Overview: I have been waiting in anticipation for this series to begin. It is a uniquely different kind of programming for HBO but if you watch the documentaries that HBO airs you will understand how this show fits into the premium channels schedule. This is hard-hitting journalism at its best. Since I was aware of VICE coming to HBO I have read its site content and watched bits on its YouTube channel. I am totally comfortable and prepared for the tone, approach and style this show will take. We have given you commentary and trailers to get you excited and ready for VICE. Well, are you?
Expectations: Usually, when I’m going to review for this site I avoid the press releases and any material that will give me an indication of what the show will be about in great detail. I do that to give a ‘gut reaction’ review to the programming at hand. Well, with this show I couldn’t wait. As I stated I have already familiarized myself with VICE’s style and content via the other media outlets it offers an, as a result, my expectations are minimal by now.
I knew exactly what I was going to get and I was ready to gobble up more; I was that intrigued, as it was stated elsewhere. Bring on VICE!
Review: It did bring it on and I am glad it is now a part of HBO’s lineup. Before I get into the specifics of Episode 1 though there are two ever so small disgruntlements, if that is even the right word, I want to get out of the way.
First, I was surprised how viewers were whisked into this series. Actually, I was okay with it but I didn’t think it the best way to go. Here is why. I deduced that there would be three types of viewers watching VICE on premiere night: documentary watchers, who already watch HBO Documentary Films or liked the limited series WITNESS; VICE enthusiasts who seek out VICE content already and lastly, those who just didn’t turn the channel after REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER was over. Now, the first two types of viewers are already likely to watch but the audience to try to get are those that stumble into the show. With little explanation, as the show opens, we have VICE co-founder Shane Smith starting us on our journey without little explanation of what VICE is and why he founded it. That just seemed an odd start to the series, if it were the first introduction most viewers were getting of VICE. Then again, it does fit right into VICE’s style. They always state they want to “punch you in the face and grip your scrotum” with their style of journalism. Really, this quick bum-rush start just fits.
So, I move on to the next complaint. This show should be an hour or 45 minutes at least. There will evidently be two segments per half hour. That doesn’t leave much time to give us each story. I was feeling I wanted more and I could have had it. As I will point out below there are deleted scenes from the episode that could have been inserted but, were excised for time. That is enough of those grumblings; now on to the particulars.
Assassination Nation reported by correspondent Ryan Duffy: In the Philippines, election season is more like hunting season. And we thought the political process in the U.S.A. could get vicious. This was the milder of the two segments easing us into the harsh world I guess. I mean, I was stunned but I felt no real danger here. I really didn’t think the candidate’s entourage was going to get riddled with bullets but, nor did I expect a piss stop. The illegal gun factories and youth militias were a bit alarming though. With all the firearms around you must always be looking over your shoulder. Who would want to run for office in the Philippines anyway?
If they continue to be available weekly I will link you up to a deleted scene from the stories. Here is a VICE Extended clip from this segment called Backyard Gunshop.
Killer Kids of the Taliban reported by correspondent Shane Smith: In Afghanistan, senior members of the Taliban are now manipulating children and teenagers into carrying out their suicide bombings. This segment grips you. We have heard on mainstream news that such activities occur but this piece shows it actually being employed. A camera focuses in on a child moving along a building while sporting something bulky about him. He runs past an open doorway then turns back and darts in. The camera starts to pull out, as it observes from a rooftop across the way, and then… BOOM in the belly of the building. Mission accomplished. If that is not enough to jar your senses there is more. How about the far more gruesome detonation amidst a crowd? It is tough to take that people utilize children in this manner. But they do and it leaves your heart aching. I can’t delve any deeper into it than that.
In Conclusion:This show is all I expected and all I wanted except its length. Maybe, they felt that most of us could only handle some of the topics and graphic imagery in small doses. Maybe, there isn’t a lot of footage because they truly want to get in and out of any potential dangers. All in all, I’m glad for VICE and glad it is on HBO.
What follows is VICE: The Morning After. It is a video with executive producer Bill Maher sitting down with the correspondents and weighing in on the pieces aired and offering a peek in to the next installment. I’ll offer that after one last final thought –
What is powerful and meaningful in this world is the type of real-life drama that plays out across this sphere not some fictionalized entertainment from a far-flung fantasy world, regardless of how well done it is. I wish, but doubt, that this post and the ones forthcoming about VICE light up this site.
Here is that last promised clip. Peace.