Several television critics, including icon Robert Ebert, often applaud the Home Box Office (HBO) network for airing groundbreaking content. HBO has built its award-winning reputation on being fearless with its original programming. This bold, air-what-HBO-likes attitude has led to series like “The Corner” and “The Wire” as well as intense documentaries about everything from September 11 to the Iraq War.
So, it’s no surprise the network is broadcasting “Vice.” The new series, from a brazen Internet-based media company of the same name, reports amazing stories from around the globe. HBO describes “Vice” as “startling,” also adding:
[Vice] smashes barriers of decorum to cover such stories as out-of-control political assassinations in the Philippines, the sumo/Mixed Martial Arts craze that has swept Senegal and the precarious nuclear stare-down in Kashmir. Vice’s fearless approach is like nothing else on television and will show some of the scariest, weirdest and most absurd customs and practices known to humanity.
Smashing barriers is an understatement. The first episode aired April 5 and chronicled Vice’s founder Shane Smith’s, journey to dangerous terrain. He sits down with a member of the Taliban to tackle suicide bombings. Other episodes include reporters traveling with retired NBA star, Dennis Rodman, to North Korea to meet with Dictator Kim Jong Un.
The “Vice” team is fearless, venturing outside of journalism perimeters to capture stories often left untold. I wouldn’t encourage parents to watch “Vice” with their children or underage members of their families. It is designed to be blunt and devoid of fluff, so some of the footage is graphic. Severed heads and kids toting automatic assault rifles can turn some stomachs.
“Vice” is targeted toward males between the ages of 18-to-34 according to PolicyMic, but much of the content covered is engaging for women of color, particularly millennials. It is the news left to the last five minutes of traditional news broadcasts that demands further attention.
However, some critics are concerned with “Vice,” offering several pieces of criticism.
Sam Blum, a cultural critic, writes for PolicyMic:
The bare-bones formula is a worthwhile method for giving viewers a quick, yet thought-provoking look at the pitfalls of modern society, but it shouldn’t be the endgame of their storytelling, nor should it provide a reason to become too close to their subjects. There needs to be a concerted distance and established relationship between reporters and their subjects, no matter how illuminating a story might become.
Others agree, including New York Times critic Mike Hale. He refers to “Vice” as a “cross between MTV and Maxim for the digital age,” adding:
The problem with “Vice” isn’t its insistent aggrandizement but its excessive softheadedness. It’s journalism at the intersection of shallow and gullible, where they meet, high-five and compare tattoos. We get ride-alongs and interviews, though precious little information. The report from the Philippines contains one unsourced statistic about political killings but no discussion of the effects of poverty or the legacy of American colonization.
Though their critiques are warranted, the show’s producers including Bill Maher and CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, see “Vice” as a valuable contribution to the 24/7 news cycle.
Zakaria, who serves as one of the show’s producing consultants, told the Huffington Post “Vice” will pull in a younger audience.
“We should be cheering people who are able to get Americans — particularly younger Americans — to be interested, to be fascinated, to be engaged by the big international stories that are going on out there,” he said. “What I have tended to do is always try to focus on the spine of the story. It’s great to have color, it’s great to have juice, it’s great to have attitude. You also want to couple that with a narrative or analytic spine that’s coherent and intelligent, and that’s what we’ve focused on.”
“Vice” airs on HBO Fridays at 11/10(c).
Clutchettes, are you watching “Vice?”