Has Louis gone too far this time?

The vet­eran doco-maker’s pok­ing and prob­ing feels wrong this time around.

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Iused to love some of Louis Th­er­oux’s early doc­u­men­taries. He would im­merse him­self into weird worlds and qui­etly and po­litely ask ques­tions that high­lighted the folly of his sub­jects, who were of­ten not very like­able big­ots of one form or an­other.

But in the three-part doc­u­men­tary se­ries Louis Th­er­oux’s LA Sto­ries (Tues­days, 8.30pm, BBC Knowledge) he’s gone for a change of sub­ject mat­ter.

Each episode deals with a dif­fer­ent tale of the hu­man con­di­tion in mod­ern-day Los An­ge­les. The first one, ‘‘Edge of Life’’, sees Th­er­oux stalk­ing the corridors of Cedars Sinai Hos­pi­tal and meet­ing pa­tients fac­ing a last chance at life. Ap­par­ently, the US leads the world in spend­ing on end-oflife care with a ‘‘smor­gas­bord of ex­pen­sive treat­ments’’, but when is it time to stop of­fer­ing treat­ments?

In an at­tempt to throw some light on this de­bate, Th­er­oux meets a young man with leukemia; a 22-year-old in a coma af­ter tak­ing drugs; and an­other with ad­vanced can­cer. He sits in on fam­ily meet­ings with the med­i­cal staff and lis­tens to peo­ple get­ting the worst pos­si­ble news.

‘‘I feel I’ve let ev­ery­one down’’ says Javier, the young man with leukemia, ly­ing in his hos­pi­tal bed.

‘‘You don’t feel Javier’s let you down, do you?’’ Th­er­oux turns to ask the pa­tient’s girl­friend.

This was un­bear­ably sad. But it also made me feel it was in­ap­pro­pri­ate to be watch­ing th­ese peo­ple and their loved ones in the middle of such tragic sit­u­a­tions.

Th­er­oux is po­lite and em­pa­thetic through­out and this is thought­pro­vok­ing stuff. But, still, pok­ing and prob­ing around peo­ple’s de­ci­sions when they’ve been told they’ve got weeks to live, or their loved one might never wake up from his coma – it just feels wrong.

The end does bring an un­ex­pected spark of hope into all this sad­ness. But the ques­tion Th­er­oux has set out to an­swer from the start – when does end-of-life treat­ment go too far – well, it’s sim­ply a ques­tion with no clear an­swer. It’s com­pli­cated and sad and varies from in­di­vid­ual to in­di­vid­ual.

I didn’t en­joy this pro­gramme, it will be a strange per­son who does, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s not. It’s thought-pro­vok­ing and un­com­fort­able. It takes a look at a part of life we too of­ten shy away from. Make time for it.

The Mur­der Detectives (Sun­days, 8.30pm, BBC Knowledge) brings no light re­lief. This United King­dom doco se­ries fol­lows the work of, well, mur­der detectives.

How­ever, this is not a fic­tional mur­der and th­ese are not fic­tional po­lice. So there are no mav­er­ick cops dis­obey­ing or­ders; no high-speed car chases; and no home­spun philoso­phies try­ing to make sense of it all. In­stead, it’s just or­di­nary po­lice at work try­ing hard to find out who mur­dered 19-year-old Ni­cholas. Here is a young man stabbed to death, leav­ing be­hind griev­ing par­ents, a distraught fi­ancee and a life that was just bloom­ing.

There is no nar­ra­tor, and the events and peo­ple are left to tell their own story. And it’s a for­mat that works. It’s ut­terly com­pelling view­ing.

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