Louis Theroux sheds light on the dark side of the American dream

Louis Theroux looks at the drug epidemic blighting post-industrial America
Louis Theroux looks at the drug epidemic blighting post-industrial America

If Louis Theroux ever turns up on your doorstep, you know you must be in trouble.

Whether it’s American jails, white supremacists or notoriously weird ex-Radio One DJs, Theroux likes sticking his nose in where it may not be wanted.

In the many-titled Louis Theroux – Dark States: Heroin Town (BBC2, 9pm, Sundays), he visited Huntington, in West Virginia.

The town is struggling – like many in the industrial US – with the decline of manufacturing, unemployment and drugs.

Theroux followed addict Cotillia, who is trapped in an abusive relationship with a man called Alvin, who claimed to be helping her battle her addiction, but in reality merely seemed to encourage it. Then there was Alicia, whose newborn baby was battling withdrawal thanks to her addiction.

Meanwhile, former junkie Mickey showed Louis around the riverside camp many of the addicts had set up after being made homeless.

One of them, Nate, was evangelical about the life of an addict. However, later he talked about his child – who he rarely saw – and merely shrugged his shoulders, saying: “I don’t care about anything, cos getting high is too important to me.”

Louis’ shtick is well-established – he bumbles in, the well-intentioned naif, and asks questions other, more confrontational, interviewers might not get away with.

The fact we know what we’re getting though, doesn’t lessen the impact of the despair and hopelessness he uncovers. The hopelessness of the addicts, but also of the authorities, struggling with an epidemic which began with the over-prescription of legal opiate pain pills.

A dark hour, certainly, but also illuminating.

I thought The Last Post (BBC1, 9pm, Sundays) would be just Downton in the desert – full of stiff-upper lipped chaps and demure lasses – but the first two episodes have been more complex than caricature.

Liar (ITV, 9pm, Mondays) started off promisingly, full of grey areas, but seems to be degenerating into the usual vigilante bilge. Hopefully, Monday’s finale will avoid the bunny boiler cliches.