Errol Morris Makes His Groundbreaking Series, First Person, Free to Watch Online: Binge Watch His Interviews with Geniuses, Eccentrics, Obsessives & Other Unusual Types

Who do we nor­mal­ly see inter­viewed on tele­vi­sion? Actors, pop singers, politi­cians, and oth­er famous fig­ures, many of whom have under­gone rig­or­ous media train­ing, few of whom have espe­cial­ly inter­est­ing per­son­al­ties in the first place, and none of whom could stand up to Errol Mor­ris’ Inter­ro­tron. Essen­tial­ly a teleprompter mod­i­fied to dis­play Mor­ris’ face on its screen, the Inter­ro­tron made a new kind of filmed inter­view pos­si­ble: “For the first time,” Mor­ris has said, “I could be talk­ing to some­one, and they could be talk­ing to me and at the same time look­ing direct­ly into the lens of the cam­era. Now, there was no look­ing off slight­ly to the side. No more faux first per­son. This was the true first per­son.”

Hence First Per­son, the Inter­ro­tron-cen­tered tele­vi­sion series Mor­ris pro­duced and direct­ed in the ear­ly 2000s. By that time Mor­ris had already become well known for his inter­view-based doc­u­men­taries, which went deep into unusu­al sub­jects like the pet ceme­tery busi­ness (Gates of Heav­en), a dubi­ous mur­der tri­al in Texas (The Thin Blue Line), and the mind of Stephen Hawk­ing (A Brief His­to­ry of Time). In 1997’s Fast, Cheap, and Out of Con­trol Mor­ris invit­ed into the Inter­ro­tron a lion tamer, a top­i­ary gar­den­er, a roboti­cist and a hair­less mole-rat expert, weav­ing the four inter­views togeth­er into threads to do with themes of emer­gence and con­trol. But what could tie togeth­er con­ver­sa­tions with a true-crime author, a cry­on­ics pro­mot­er, a lawyer to the mob, and an author­i­ty on giant squids?

Those are just four of First Per­son’s sev­en­teen sub­jects, each of whom has their uncom­mon knowl­edge, dis­tinc­tive abil­i­ty, har­row­ing expe­ri­ence, or dirty job — or some com­bi­na­tion there­of — probed by Mor­ris for an entire episode. Some of them, such as ani­mal-behav­ior expert and autism spokes­woman Tem­ple Grandin, have become much more well-known since appear­ing on the show. Oth­ers have been sen­tenced to serve 15 years in prison. And giv­en the two decades that have passed since the show first aired, some of them have since shuf­fled off this mor­tal coil: Den­nis Fitch, for instance, the pilot who assist­ed in the “impos­si­ble” crash-land­ing of Unit­ed Air­lines Flight 232 after its sud­den and com­plete loss of con­trol — and whose sto­ry is the most grip­ping hour in First Per­son’s entire run.

Mor­ris’ fans will sense in First Per­son themes the direc­tor explored before and has explored fur­ther since. Take the nature of intel­li­gence, at the fore­front of First Per­son’s two episodes on men with some of the high­est IQ-test scores on record. Mor­ris finds Chris Lan­gan think­ing his way toward some­thing called a “Cog­ni­tive-The­o­ret­ic Mod­el of the Uni­verse” and an intel­lec­tu­al priest­hood meant to gov­ern the world to come. Richard Ros­ner, despite his equal­ly for­mi­da­ble brain, divides his time between nude mod­el­ing and obses­sive­ly re-lit­i­gat­ing a failed Who Wants to Be a Mil­lon­aire? appear­ance. (At the time Mor­ris got them into the Inter­ro­tron, both men also worked as bar bounc­ers.) You may well come away from these episodes won­der­ing just what a high IQ gets a per­son. But if you watch the com­plete First Per­son, bro­ken into playlists of its first and sec­ond sea­son, on Errol Mor­ris’ Youtube chan­nel, that will be just one of the fas­ci­nat­ing and trou­bling ques­tions run­ning through your mind for years to come.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Errol Mor­ris Cap­tures Com­pet­i­tive Eat­ing Cham­pi­on “El Wingador”

Watch A Brief His­to­ry of Time, Errol Mor­ris’ Film About the Life & Work of Stephen Hawk­ing

How Benoit Man­del­brot Dis­cov­ered Frac­tals: A Short Film by Errol Mor­ris

Novem­ber 22, 1963: Watch Errol Mor­ris’ Short Doc­u­men­tary About the Kennedy Assas­si­na­tion

Errol Mor­ris Med­i­tates on the Mean­ing and His­to­ry of Abra­ham Lincoln’s Last Pho­to­graph

Errol Mor­ris and Wern­er Her­zog in Con­ver­sa­tion

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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