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01st Aug 2018

Netflix’s new documentary series is an enjoyable diet-version of Louis Theroux

Wil Jones

Netflix keeps coming with the docs

If you are anything like me, despite the many hours of fine programming on the Netflix home streaming service, you just end up watching old Louis Theroux shows over and over again. Especially Weird Weekends. I am not exaggerating, I have probably watched the wrestling and rap episodes at least 30 times each.

Anyway, despite my refusal to engage with new media, Netflix do actually make a lot of high quality documentaries. Making A Murderer. Amanda Knox. The 13th. Jim and Andy. Hot Girls Wanted. The Staircase. You might have heard of them.

Their latest doc series though, has a very Louis Theroux vibe. And not just because the presenter, New Zealand journalist David Farrier, is tall and has glasses like Theroux (he also resembles Jermaine from Flight of the Conchords).

Dark Tourist is based around the concept of ‘dark tourism’ – the idea of visiting places associated with death, disasters, tragedies or warzones. It sounds rather bleak, but just like true-crime shows, it can also be fascinating.

Farrier visits unique parts of the world, such as visit the radioactive abandoned towns near Fukushima, or hanging out with one of Pablo Escobar’s hitmen, or trying to find real life vampires in New Orleans. Farrier don’t just look like Theroux, he’s got that confused everyman shtick down as well, and is a lot of fun to watch.

What makes the show really interesting though is when it comes to the tourism element of it. Instead of just visiting these weird places, he looks at the attractions that pop up around them, and the people that choose to visit. He ponders the morality of Jeffrey Dahmer tours in Milwaukee, or trashy recreations of the JFK assassination in Dallas. He hangs out with an ordinary British dad who likes to spend his holidays in warzones and swimming at nuclear testing grounds, and tries to figure out what makes him tick.

All documentaries like this are ultimately voyeuristic – we are fascinated by the dark side of life, which is why things like Serial or Making A Murderer are so popular. And Dark Tourist at least acknowledges this. It is definitely worth a watch.