Just like quarterbacks are said to get more credit and more blame than they deserve, HBO is neither as excellent or as awful as it’s said to be – at least in the time that I’ve had access to it. The truth lies somewhere in between as is the case with pretty much everything in life.
Still, the station is on a pretty decent run right now including fresh episodes of Veep, Real Sports and Game of Thrones (full disclosure: I’ve never watched it) plus the debut of the Christopher Guest comedy Family Tree and the acquisition of Wes Anderson flick Moonlight Kingdom – just to name a few.
And then there’s Vice.
Vice is a weekly 30-minute television version of the online magazine that claims to be “The Definitive Guide to Enlightened Information.” At least they’re humble about it. Truth be told, the show was my irst real exposure to the brand. And I like it even though I feel like I shouldn’t as a working journalist. Let me explain.
The story choices/angles – something I value greatly in my own work – are fantastic. A few examples: The rash of employed and discouraged youths in Europe; the insanely high smoking rate in Indonesia; and the African practice of gavage – force feeding women so that they become overweight and more desirable.
Frankly, Vice had me at international – I realize the world is filled with interesting and important stories, but I’m not always great at seeking them out. This show delivers a fraction of them to my eyeballs.
The reporters also show considerable hustle, landing semi-anonymous interviews – face scarf alert – with rebel-types in almost every epidsode. As a reporter, I acknowledge it’s much easier to do these pieces without that element. It’s also far less effective.
Think of the show as 60 Minutes for 20-somethings. The reporters are young and hip, each with at least one of the following: A beard, purposely nerdy glasses, tattoos. Swearing seems to be allowed and maybe encouraged. I’m especially partial to the sickly skinny guy – Ryan? – because he’s more than willing to do hands-on work such as trying gavage (spoiler: he pukes … and is mocked for it) or trying to land a lady through a Chinese dating service.
Vice is educational and entertaining. Every episode has contained something that I’ve found interesting enough to share with a friend or my wife.
Still, I’m leery. Not skeptical, just leery. It’s probably for one of two reasons: I’ve been watching traditional TV news for so long that perhaps I’ve come to think that’s the way it’s supposed to be done; or that recent bumps for even the most trusted forms of media are weighing on me. That is, I wouldn’t be stunned to find out that Vice used unreliable numbers in a story or two. Maybe one day we’ll find out it had some sort of bias.
I hope that’s not the case. Again, the show isn’t perfect, but it’s earned a spot in my DVR series records list. That’s not easy to do because I have more kids (four) than free time. In fact, my preference is that Vice turns out to be important or influential, somehow helps create a different view of journalism both inside and outside the profession.
No matter, I’ll be watching.