Once upon a time there was a magazine which dared to boldly show what the mainstream press didn’t want you to know. This magazine’s name was VICE and its pages were packed with stories you wouldn’t see anywhere else. Over the years VICE has blossomed into a multi-billion-dollar organisation spanning all kinds of media.
However, the bigger it gets, the more hit and miss the content seems to become. On one hand, you have the award-winning documentaries the network has become known for: on the other, just take a quick look through VICE’s Facebook page and you’d be forgiven for thinking that little exists in the world except fetishes and marijuana. So, things looked promising earlier this year when VICE launched a bold new initiative with, according to CEO Shane Smith, the main goal of ‘trying not to be shitty’.
Enter VICELAND, a television channel bringing a host of shows old and new right to your living room. VICE are no strangers to the world of TV, having aired the self-titled Emmy winning news show VICE on HBO since 2013 and more on MTV - but this marks the first time that they have had their own channel. In a world that increasingly revolves around the internet, it seems as if VICE are almost taking a step backward, but the move will make their content accessible to millions across the globe.
Those already acquainted with VICE will recognise some familiar faces such as Action Bronson and Thomas Morton, each with their own show. The programmes are worth watching, they deliver VICE’s usual vibes.
But one episode of Morton’s Balls Deep (be careful how you google that) seemed to highlight one of VICELAND’s flaws. In said episode, Morton spends a week with pupils about to graduate school in Indiana, doing all sorts of youthful activities like playing baseball, basketball and even going to a beach party. The programme delivers an interesting insight into the lives of this community, but the whole thing almost seems to scream ‘Look at us young people, we understand you!’ To me it sums up the issue that some of the programmes on VICELAND seem to be trying too hard to please a younger audience. But hey, I am that audience so why am I complaining? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Disney now own 20% of VICE, and it almost feels as if this shows in some programmes, like a Disney channel for underground kids.
I have a lot of respect for VICE and its journalists, who over the years have risked their lives to bring us high quality, first-hand accounts of the stories no one else wants to tell. In 2014 a VICE News journalist was kidnapped by pro-Russian militia: in 2015 two more journalists were arrested by Turkish police. Past VICE documentaries have been outstanding and thankfully this experience and dedication has not been wasted on VICELAND. Along with the lifestyle documentaries, the channel also shows several quality ones based on current affairs, ranging from an exclusive inside look at North Korea to the inner workings of ISIS. It is this sort of journalism which makes VICELAND worth watching.
See VICELAND for yourself on Sky channel 153 or online with NOW TV.