“A certain sense of normality”

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 by

And so my slight Louis Theroux thread continues. This weekend I watched a preview copy of his new documentary,Louis Theroux – Gambling in Las Vegas. It’s going to be on BBC2 sometime w/c 3 February.

The old iconography was there – the startled silhouette over the opening titles – but the programme itself was a tentative step forward for the documentary-maker. Unhappily, he’s taking on a subject matter Hardeep Singh Kohli deals with quite entertainingly next week on Channel 4 in £50 Says You’ll Watch This, but his remains the superior effort. He hangs out in a Las Vegas casino, befriending staff and punters in a windowless world of tumbling dials, electronic beeps, and men pleading, “Big, BIG!” as the cards fall. 

What I found particularly interesting was the lack of any grotesques. Everyone he encounters is pretty much an ordinary Joe. I got to interview Louis yesterday, and put this to him (after tipping him off about Hardeep’s show – “Oh nooooo!” he groaned). Was it a conscious decision, I wondered …

“Was it conscious? I think it was little bit conscious and a little bit unconscious. We’ve tried to come back with more of a sense of scale in our show, with subjects that don’t feel in anyway stitched together – that don’t really hang on my journey too much. They don’t have to be linked by me, you know, ‘Then I decided to meet someone else’. Something big enough to fill an hour. And you could just stay with them and see things unfolding and developing. 

“Perhaps with that goes a certain sense of, for want of a better word, normality. Gambling is something that isn’t on the margins. It’s kind of… you know, it’s a picture of the mainstream cultural landscape. You could say that pornography is mainstream in certain ways. But I guess less so than gambling. Gambling is less stigmatised. It’s more of an acceptable, public behaviour.”


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