Over the past year, "The Vice Guide to Everything" stars Ryan Duffy, Thomas Morton and Shane Smith have spent quality time with Yemeni rebels, Palestinian car thieves and Russian mobsters ... to name just a few. And they did it basically because no one else will.
"Well, I think journalism has changed ... there was a time we actually believed what the news told us," Smith, co-founder of Vice, the magazine and burgeoning media conglomerate that proudly goes places others won't (both literally and physically), told MTV News. "And I think after the last two wars, where mainstream media was completely co-opted by the government and, in its own admission, failed in what it was supposed to do, that young people got totally disenfranchised ... and because mainstream news media failed its job, people like us had to come and fill the vacuum."
And on Monday (December 6) at 11 p.m. ET, Smith and his cohorts will begin fighting that good fight on MTV, with the premiere of "The Vice Guide to Everything," a 30-minute, wholly irreverent, oft eye-opening look at people and places that the mainstream media wouldn't dare cover, let alone spend time with. Armed with only cameras, the occasional translator and the odd "fixer" (basically a local hired to ensure they're not killed) these three went there, and came back with some incredible stories.
"I was most scared in Yemen, when we were shooting with the rebels and the Houthis and tribal leaders who have death warrants on their head," Smith explained. "The secret police arrested us, took all of our stuff, and we had all these cards of every rebel leader that the government wanted to kill ... so the guy who helped us out there actually had to bribe the secret police to give us the tapes so we could wipe them ... then we were able to get out."
"[There were] these car thieves in the West Bank that, because of all the restrictions on trade — importing car parts, specifically — if you want a car in Palestine, you basically pay some guy, he sneaks into Israel, he steals a car, brings it back and nobody finds you," Morton added. "And we were hanging out with these guys who basically do that for a living, and ... we steal a car together, and then a day later, he and a couple of his goon buddies showed up and tried to shake us down. The problem was they only spoke Arabic, our field producer spoke a little bit of Arabic, but we were basically relying on a translator for them to shake us down. And it was the most dragged-out event on the planet. ... It just kept going for so long that, by the end of it, everybody was visibly bored with the proceedings, and they gave up."
And despite the near-death experiences, the "Vice" crew said that their show isn't about pushing the boundaries just for the thrill of it (though, certainly, that plays a part). It's to tell compelling stories and introduce American viewers to the kinds of things that go on every single day, no matter how hard the news networks try to ignore them.
"[It's] not that we're Walter Cronkite or anything, but that whole era is over," Smith said. "So, I think one of the things we do is we just show a story that resonates with people ... and that's what we're trying to do with this show, which you should watch, Mondays at 11."
"The Vice Guide to Everything" airs Mondays at 11 p.m. ET on MTV.