Viceland to Air Hour-Long Video of Rappers Watching "Ancient Aliens" While High on Marijuana
A few weeks ago the History Channel’s spinoff network H2 turned into Viceland, a joint production of A+E Networks and Vice Media. A+E Networks is the owner of the History Channel, and in addition to being a co-owner of Viceland, it also is a co-owner of Vice Media. The new network is targeted at young adults aged 18-34, which means that after spending the last six weeks in the network’s target demographic, my opinion stopped mattering to Viceland when I turned 35 yesterday. That won’t stop me, however, from pointing out that A+E Networks is leveraging its ownership of Ancient Aliens and Viceland to create synergy in the hope of driving more Millennial viewership of its properties.
Tomorrow Viceland will show Action Bronson’s Ancient Aliens 4/20 Special in which Arian Asllani, a rapper on Vice’s Vice Records label (a division of Atlantic Records) who goes by the name Action Bronson, will smoke marijuana with friends while commenting on an episode of Ancient Aliens. Asllani, who also appears on the Viceland program F*ck, That’s Delicious, calls the show the “greatest” program ever, and he is a true believer in alien gods, claiming that the ancient astronaut theory enables him to come to terms with the age-old quest to find meaning in life. He added that ancient astronaut theorist Giorgio Tsoukalos is a “genius” in “my favorite genre.”
While the official trailer calls the program by the title above, it was previously promoted as Traveling the Stars with Action Bronson, though they must have decided that the title didn’t adequately convey the amount of marijuana needed to enjoy Ancient Aliens.
The marijuana-induced commentary is, according to the trailer, something like Mystery Science Theater 3000 if MST3K were entirely improvised by ignoramuses with minimal education. (I am sure somewhere noted ex-marijuana enthusiast Graham Hancock is fuming.)
Viceland devotes several hours per week to marijuana-themed programming, and one might argue that this is the best use of Ancient Aliens since the program’s inception. But it seems that there is a business calculation at play here that is seeing A+E Networks try to bolster Viceland’s viewership with an assist from History’s most popular show with viewers under 60.
(A+E Networks is the owner of the trademarks and intellectual property of Ancient Aliens, which is produced for the History Channel by Prometheus Entertainment.)
Vice Media and A+E Networks refused to allow A. C. Nielsen to report Viceland’s ratings, but the International Business Times obtained ratings data last month from Rentrak, a competitor to A. C. Nielsen, and it wasn’t good. In January, Rentrak reported that H2 averaged 241,000 daily viewers (and this was for its rerun programming, having stopped airing originals last year in anticipation of the switch to Viceland), while Viceland drew just 55,000 daily viewers in its first month on the air. Vice Media disputes the numbers but won’t release their own for five more months. In its prime, H2 had drawn more than 1.1 million viewers for its flagship show, America Unearthed, while Vice insists that most of its Viceland content is consumed online, where more than 113 million “views” occurred in the first three weeks, though Vice would not define a “view.”
It’s hard not to see the heavily promoted Ancient Aliens special as a way of leveraging that program’s much larger audience of roughly 1.6 million viewers to help Viceland gain ratings traction on TV. Remember, too, that a few weeks ago I spoke with a producer from Vice Media who was planning an Ancient Aliens-themed program on the cultural impact of the series. It seems unlikely to be coincidental.
Meanwhile, there was still more depressing news from the world of television. CBS announced that it is reviving the Twilight Zone yet again (after the 1980s revival, the Twilight Zone feature film, and the UPN revival series), but this time as a hybrid TV show and video game. According to a report in The Wrap, the plan is to produce episodes of the series that will allow viewers to “change and adapt the story based on what he or she feels.” It would be unfair to judge the new product before it launches, but it would seem that this approach would be antithetical to the storytelling format of the original Twilight Zone, in which stories built to a specific conclusion in order to deliver a moral lesson or dramatic irony. The only way this might work is if every choice resulted in the same conclusion, though that would be a depressing confirmation of predestination that would again undercut Rod Serling’s humanistic views.
