Remote Control - TV round-up

Remote Control

Brian Donaldson covers his ears at Tourette’s sufferers, weapons of war and moaning teenagers.

Amid the bespectacled blundering and the wide-eyed naivety, Louis Theroux has made some witty and insightful documentaries in his time. Whether it’s been the all-too real worlds of the porn industry, white supremacy or Christian fundamentalism, he has often shown some pretty awful and sad people being exposed for us all to see, mock and pity. With Louis Theroux: Gambling in Las Vegas (BBC2, w/c 13 Jan - 2 stars), all that is exposed is how you can get an ill-thought out idea stretched into one very long hour’s telly if you’re a big enough name. Did you know that gambling can be quite addictive and that the thrill of taking part will almost always overshadow the impending and inevitable loss? Perhaps the biggest revelation is that the casinos actually maintain the façade that they are genuinely concerned about people losing money when this pain is the sole basis for their sprawling success.

In one way at least, Keith Allen comes straight out of the Louis Theroux school of documentary-making. Here, barely 20 seconds will go by without the Sheriff of Nottingham in the camera’s eye, upsettingly detracting from the so-called subjects of his documentary. Tourettes de France (Channel 4, Thu 11 Jan, 10pm - 3 stars) is ostensibly about a young bunch of Scottish kids, led by the iconic sufferer John Davidson, going on a trip to France to visit the hospital where the condition was discovered and which is also now notorious as the place where Diana spent her final dying moments.

But as we get utterly irrelevant shots of Keith’s phone going off, Keith collapsing into giggles while filming his narration or Keith pulling silly faces, you realise that this film tells us nothing that we don’t already know from documentaries such as John’s Not Mad, the QED from the late 80s which turned Davidson into an unwitting cult figure: mainly, what is involuntarily shouted is almost always the worst thing that could be said at that given moment. So the crew’s Ghanaian bus driver bears witness to explosions of racist words while a gentle stroll past Buckingham Palace is rudely interrupted by shouts of ‘bomb!’ and ‘the Queen’s a lesbian!!’ All the while this is going on, and you are laughing when you know you shouldn’t be, it’s hard not to cynically wonder what came first: the title for the show or the idea?

Inventions of War (Five, Mon 8 Jan, 8pm - 3 stars) is quite possibly the loudest programme on TV since The Tweenies controversial ‘Learn How To Shout at the Top of Your Voice’ episode. The constant rat-a-tat, clanging and general smash-bang-wallop of the weaponry on show will have you diving for the ear plugs, an appliance which the young ‘parents’ involved in the ‘scientific’ experiment of Baby Borrowers (BBC3, Thu 8 Jan, 10.30pm - 3 stars) clearly wish they could have packed as they enter their controlled living conditions. A gang of teenage couples are placed into their own three-bedroom house, and over the course of four weeks are handed various things to take special care of, from pets to pensioners. You sit with mouth wide open and wonder about many things, none of them very nice. But above all, who on earth would let their own baby fall into the incapable hands of these spiteful, selfish and spoiled brats?

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