Back in 2016, Vice, a Canadian media company with a notorious counterculture magazine, website, broadcast news, film production, record label, and publishing tradename, decided to add one more platform to its repertoire: a cable network. Thus, Viceland was born. The channel is known for politically and culturally charged mostly documentarian shows that confront the most uncomfortable aspects of modern life in ways that make their audience cringe while keeping their eyes glued to the screen. Viceland’s shows are, indisputably, captivating. The problem is that the network has had a difficult time capturing the millennial audience it targets because of the platform—cable—it has chosen to pursue. While ratings are going up, they are still meager. Nielson ratings indicate that between September 25, 2017 to February 4, 2018, only 0.1 percent of US households subscribed to the channel.
Despite these crushing numbers, there’s hope for Viceland. For one, the company has made it clear since the network’s launch that cable television is not the end goal. The goal is to expose viewers to content they’d be willing to seek out regardless of the platform it’s distributed from. With that in mind, here are some of the channel’s most popular shows.
Krishna Andavolu explores the rapidly changing and emerging legal cannabis industry. Cannabis has been legalized at the national level in Uruguay and Canada and for medicinal use in more than half of the states in the USA. The train for cannabis legalization has left the station, and it will inevitably affect the world. Andavolu’s reporting and interviews with key players in the movement provide insight into one of the world’s most dramatic social and political shifts as it is happening—the acceptance of cannabis into the mainstream.
Hamilton Morris has been fascinated by psychotropic drugs his entire life and has spent his professional career exploring the mechanisms of these drugs’ functionality as well as the role that they play in society. It’s a show about drugs at a time when people and their governments are beginning to rethink the way that we prescribe, legislate, and consume them. Morris talks about drugs in ways that are totally contrary to the popular consensus about the substances considered most dangerous. Whatever you think about drugs, this show is bound to teach you something and start more than one conversation about their place in our world.
Desus & Mero
This late-night talk show is unlike whatever you grew up watching your parents watch. There are no suits, no filters, and no scripts. The slapstick hosts Desus Nice and Kid Mero talk about the news, politics, and pop cultural milestones of the day with an unapologetic humor you can’t help but laugh at. The two Bronx-hailing comedians gained notoriety for their jokes on Twitter and subsequently launched a podcast, Bodega Boys, which continues today.
Eddie Huang, chef, and author of the memoir-turned-sitcom Fresh off the Boat, hosts a show that is about so much more than good food. Huang’s World, a food and travel series, gives special care to social, political, and culinary facets of the location he chooses to travel to. Often, the show delves into some uncomfortable territory—government oppression, racism, and even some of his own personal questions about identity. Overall, the show has a respectful and authentic tone—flecked with some profanity, that is, so keep that in mind before watching it with the kids.
Hate Thy Neighbor
What’s the best way to deal with a potentially violent racist whose beliefs about your cultural and racial background question the very fabric of your humanity? Make jokes. That’s what London comedian Jamali Maddix does in his documentary series about the far right, Hate Thy Neighbor. Except, he does it in a way that is journalistic and fascinating to watch. Maddix gets close and personal with some of the right-most-thinking individuals you’ve probably ever seen on TV. What makes the show most interesting is Maddix’s genuine appearance of curiosity when he talks to people who espouse beliefs with which he does not agree. And that’s probably the reason he has been able to have such fascinating, though at times dangerous, conversations.
Hosted by actress Ellen Page and her best friend Ian Daniels, this docuseries explores LGBTQ issues around the world. The depth and breadth of the content the show produces makes one thing abundantly clear (if it wasn’t already): LGBTQ communities are severely underrepresented in media, and because of that, they continue to be frustratingly and unacceptably misunderstood. Gaycation isn’t perfect—it doesn’t cover the gamut of sexual and gender expression. However, it does fill in the yawning gap of LGBTQ content missing from the cable industry.
Zach Goldbaum uses this show to explore various music scenes around the world. The show has featured artists such as Migos, Donald Glover, Kendrick Lamar, and Ke$ha. The show attempts to pay homage to the ever-evolving culture of these different music genres by giving in-depth coverage into the lives and mindsets of the musical forces shaping those changes. The show does such a good job of impacting the audience with a new-found appreciation for artists and music they may not have originally paid attention to.