It strikes me as a cynical reuse of a famous name to try to garner attention for a new product. Hmm… That seems to be a theme today!
4/19/2016 11:48:58 am
It would be one thing if Action Bronson were smoking a fattie and making fun of Ancient Aliens they way Mystery Science Theater made of the old movies. Instead Action's going to be getting baked while waxing poetic, well, rapping poetic, about how great AA is and what a brilliant scientist Giorgio is and blah, blah, blah. You have to respect Action, though, he's managed to figure out how to get paid to get lit while watching a crappy TV show.
4/19/2016 04:04:55 pm
Gives a new meaning to "joint production."
4/19/2016 12:00:20 pm
Holy shit. There is no bottom of the barrel left to scrape.
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
4/19/2016 12:36:46 pm
I've always wondered how cable channels fill up all those hours of programming time. I suppose somebody sometime had to hit upon an idea like this. If the show was too dull to watch the first time, and the second time is even worse, just add pot and you won't notice how bored you are.
4/19/2016 01:10:20 pm
Reaction videos as cable TV programming? I mean, I hear they're incredibly popular on YouTube, but will that really translate to cable TV ratings?
4/19/2016 01:51:05 pm
I've read there are people on You Tube who play video games and you basically watch them playing the game and commenting about what they're doing.
4/19/2016 04:04:27 pm
There's one, though you get to see the game played, where it's pretty entertaining as it's one of those modded Super Mario Brothers levels designed to make you angry and frustrated. The level goes so far as to kill you after completion so you respawn at the start of the level rather than moving on to the next. The reaction is predictable and funny.
4/21/2016 09:33:28 am
4/19/2016 01:39:08 pm
So H2 managed to go farther downhill by changing its name.
4/19/2016 01:50:48 pm
If only they could do a scientific and historical documentary about marijuana. But no, that would be far too controversial.
4/19/2016 02:18:18 pm
There were only two things on Viceland that were worth watching. One was the Werner Herzog movie Fitzcargo (probably incorrectly spelled) which I had never seen. The other was Dr. Strangelove, which I hadn't seen in years. The rest of the programming I never turned over to because its descriptions on the viewer guide made it sound like the worst kind of quasi-reality crap.
4/19/2016 03:58:53 pm
Indeed, you did misspell "Fitzcarraldo," but considering the movie's plot, "Fitzcargo" is a pretty good pun.
4/19/2016 04:12:31 pm
I did watch that, but I had seen it before, but I hadn't seen the movie itself until Viceland showed it.
4/19/2016 02:24:09 pm
I have been working on a few of the Viceland shows (not that one of the Action Bronson cooking show) and promos.I can say that they are having a harder time then they thought finding the voice they want to have. Based on what little contact I have I do not think they are going to find the balance of cultural commentary and social commentary they want. Who knows but I can say they are investing a lot of money and resources into the channel and maybe after a few months they will find the voice. For now all the direction they are heading in is the stoner crowd and they are finding out fast that it is not playing out as well as the wanted to.
4/19/2016 02:38:33 pm
A lot of us stoners are over 60 now. Wrong demographics.
4/19/2016 03:08:21 pm
I think they have the demographics right they are looking for older millennials and the young gen xer's . The problem as I see it is they are trying to duplicate the website strategy which works for the web. As you know the website is a mix with pop cultural things like music coverage, snarky commentary, and other like things on one end and more social commentary related articles and research that covers a wide array of topics from child slavery, prostitution, illegal gambling and so on.
4/19/2016 03:32:42 pm
Either they'll find their voice, or the investors will get tired of throwing money down a pit of over paid and under worked millennials without seeing any return on their investments.
4/19/2016 03:44:02 pm
I think they will once they start developing content. Right now they are buying third party stuff, except for two or three shows which are extensions of web series they already had. I know I have a new contract in the works with them for a Doc series that sounds pretty interesting that looks like it will address some pretty serious topics.
