CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV


Surviving America’s Most Hated Family Rating:  The Handmaid’s TaleRating:  Radio 4’s wicked impressions show Dead Ringers sent up Louis Theroux and his shyly bumbling questions on Friday, as it imagined how he might investigate the Cult of Jeremy Corbyn But Louis’s awkward charm was deployed to its full effect on Surviving America’s Most Hated Family (BBC2), as he paid a third visit to the hell-fieriest, most brimstoney religious splinter group in America’s Bible Belt The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, welcomed him back with verbal thunderbolts and prayers for his eternal damnation, which Louis met with a quirked eyebrow Louis’s awkward charm was deployed to its full effect on Surviving America’s Most Hated Family (BBC2), as he paid a third visit to the hell-fieriest, most brimstoney religious splinter group in America’s Bible Belt, writes Christopher StevensIrony must be one of the seven deadly sins in Topeka, because the more wry his questions, the more furious their imprecations Brother Sam, one of the church’s elders, found him especially annoying: ‘Oh Louis,’ he raged, ‘you’re so slimy and slithery, bro ’His approach was far more entertaining than any direct challenge to their bilious rhetoric When cult members waved their placards in the street, the ones that said ‘God Hates America’ and ‘Thank God For 9/11’, members of the public stormed over to yell in their faces —a reaction the cult loves This church is on a mission to cause offence, which is why they yell abuse at mourners during funerals for soldiers, and tie the U S. flag to their feet before literally dragging it through the dirt.What could be more infuriating to them than an understated Englishman looking mildly quizzical?The hate-fuelled preacher who founded the church, Fred Phelps, or Gramps, died five years ago but Louis — who visited in 2007 and then 2011 — discovered Gramps’s children were carrying on his work . . even if they can’t match the virulence of his sermons. One of the most chilling aspects of the superb third series of The Handmaid’s Tale (C4) has been the way new horrors are evoked, writes Christopher Stevens We watch the same characters constantly plotting against each other, in a slow kaleidoscope of exquisitely photographed scenes, writes Christopher StevensFred had an apocalyptic imagination and was convinced that, outside Topeka, much of humanity had developed a taste for eating babies It was said he succumbed to dementia in his last years, and started to question his beliefs that homosexuals were bad people Perhaps that’s what happens when the evil go doolally in old age . . . they become raving sane The elders were giving little away, but the younger generation was willing to be friendly Bethany, 14, told Louis she was also a keen member of her school choir. Currently, they were rehearsing a Michael Jackson medley Even Louis’s eyebrow failed him at this point. ‘Ummm,’ he said, rocking gently, as though stunned by a thunderbolt ‘I know,’ said Bethany, sympathetically. Nerdy pleasure of the weekend  The excellent, series Classic Albums (BBC4) has deconstructed LPs from Simply Red to The Who, but none more influential than Buddy Holly and his breakthrough, The Chirping Crickets Now that’s a classic. If he’d had more time, Louis might have remembered the Topeka congregation once recorded a version of Wacko Jacko’s We Are The World It was called God Hates The World. But the flaw with this documentary was he needed another 30 minutes to do the subject justice The elders of Gilead would approve of much that is preached by Westboro, especially its emphasis on the subjugation of women One of the most chilling aspects of the superb third series of The Handmaid’s Tale (C4) has been the way new horrors are evoked — such as the red felt muzzles and lip rings that compel female slaves to silence We watch the same characters constantly plotting against each other, in a slow kaleidoscope of exquisitely photographed scenes Last year this was monotonous, but this time enough new information is revealed with each twist of the mirrors to keep us enthralled The image of Lincoln’s monument in Washington, smashed to rubble by the Taliban-style rulers of this new America, was a touch of genius

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