After over 25 years in the business, Louis Theroux recounts his time in documentary television making and his personal life alongside it, shedding light on the behind the scenes action of some of his most memorable – and controversial – TV subjects.
Sometimes good work arises from the absence of other options and fate rewards those who hold their nerve when things aren’t going well.
This is an interesting look at the background to some of my favourite and most memorable documentaries. I’m a big fan of Louis Theroux’s approach to documentary making; his deadpan niavety often seems to come across as a careful objectivity and thus somewhat trustworthiness, and often results in moments of unintentional hilarity.
Whilst the books spans Louis’s whole life, and delves into his career as a documentary filmmaker, it heavily focuses on the documentary hedid with Jimmy Savile, part of his When Louis Met… series. It also considers Louis’s subsequent quasi-friendship with Jimmy, and his feelings about this relationship after discovering the legacy of abuse Savile left in his wake. Louis clearly feels that this is somewhat of a defining moment in his career, and the book spends chapters upon chapters disecting the material from the documentary as well as that which ended up on the cutting room floor. It felt like it somewhat took over the book though, and indeed when I reached the end of the audiobook to find there was a bonus chapter of more Savile-related narrative, I found myself desperate for it to end. Louis himself says this additional chapter was cut because the book was at risk of becoming too focused on the topic, but for me that ship had long sailed.
I listened to Louis Theroux’s autobiography as an audiobook, which is read by Louis himself. Unfortunately, Louis’ deadpan delivery doesn’t work quite as well in audiobook form as it does on screen, and coupled with the repetitiveness of rehashing the Savile scandal for much of the book, I found myself zoning out at several points during listening, and eager to get to the end. That’s not to say it didn’t genuinely make me laugh out loud at points, but I think I would have enjoyed the book as a whole a little more if I had read it rather than listened to Theroux’s own recount.
Rating: 3 / 5 stars