Gotta Get Theroux This: My Life and Strange Times on Television – Book Review
Author: Louis Theroux
Genre: Memoir, audiobook
My rating: ★★★★☆
Release Date: Published 19th September, 2019 by Macmillan
Format: Audio book, 13 hours, 12 minutes
What did I think?
I listened to the audio book which was, naturally, narrated by Louis.
It was nice to hear a little background to his life because, although I’ve been a fan of his shows for a while I hadn’t really looked into his personal history all that much. I agree with a couple of other reviewers that 1. this book will be more appealing to those who have already seen some of his documentaries (Ginger) because, 2. as another reviewer mentioned, it’s ‘almost more of a companion piece to the TV shows’ (Matt Whittington).
What Louis presents in his shows can be downright difficult to watch. Awkward, yet giving insight into different lives and afflictions. I don’t get upset over him presenting about child sex offenders in a treatment facility (in ‘A Place for Paedophiles’), murderers found insane and sentenced to a psychiatric ward rather than prison (as in ‘By Reason of Insanity’), nor those addicted to opiates (‘Heroin Town’). There are always people who will regret taking part but on the whole I don’t feel that these were just titillating shows. If you watch them with the right attitude, there is something to be learned.
Overall, I think Louis does a fine, if imperfect, job of showing many of us worlds and people that we might otherwise not understand. I always hope that those who agreed to be in the documentaries continue to be okay with it. I know at least one person (from My Scientology Movie) went back and forth on that and when you’re dealing with those with mental illness, dementia or drug addiction you hope that the entire production team proceeded carefully with issues of consent. I prefer his later documentaries as he became more serious in his treatment and subjects.
Back to the book. Its title describes the content, but being a fan, I saw “Louis Theroux” and didn’t bother reading “My Life and Strange Times on Television”. Therefore, I was initially surprised the book focused so much on his work. I didn’t mind. I enjoyed the inside stories on some shows I’d seen, and I also enjoyed hearing about how he got started in the different series he made and his feature film, My Scientology Movie.
The whole mess with Jimmy Savile is discussed in the book. It makes sense as it was something that bothered Louis after the first Savile documentary and led to his follow up, Louis Theroux: Savile. In the personal arena, Louis did give some background from his childhood and adolescence and mentioned his two main relationships, including Nancy, his wife and mother to his boys. He didn’t spend a heap of time on his private life though and I assume that was for privacy reasons, though another reviewer thought he talked more about his relationships than I did – did I miss part of the book? Assuming not, I appreciate that. Just because Louis is happy to put it all out there (including his enlarged testicle – sorry about the spoiler there) it doesn’t mean his family wants to.
Louis strikes me as an over thinker (with which I can relate) and I wonder if that is why I enjoy his interviews with people so much. His ability to push through the awkwardness, though, is not something I could ever do. He comes across in the book as he does in his TV shows. Likable, a smidge bumbling, self-deprecating, imperfect, yet caring, and funny. Louis isn’t trying to solve the worlds problems through his book or tv shows, rather he’s presenting it to us so that we can understand better the difficulties people face, the grey areas. I think the documentaries are more my style (well, for the topics I’m interested in, anyway – there are a few I’ll probably never watch), yet I thoroughly enjoyed this different, inside take on Louis’ TV career.
Other Theroux documentaries that I recommend: