Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends: Survivalists (1998)

Of course all of Louis’s brilliant Weird Weekends series are worth watching, but few delve into the world of American politics so deeply and surprisingly as this jaunt, riding shotgun with a bunch of Christian militia in the Pacific Northwest and then making a foray into the world of white supremacists; only the fourth episode in his first series of epic and groundbreaking documentary shorts.

Louis helped launch the hipster subculture back then at the turn of the millennium and the entertainment here is the ‘fish out of water’ factor as this erudite and somewhat effeminate BBC insider travels round the USA embedding himself in obscure subcultures. The result was TV dynamite and fuelled decades more spin-offs in the same vein. But the earlier ones were better, generally, as we get to observe lifestyles that had not yet been openly photographed in this way, and before social media and youtube made it commonplace and frankly a bit boring.

What is fascinating here is how uncluttered Louis’s interactions with the survivalists are by overt commentary and editorializing. He lets the conversations speak for themselves and there‘s an organic innocence and information-rich nature to them. Another thing that makes this particular episode a winner is how much, unusually, what Louis finds is not exactly what he expected.

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