Get ready for a very different type of lifestyle programming: VICELAND, the new channel launching today from the people who created the wildly popular VICE magazine and the critically acclaimed news show on HBO, is 24 hours a day of pure, uncut curiosity about food, music, sex, drugs, people, places – all the things that make life interesting.
VICELAND’s programming will obviously expand over time, but it’s launching with a compelling slate of shows, a few of which we got a look at before the channel went live. Here are a few highlights to look for:
BALLS DEEP (premiering 9pm ET Monday)
Intrepid 95-pound weakling Thomas Morton embeds himself into various subcultures to get to the bottom of what they’re really all about in this half-hour series. In the first episode, “Tent Preachin,” Morton assists Reverend Harvey Perdue in setting up and executing a Pentacostal Tent Revival in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Perdue is a genuinely lovely man and he and Morton seem to really enjoy each other’s company, despite the wide cultural gulf between them. I think this is due to Morton’s approach: Dressed in plain clothes, rocking a normcore haircut and not showing even the slightest snark or judgement against his subjects, he is an ideal ambassador for this kind of show.
“The band sounds good, I’m looking forward to this – especially the Holy Spirit component, which, based on the way Jimmy Joe describes it sounds like really strong MDMA.”
F*CK, THAT’S DELICIOUS (premiering 9:30pm ET Monday)
Rapper Action Bronson spent his young adulthood working in the back of New York restaurants before he hit the big time, and his show follows him on tour with his pals, taking time to make stops at great restaurants in each city. The pilot has the crew at Rose’s Luxury in Washington, D.C. – named “Best New Restaurant in America” by both Bon Appetit and GQ – before heading to play a show at the Fillmore. Then, they find their way to a Jamaican restaurant – where Action charms a totally humorless counter lady against all odds – in Atlanta before taking off for Miami, where Bronson decides against joining his boys on a jet-ski adventure in favor of cooking bay scallops with passionfruit, mango and jalapeno with the chef at a beachside restaurant.
The show is as much tour diary as foodie show and the guys’ no-nonsense approach to food is amusing. They may not be the most refined or best-dressed, but their enthusiasm is contagious and the food looks amazing.
“It makes me feel like a man that loves a beautiful thing, you know, like when you’re looking at a beautiful woman, like the most curvaceous woman in the world – Cuban, you know, I just wanted to kiss her on the mouth.”
FLOPHOUSE (premiering 11pm ET Monday)
Pre-famous comedians are a strange lot: they don’t have real jobs and they don’t make much money. In order to eat and continue to pursue their goals they have five roommates, they live in conditions rats would find appalling, and they put on their own shows rather than wait for The Comedy Store to give them a booking. This show examines that strange subculture, starting with an episode set at a Los Angeles hovel where comics Solomon Giorgio, James Johnson and Eric Dadourian live as roommates and put on their own shows in the garage. The show combines documentary footage of the comics talking about their living arrangements, the house party that bookends the show, and, of course, the show itself, which in this case includes James Adomian, who’s lately pulled some heat for his note-perfect Bernie Sanders impression which, in this reporter’s opinion, is way better than Larry David’s (though it is unfortunately not featured in the episode).
WEEDIQUETTE (premiering 10pm ET Monday)
I found all the Viceland shows I watched to be very interesting, but I was most surprised by Weediquette, which I assumed would be a marijuana-focused travelogue, but it’s actually something far more fascinating. In the first one-hour episode “Stoned Kids,” Krishna Andavolu visits families with small children who have terminal cancer and have elected to treat their condition with cannabis. Just the thought of getting children blazed kind of made my skin crawl, but as the episode unfolded and Andavolu spoke to the kids, their parents – normal, non-stoners who had simply run out of other options and tried this as a last resort – and to respected physicians, including the guy who named the AIDS virus back in the ‘80s, about the working theory cannabis not only alleviates pain and restores appetite to cancer patients but shrinks their tumors. Andavolu treats the topic as seriously as any 60 Minutes correspondent would, and it will be interesting to watch him apply this approach to the many rapidly evolving dimensions of marijuana use in the 21st century.
Other shows to look for on VICELAND we didn’t get a chance to preview include Noisey, a music-documentary series modeled on the VICE magazine feature of the same name; Gaycation, in which actress and activist Ellen Page travels the world exploring LGBT issues in different cultures; and Huang’s World, in which chef and author Eddie Huang takes a look at international food culture.