Everything you need to know about Louis Theroux: Dark States

When and how to watch the new documentary series – and what each episode is about

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King of documentaries Louis Theroux is not taking on easy topics with his latest show. The gonzo journalist will be “exploring American cities that face uniquely devastating challenges” in the three-part Dark States series, investigating drugs, sex and murder across the USA.

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Episode 1: Heroin town

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When is it on TV?

9pm Sunday 8th October, BBC2

What’s the show about?

In Huntington, West Virginia, Louis Theroux embeds himself in an Appalachian community that is being devastated and stretched to its limits by widespread heroin use. He spends time with members of the user community that are caught in the grip of drug addiction, and follows the emergency services as they struggle to cope with multiple overdoses each day.

What’s can I expect?

How does Louis Theroux keep finding these tragic, under-reported stories? For the first of a three-part series he takes us to a ravaged flip-side of America, sitting just behind screen doors on suburban streets.

He’s in Huntington, West Virginia, a blue-collar industrial town where “the most deadly drug epidemic in US history” is unfolding. A bespectacled 25-year-old named Petty Betty explains how she started taking prescription painkillers when she was 12 (“I just wanted to fit in”) and slid from there into heroin use – a pattern repeated across the addicts Louis meets. One in ten babies in the city is now born dependent on opiates.

The story of Katilya and her relationship with boyfriend Alvin is heartbreaking: in the space of a few minutes of screen time, the way she peels back the layers of their relationship for Louis – who acts like a father confessor to troubled souls – is painfully sad.

Review by David Butcher

Episode 2: Trafficking Sex

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When is it on TV?

9pm Sunday 15th October, BBC2

What is it about?

Louis explores the sex trade in Houston, examining how the city has become a major centre for people trafficking, with one in five victims in the US being transported there. He also uncovers the complex dynamic between prostitutes and pimps, learning the rules the sex trade is run by and the factors that prevent women from escaping abusive arrangements. Louis also accompanies vice officers on an undercover operation, and talks to them about the challenges they face in persuading prostitutes to testify against pimps.

Episode 3: Murder In Milwaukee

(BBC, TL)
(BBC, TL)

When is it on TV?

9pm Sunday 22nd October, BBC2

What is it about?

Milwaukee is said to be one of the most racially divided and impoverished cities in the US. With spiralling gun crime and homicide rates, this Midwestern city encapsulates America’s complex and troubled relationship with guns and the increasing disharmony between African American communities and the police.

In Murder In Milwaukee Louis spends time with the Milwaukee Police Department as they patrol District 5, home to some of the nation’s deadliest streets, with a homicide rate over 12 times the national average. He follows the Homicide division as they investigate one of the city’s many killings. He also embeds himself with families and local social activists who have lost loved ones to these nightly acts of violence, and discovers a community who are often misunderstood by, and mistrustful of, the police.

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Arriving at a time of heightened tension between the police and the African American community, due to a recent police shooting, Louis hears from both sides of the debate and uncovers hope in a desperate city.