HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher has long been a panacea for grownups bored by traditional newscasts. Now the network reinvents the newsmagazine with VICE (premiering Friday, April 5, at 11pm ET), a no-holds-barred weekly series for a tech-saturated generation accustomed to having the world in its pocket.
“Eventually it became clear that the stories we did best, that we liked the best, involved this process we call immersionism — a documentary style where we just go in and live with the people, press record and watch as the story unfolds,” says Smith, who heads into the field with fellow correspondents Ryan Duffy and Thomas Morton to explore stories as wide-ranging as the Taliban recruitment of children as suicide bombers and a West African fat camp where the goal is to pack on the pounds.
The crew will even follow flamboyant former NBA star Dennis Rodman and three members of the Harlem Globetrotters on a “basketball diplomacy” mission into Pyongyang, North Korea. The country’s leader Kim Jong Un was reportedly an avid fan of the Chicago Bulls when Rodman led the team to three NBA championships.
Though this clearly isn’t your grandma’s newsmagazine, Smith says there’s no reason it can’t be. “I don’t think you have to be young to be concerned about Pakistan and India, or to worry about the rise of youth-oriented fascist movements in Europe,” he explains.
Adding to VICE’s serious news cred: Time magazine editor at large Fareed Zakaria consults on the series. But, says Maher, the show’s sense of adventure and whole-world view is the main reason everyone should pick up this VICE.
“If a show is willing to do a segment on a guy who calls himself General Butt Naked, you have to watch,” says Maher of the honest-to-badness Liberian warlord. “You can’t go to your grave without having that experience.”