It's been three years since his visit to Miami's mega jail but alas, Louis Theroux returned this week with another look at the darker side of The American dream. With a more somber and sad view of the world we live in, this new series looks to be just as fascinating as all Louis Theroux films are, but without the weirdness Louis made a name for himself with. You won't find Louis sipping a Bloody Mary in a swimming pool full of Swingers or await an alien invasion in Nevada again anytime soon. A long way off those sun kissed 'Come to California' adverts, we watch Louis walk the streets of South Los Angeles, one of the most deprived areas of all American cities. Littering these streets alongside heaps of garbage and makeshift homes for the homeless are hundreds of stray dogs, most abandoned, many bred as weaponry for gangs.
City of Dogs is the first of a new three part series that explores compelling issues that plague a City suffering from an over population of stray dogs, a notorious healthcare system and high numbers of sex offenders. Moving out to LA has made Louis sink into his surroundings in preparation for his new series. While Louis Theroux's documentaries have become more serious, lending an overall darker tone, his approach remains unchanged. His blasé, fiercely non-judgemental attitude allows his interviewees to open their hearts to him. His faux naivety isn't an exploitative measure that his critics accuse him of because although admittedly an act, he genuinely cares what people have to say whether that person is bad or not. This allows an interviewee to remain relaxed and answer with honesty as there is never an air aggression or judgment behind the questioning.
City of Dogs was an odd start to his new series as from time to time, he was evidently more interested in the people than the dogs. He was surprisingly quick to suggest that humans must come first before animals to a distraught man who had rescued a badly injured dog. We don't learn anything other than the obvious about the dogs themselves. Millions populate Los Angeles. Thousands roam distressed and in fear throughout the streets of South Central, usually through abandonment. Six city run dog pounds are so overcrowded that the exhausted supervisor of one dog pound has to perform at least seventeen euthanasia's a day just to make room. What we already suspected about the welfare of stray dogs was evident in the documentary without the need to show us too much that may have proved distressing. What we saw then was a sad reminder about the fate of many stray dogs. There were happier moments when we saw dogs find new owners and some powerful moments that highlighted that it is possible to exorcise aggression from dogs that have suffered torrid and abusive lifestyles from birth.
Louis was best when he was with people. Of course we know he can relax anyone into saying everything from asking very little himself. His researchers do a very good job in finding fascinating and eccentric characters for him to spend time with. This and the occasional use of humour are what make his documentaries so good to watch.
City of Dogs ultimately, for me, looked at the connection between humans and dogs, as Louis put, 'A dog's chief flaw is too understand too little about humans but love us too much.'