TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Vice TV Poster Image
Excellent, disturbing news show looks at worldwide violence.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The idea behind the show is to expose some of the amazing, horrible, unbelievable, and tragic things that are happening all over the world through a Western point of view. The reporters take an immersive approach -- one that will make some people uncomfortable -- and often put themselves in danger (whether more for the nobility of reporting or the thrill of personal experience is unclear).

Positive Role Models & Representations

The roving band of Vice correspondents are brave and intrepid, as well as respectful to their interviewees. They can be alarmingly foolhardy, however, traveling into situations in which they're in mortal danger. They are exclusively male and Western, though there is some diversity in the staff.


Intense images of dead bloody bodies, severed body parts, family members standing over the dead bodies of their loved ones screaming and crying, etc. Such images are usually not lingered over, but they are extremely disturbing nonetheless. Soldiers (sometimes children) carry and sometimes fire guns. Discussion of suicide bombings, war, assassination, etc.


Some episodes focus on aspects of the sex trade and may use sexual language: a young forced prostitute explains she had to learn about "doggie style" in order to work.


The occasional curse flies by, but the really vivid language here is usually connected with violence, as when a subject graphically describes how child suicide bombers are blown apart.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One episode prominently showcases young children smoking enthusiastically on camera. Reporters might imbibe alcohol, smoke, or use substances during the course of reporting in order to be more fully immersed.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Vice is an extremely intense and potentially quite disturbing alternative news show. There are many shots of dead and bloodied bodies lying on the ground, relatives standing over the bodies of loved ones and screaming, disembodied limbs blown off by bombs, etc. Subjects graphically describe violent acts, such as what happens when a child suicide bomber as young as 6 detonates explosives strapped to a loaded vest. Viewers will see young children smoking and carrying enormous firearms, and will follow reporters into scenes of great tension. They will also explore aspects of the prostitution trade, and may hear sexual acts described. Many guns appear onscreen and are sometimes fired; we see footage of suicide bombings, very young kids in military camps, men beating themselves bloody with chains, and the like. All that said, this is an excellent, absorbing, smart show, and very mature teenagers and adults will appreciate the complex takes on terrifying international news stories.

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What's the story?

"News From the Edge" is how HBO aptly bills half-hour VICE, which explores scary and/or wacky news stories from across the world using correspondents largely culled from Vice magazine. Reporters travel to such inhospitable locations as the workspaces for the illegal gun-makers of the Philippines, or to prisons in Afghanistan who hold failed suicide bombers to find out why, and how. The answers may cause you to sleep restlessly at night, though the reporting is unfailingly smart and fascinating.

Is it any good?

Vice-the-show nails the same tone as Vice-the-magazine: Smart, aghast, intrigued. It's nice to sit on a comfy couch watching someone else risk his life transporting former prostitute/slaves from North to South Korea crouched in the back of a van, or joining a motorcade with Philippines Governor Mangadadatu, who survived a 2009 attack by a political rival that left his wife, sisters, lawyers, aides, and many journalists dead. We see the wife and sisters dead, by the way, bloody, face down; cut to the face of the man who lost his family.

Yes, this is some disturbing stuff. It's hard not to watch and wince. But you want to watch nonetheless, and after you're done, you'll want to shudder and give thanks for the safety and security you (hopefully) have. If teens watch (and carefully consider if they should), definitely watch with them to gauge how freaked out they are by the stories -- and how much they learn.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the news. Do you think this show is reporting real news? How is it different from a traditional news show? Is it better? More entertaining? More or less valuable?

  • How do you think the makers of Vice want the viewer to feel when they are done watching the show? Do they want to inspire action or emotion? What brings you to this conclusion?

  • Does it trouble you that the subjects featured on Vice are often people of color, and the Vice reporters are white guys? Does that dynamic create an "us against them" feeling?

  • Have you read Vice magazine? Is this the sort of show you would have expected to be connected to that magazine? Why or why not? How is the subject matter on Vice-the-HBO-show different from Vice-the-magazine?

TV details

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