Louis Theroux's documentary on San Quentin prison (BBC2) was fascinating. But if it was Theroux at his best, it was also Theroux at his worst.
When he first appeared on television, he seemed to have given a new twist to the personalised documentary that was quite refreshing. But as time went on, I became increasingly irritated by his dorkish, faux-naive technique. All that exaggerated incredulity began to grate.
"You have Rice Crispies for breakfast?......Really?.......Wow!"
Entering San Quentin, he was given a stab-proof vest to wear. "What's the point of this?", he asked. It was to prevent him being killed if he were stabbed, the prison officer patiently explained. What the fuck did you think it was for, Louis? A fashion statement? A bib in case you spilt your porridge?
Better, or worse, was to come.
A transgender prisoner known as 'Dorothy' told Louis that inmates sometimes tried to drag her into their cells.
"Why would they do that?", said Louis.
Dorothy's eyes widened to the size of saucers.
"Hello?", she said.
There was self-imposed racial segregation amongst the prisoners. Over a breakfast that included gravy, two tattooed psychos told Louis that if he accepted food from a black inmate they would beat him up.
"Would you really do that?", said Louis, as though he had been threatened with GBH by a gay, Church of England vicar at a garden party.
For God's sake, Louis, give your glasses a clean and take a good look at them.
Once again, British viewers will have been bemused by US sentencing policy. One inmate was serving 500 years plus 11 life sentences. That 'plus' implied that these sentences were to be served consecutively, rather than concurrently.
Now that is worth a 'Really?', a 'Wow!' and a 'WHY?'
Oddly, Louis Theroux's eyebrows didn't move a millimetre vertically at this information.
BBC2 had scheduled recorded coverage of the opening weekend of Liverpool's year as European City Of Culture for 10.45 last night. An over-running darts match pushed it even further back into a graveyard slot, so I missed it.
How wonderfully British!
In my naiveté, I thought our national broadcaster would have some live coverage of the Liverpool events, if only on digital cultural outpost BBC4. But they were busy with two repeats and 'Ten Things You Didn't Know About Tsunamis'.
BBC3, then? Well obviously it would be unthinkable to move a repeat of 'Sex - With Mum and Dad.'
So might there have been more coverage if the City of Culture had been London?