Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends on Google Video

Picture 6-45 Weird Weekends was a BBC2 show (1998-2000) about weird people and weird movements in America: UFO hunters, survivalists, white supremacists, habitual Vegas gamblers, porn actors, swingers, and so on.

It was hosted by Louis Theroux, son of writer Paul Theroux. A few days ago I downloaded a bunch of episodes of Weird Weekends from Google Video, and I have been enjoying them as much as any television I've ever seen. Even the ones I didn't think I'd be interested in (infomercial inventors) were fascinating.

Theroux is funny without being obnoxious, and his sense of curiosity is strong enough to make him ask potentially embarrassing but profoundly revealing questions of his subjects. The people Theroux interviews immediately feel comfortable around him because he is so friendly and non-threatening, which makes them open right up to him. (The only time I've seen anyone get mad at him was when he was interviewing a white racist skinhead family and he refused to tell them if he was Jewish or not.)

He also wrote a book in 2005 called The Call of the Weird: Travels in American Subcultures, where he goes back and visits the people he interviewed on his program. I just bought it but I'm going to hold off reading it until I've finished watching all the episodes.

Here are the videos I found (some are from later shows called When Louis Met... and another show called Louis and...). Each one is about an hour long, and you can download them to your iPhone or computer if you want to watch them offline: Survivalists, Neo-Nazis, Westboro Baptist Church, Porn Industry, Black Supremacists, Swingers, Body Builders, UFO Hunters, Apertheid Diehards in South Africa, Legal Nevada Brothels, Thai Brides, Gangsta' Rap, Hypnosis, Televangelists, Demolition Derby, Off-Off Broadway, Wrestling, Vegas, Enlightenment, San Quentin State Prison

UPDATE: Jesse Thorne of Maximum Fun interviewed Louis for The Sound of Young America last year. Here's the interview.


  1. The link to San Quentin State Prison doesn’t work unfortunately, but it’s a great episode that aired twice in recent weeks on the BBC.

    Louis really is a genius of the reporting world. Always neutral, and always asking questions.

  2. i saw the porn industry episode on a virgin atlantic flight. it was one of the most amazing pieces of embedded/investigative journalism i’ve seen – also one of the most depressing shows i’ve watched too.

  3. More recently, Louis did a show about cosmetic surgery – the “high” point of which was him getting liposuction on camera!

    (He paid for the procedure out of his own money, so calm down License Fee Haters.)

    The Wrestling episode is showing its age a bit – he goes backstage at WCW Nitro. But I don’t think I ever saw this one, so I’ll watch it.

  4. Nerd Update: In the Wrestling episode, I recognised one of the wrestlers training at the WCW Power Plant as now being TNA Wrestling’s Elix Skipper. I wonder if he still remembers the gangly, unfit BBC journalist being made to exercise until he puked?

  5. When Louis met… was definitely my favourite series, especially the Jimmy Saville and Max Clifford episodes.

    I was going to suggest watching him in the documentary Louis Theroux and the Most Hated family in America, then I saw Westboro Baptist Church already listed. This was definitely one of his finest hours.

  6. I just watched the brothel episode and really enjoyed it. I’m not sure I liked it, though.

    Louis (and everyone else) seems agonizingly oblivious to the similarities amongst themselves. They’re almost all manipulating and serving each other up while trying to maintain a persona of professionalism or caring. Everyone is using everyone else and either doesn’t know it or just takes it for granted. While I don’t doubt the dynamic exists at the brothel and it’s valid to show it between everyone who works there, when Louis gets involved it turns interesting journalism into interesting reality tv.

    I can’t decide if Louis is earnest or not. At the end of the brothel episode he gives that weird speech about how he can’t hire a prostitute because what she does is fake and he requires a sincere performance. The irony was blinding. If he was making that up then he deserves kicked in both knees for taking advantage of those people. If he told the truth, then the whole thing devolves into psychodrama which wasn’t helpful to anyone involved and was more than a little pathetic once filmed. But it was still enjoyable and interesting. I don’t like the way that video made me feel.

    I may be down on journalists. Yesterday I saw a photo of a man trying to beat out the beginnings of a brush fire by himself. He wasn’t going to succeed on his own, but two people could’ve done it. The second person was busy recording the moment on film, though. I was angry and hope the guy succeeded then told the photographer to piss off. I’m not sure I can call dispassionate observation like that ethical. Louis is at least feigning that. But if it’s not real, if he is getting as embedded and entangled as it seems, then participation can be just as unethical as standing by and watching the poor guy’s house burn while getting astounding footage. In fact, it might be very close to starting the fire just to see the man stomp around. I’m not sure what to make of that.

  7. Louis Theroux is the best – his tongue is always in cheek, and he succeeds because he tries hard not to show that. He’s the knowing straight man who feigns a bit of ignorance to get things out of people. He does this, though with good humor and general empathy with the people he’s talking to, and it’s not exploitive that he does this in the fringes of society, that’s the whole point – to draw and spell out the differences between what is considered “fringe” or “normal”.

    If you can find it, his interview with Michael Jackson’s father is not to be missed.

  8. These are great shows! I remember another time someone got really mad at Louis: It was in the episode where he tried demolition derby. He worked with two owners of a junk yard to build a car. They got him in a tournament and he qualified for the finals – and he chickened out! The first round had apparently scared the crap out of him. The two junk yard partners looked like they were going to kill him with their bare hands. Pretty funny stuff.

  9. He is NOT always neutral. He frequently interjects his opinions into the documentary. This is NOT neutral reporting, as Maurik suggests. A good reporter would be able to stay neutral. I don’t blame him, though. These are great documentary films. He stayed in the game longer than I could when he interviewed the racist fu$^ers.

  10. Thanks for putting those videos. They remind me a lot of Penn and Teller’s Showtime program Bullshit.

  11. I watched the demolition demo episode and did not see what Johannm saw. The ‘junk yard partners’ didn’t look angry to me-not even a bit. But I agree, it was a funny episode.

  12. I love these shows. I found a bunch of them through TV Links shortly before if got shut down (damn the Man, I say), and I thought they were so interesting that I watched six of them in a row.

    I actually like the fact that Theroux doesn’t try to remain completely neutral and objective. To admit one’s own biases is probably the most honest stance one could take in presenting a documentary. I do wonder sometimes whether his “concerned” moments are a bit manufactured, but overall, the presentation is very even-handed. I wish that there was more room for this kind of “reporting” in regular TV programming.

  13. The apartheiders sent shivers down my spine. The woman enjoys listening to Lionel Richie but won’t accept him. They listen to black music. UGH. I hope she gets kicked to death by the ostriches. They have black feathers.

  14. If this were Metafilter, I would SO favorite this….

    Wait a second, BoingBoing has a favorites feature now! Checked.

  15. The videos are gone – darnit – I have watched all but three or four of them- really wanted to see the wrestling…great series!

  16. Bummer! It seems Google has taken all of them down. Some snippets still on youtube, but not all of them. I knew I should have d/led them right away.

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