Good things on TV last night

I long ago downloaded Louis Theroux’s excellent 2007 doco on the barking mad Phelps clan miscalled a church and much loved by atheists all around the world, so I was hot to see the sequel on ABC2 last night, Here is was called Louis Theroux: Return to The Most Hated Family. There is nothing worth admiring about the Phelpses, though one’s heart does go out to those brave and bright enough to escape Lady Macbeth and the execrable bigot Gramps.


Louis Theroux showed himself more truly Christian, even if he is an atheist/agnostic, than his hosts. And if ever you doubted that individualistic Bible Study can be very dangerous, an odd position to hold given the history of the Christian church and its offshoots, then surely this clan would convince you. One thing was for sure – Jesus, should he have turned up, would have been totally alienated by the Phelpses and all they stand for. They really are quite revolting.

In 2007, Louis Theroux spent a summer living with the community of the Westboro Baptist Church in the USA, famed for their offensive ministry. Now Louis returns to find the family more hateful than ever.

When Louis first met the Phelps family, he accompanied the family as they travelled the country holding signs such as ‘God Hates Fags’ and ‘Soldiers Die God Laughs’. America hated them and they revelled in their notoriety.

Now Louis returns to find a very different community. More like a cult than ever before, they are convinced the world is about to end and are making even more outrageous gestures such as burning the Koran.

Louis is accepted back into the family, but he finds them more combative than before. They see him as part of the prophecy; the ‘mocker and scoffer’ sent by God to chide his elect.

As the family’s behaviour becomes even more extreme, some of the younger members of the Church have fallen away. Louis catches up with those who made the decision to leave the family, knowing that in doing so, they will never see their parents again.

Although Louis finds the Phelps family more vengeful, more hateful and more controversial than ever, he also finds a family heading towards uncertain times, losing its members as it binds its youngest ever more tightly.

The doco is also called Louis Theroux – America’s Most Hated Family IN CRISIS.

Over on ABC News 24 at 9.30 there was an excellent documentary Who Makes The News? exploring the relationship between television and politics.

Narrated by ABC broadcaster Geraldine Doogue, the program retraces some of the biggest political stories of the past 50 years, with archival vision and interviews with ABC reporters and political operatives that shed light on the mindsets and decisions that shaped Australia and its broadcast news.

Who Makes The News? revisits ABC political coverage: the impact of the Vietnam War; the rise and fall of Gough Whitlam; the day Bob Hawke became Labor leader; Paul Keating’s Redfern speech; John Howard’s gun buyback program and the security scares of 2001; and the Rudd/Gillard contest of 2010.

This documentary also explores current views on the impact of the continuous news cycle on political outcomes. Interviews include: Kerry O’Brien, Gerald Stone, Tim Bowden, Barrie Cassidy, Greg Turnbull, Jim Middleton, Grahame Morris, Lachlan Harris, Chris Uhlmann, Mark Simkin, Arthur Sinodinos, Russell Mahoney, Ken Begg and Fran Kelly.

This TV special has been produced in conjunction with the celebration of 50 years of local ABC TV broadcasting in Canberra. Executive Producer: Eric Napper.

If it is shown again don’t miss it. It was also, in my view, very fair-minded.