Louis Theorux is a brilliant, entertaining presenter; from Nazis to survivalists to paedophiles to ultra-zionists, no one can resist opening up to his geeky naive charm. Undoubtedly, and probably unfortunately, much of his appeal comes from this fearlessness in choosing subjects most documentary makers wouldn’t dare touch. His most recent project America’s Most Dangerous Pets seemed straight away to be a slight topical let down, and sadly didn’t live up to its predecessors.
Visiting a few different owners of dangerous animals, Louis tried to explain what the appeal of owning them was, and also, what the practical ramifications of doing so are. Normally this vague, exploratory manner works well with his shows, creating, among other things, varied, deep and human pictures of some truly terrible human beings. Here, with the focus placed uneasily on both the owners and the pets, it came off as uneven and underdeveloped.
Again, unfortunately, it would have been difficult for this topic to be as satisfyingly dealt with as his others. There simply isn’t much there. Whereas normally establishing and questioning the morality of his subjects is as important as whatever is weird about them, all these people were doing ‘wrong’ was owning unusual animals. Where is the interest there? Once they’ve said that they know that tigers can bite off their heads and that they don’t care, the show has nothing left to do with them. Theroux, a man who normally works for hours getting tiny sound bites of ridiculousness out of those who he talks to, almost seems bored. Especially when, in one moment, an animal breeder/owner makes a reference to his two live in boyfriends. Theroux jumps on this more interesting idea, probing the potential problems of such a relationship, and suddenly I wished I was watching him in a documentary about polygamy, or a repeat of his show on swingers.
If America’s Most Dangerous Pets could be free from the unavoidable comparison to his other work it would be far, far better. As it is, this isn’t a bad documentary; anything Theroux does will be full of sharp insight and fun to watch, but don’t expect anything close to America’s Most Hated Family.