pm), W1A (BBC2, Monday 10pm), Red Dwarf (Dave, Thursday 10.20pm), The Apprentice (BBC1, Wednesday 9pm), Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1, Saturday 6.35pm), Antiques Roadshow (BBC1, Sunday 8pm)