Ian Dickson has his face painted in an episode from the second season of First Contact on SBS.
Ian Dickson has his face painted in an episode from the second season of First Contact on SBS. David Dare Parker

TV Insider: Documentaries are the real reality

CALL me old-fashioned, but for me it's all about the documentaries at the moment.

Sick to death of "reality'' television and keen to feel like I'm actually learning something, I've turned to the classic documentary genre and discovered they're not as dry and dull as I remembered them being in my younger years.

The good ones are riveting. They open your eyes to parts of society you may have never seen, challenge your sense of what's right and wrong, and are the ultimate form of people watching.

The best places to find good docos? SBS, Netflix and Stan. I'm no guru in the genre, but here are my picks.

Louis Theroux: You will find 22 of his shows on streaming service Stan (and I may have binge watched a few). Despite the difficult and uncomfortable topics he tackles, Theroux does so without any sense of being on a high horse. He remains impartial while verbalising his thoughts as he grapples with the situation at hand. My favourites so far - America's Medicated Kids, City Addicted to Crystal Meth and Place for Paedophiles.

Extremis, Netflix: This 24-minute Netflix Original show takes viewers behind the scenes of a hospital ICU as patients and their families make heartbreaking choices when there are few treatment options left. I wouldn't watch this if you're having a bad day, but don't write it off. It carries an important lesson about putting plans in place in case you find yourself unable to verbalise your wishes.

Lockdown, SBS: The first of this two-part Insight special aired on Tuesday night and followed the crew into the maxiumum-security Silverwater Women's Correctional Centre. Host Jenny Brockie talks to staff and four inmates about their crimes, their remorse (or lack of) and life on the inside. If you missed it this week, catch up on SBS on Demand ahead of part two on Tuesday at 8.30pm.

First Contact: This is one to keep on your radar, the first episode of season two to air on Tuesday, November 29 at 8.30pm on SBS. Last year season one followed a group of everyday Australians with different opinions on indigenous Australia on a journey to meet Aboriginal people living in different circumstances. This time, host Ray Martin takes well-known Aussies - including singer Natalie Imbruglia, former One Nation politician David Oldfield, TV personality Ian "Dicko" Dickson, and comedian Tom Ballard - on the trip. Season one is available on SBS On Demand now.

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