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Suddenly, Vice content seems tone-deaf and terribly male

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017 – Page L1

You gotta wonder about Vice. Now an enormous multinational media company, it has so many platforms it gets bewildering.

It makes and offers a lot of what is best described as infomercials. Just a high-end variation on those mind-numbing, hour-length commercials that take up a lot of time on traditional TV late at night. Vice is, however, selling cool stuff. To millennials and hipsters, mostly.

For a while, traditional media knelt at the altar of Vice. The outfit reached the young and that's why there was kneeling. Now, maybe not so much adoration.

See, Vice does some first-rate journalism and has a nightly news program on HBO. But the quality varies wildly from genuine, eyeopening newsworthy content to low-grade, self-indulgent nonsense that mostly involves marijuana and related high jinks.

And Vice media is under the microscope right now. A lengthy Daily Beast report about the culture for women inside Vice Media found "harassing behaviour and company indifference." Vice responded by citing "a nontraditional workplace agreement," which is used "to certify employees' comfort with content that could be considered edgy."

Later - too late by some standards - top management announced that, "Vice does not tolerate sexual harassment, abusive behaviour, assault or retaliation." And it promised to investigate all allegations brought to the company's attention, plus it promised an allfemale advisory board. In the current climate, that's a lot of "blah-blah."

Vice has its own TV channels too, including one right here in Canada. Its impact is minimal, really, in the larger scheme of Canadian TV. But one assumes that's not the point. The point is reaching young eyeballs across multiple platforms.

There is a point, though, and the point is now, when Vice has to be assessed with a cold eye on its content and tone. Under a cold eye, much of it withers away as just so much malecentric bombast and drivel. What Vice offers as original content is very male, often juvenile and devoted to celebrating young male stupidity. Also, some of it is hardly original.

Nirvanna the Band the Show, which Vice launched with some fanfare earlier this year, was first created as a web series in 2007.

Fubar Age of Computer, launched a few weeks ago on Viceland, is derived from the movie Fubar, made 16 years ago. Some Vice viewers were in diapers when the Fubar phenomenon was going fullthrottle and others would see the revival as a mere nostalgia thing.

Fubar Age of Computer (Viceland, Fridays 10 p.m.; City TV, Sundays 10:30 p.m.) simply continues the adventures of the pair of heavymetal headbanger-idiots from the original movie and its sequel made in 2010. They are Terry (David Lawrence) and Dean (Paul Spence) and now, implausibly, they are being introduced to the internet for the first time. That's right, these two hopeless hosers are mystified and delighted by discovering the world wide web. How quaint.

As a premise, it's horrible, but it does make for some mildly funny mocking of online content and protocols.

They end up online in the basement suite of Terry's cousin Shank (North Darling) in Calgary, after fleeing the wildfires of Fort McMurray, Alta. (An onscreen disclaimer says the makers understand the Fort Mac fires were a tragedy and they mean no disrespect.) There ensues a lot of swearing, smashing things and getting high or drunk.

Some of it is madcap hoser humour and some of it is just making fun of fools such as cousin Shank who says things such as, "The Muslimists got ray-guns they're using on us." Not much happens. Women don't have much of a role except as loud complainers.

Spence, who co-created and wrote the movies and series with Lawrence and director Michael Dowse, has said the audience isn't headbangers.

"It's normal people who are really interested in the Letterkenny way of life, or the Fubar way of life, or whatever, Trailer Park Boys," he told The Canadian Press.

That's a stretch. Fubar Age of Computer has neither the wit or verbal dexterity of Letterkenny nor the benign tomfoolery of Trailer Park Boys. Yours truly has adored both series for their freshness and this Fubar thing feels dated, dumb and tone-deaf to contemporary reality.

It's Suppertime! (starts Thursday, Viceland, 10:30 p.m.) is new and described by Vice as "a traditionalstyle instructional cooking show with the anything-but-traditional personality of Toronto-based, star, chef and Vice favourite, Matty Matheson." Right.

Well, if you do tune in, you'll find Matheson shouting at you while making spaghetti and meatballs. And telling you that if you follow your steps then somebody will be getting oral sex. (He uses a different word, obviously.)

He says, without conviction, he doesn't care who is getting or giving the oral sex, but he's insistent in his point.

It's rock 'n' roll cooking or something. Certainly, it's cheaply made content and, again, celebrates male obnoxiousness.

That's the trouble with Vice, Viceland or whatever arm of the Vice beast is under discussion. Yesterday's hip content is today's outof-touch blather.

The problem with Vice and everything it creates now, one suspects, is that it became full of itself and its male-centric culture and content. It stopped listening and paying attention. Suddenly, it's all tone-deaf.

Associated Graphic

Fubar Age of Computer continues the adventures of Terry and Dean, the pair of heavy-metal headbangers from the original movie and its 2010 sequel.

Huh? How did I get here?
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