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
4/19/2016 03:51:37 pm
Millennials are overpaid and underworked? What planet are you on?
4/19/2016 03:59:47 pm
I was wondering the same thing. If he is referring to me sadly I am well well past being a millennial. I wish my body was that young again
4/19/2016 04:00:53 pm
Of course after a show with a guy smoking pot talking about a show discussing ancient aliens anything will sound serious. The problem is their serious content will be overshadowed by this stuff. I saw quiet a few start ups in NYC fail because they couldn't find their niche before the investors got tired of losing money.
4/19/2016 04:05:11 pm
Now you are going into more Buzzfeed territory, rumor has it that they too are looking to break into TV.
4/19/2016 04:14:49 pm
Only time will tell with their broadcast content.
4/19/2016 04:24:14 pm
Start it as a web series first, I do see a future there.
4/20/2016 02:38:44 am
Is the web sports show Dude Perfect? I thought I knew my web-based nonsense, but I can't think of what you're describing.
4/20/2016 08:10:35 am
4/20/2016 09:09:52 am
I don't know the burlesque show was a bunch of half naked girls arguing and stripping to pop music, cant say I had much of a problem with that.
4/20/2016 09:15:52 am
Dave R - I should add the burlesque show has led to me working with the producers on the concept of doing a doc on the history of small level variety arts from Vaudeville to current. We are currently looking for funding and have already got some major sponsors one of which is a magazine dedicated to the history and preservation of the variety arts story. I hope this one comes to fruition it is one of the few times I have taken a larger role beyond just being an editor. Right now we are still researching and building a timeline. It will cover everything from sideshows to the resurgence of the neo burlesque performers. While I am not one of the researchers I have learned a awful lot about the the variety arts.
4/20/2016 01:41:37 pm
4/20/2016 06:03:33 pm
I think it has a lot of potential. With the resurgence of Burlesque and sideshow I also think it is timely. We luckily already have interviewed some of the modern greats like Jim Rose and Zamora the torture king and thanks to Shocked and Amazed have access to archival interviews with Johnny Eck and Melvin Burkhart (the world famous blockhead).
4/19/2016 04:29:33 pm
"For now all the direction they are heading in is the stoner crowd and they are finding out fast that it is not playing out as well as the wanted to. "
4/19/2016 04:58:28 pm
Here's an idea for a tv series: "Neander Town", which is a community of high percentage neanderthal dna residents who act dumb, primitive and gross all the time. Action Bronson will have the lead role. You may plagiarize this idea if you like. One running joke will be that it will be populated only by Asians and Caucasians, but their high school wrestling team will always win the state championship, but their basketball team will always lose to the neighboring black community. And so forth.
4/19/2016 06:43:19 pm
"I am sure somewhere noted ex-marijuana enthusiast Graham Hancock is fuming."
4/19/2016 09:55:33 pm
"Taste this, and the boundaries of possibility disappear; the fields of infinite space open to you, you advance free in heart, free in mind, into the boundless realms of unfettered reverie." Alexandre Dumas about hashish.
4/19/2016 11:26:13 pm
I hope I am not the only one who found the irony of "intellectual property" and Ancient Aliens unavoidably used in the same sentence.
4/20/2016 05:02:04 am
2 out of 10.
4/20/2016 06:51:40 am
You left out the money quote from the trailer:
4/20/2016 09:39:54 am
I just can't get what the target market for Viceland is or what the content is supposed to be about. It seems like a mess driven over focused group creation. Is this a jackass type of network? Go back to H2 and do historical fiction...like Vikings but let film students do shows on history with small budgets..that might be interesting. Watching a bunch of stoners watching David Childress saying "could it be...." with that annoying tone..not going to get much audience.
4/20/2016 05:40:10 pm
I tell you again that it is all the careful plan of our overlords, the cats who the Ancient Aliens left here to oversee us.
4/20/2016 06:37:50 pm
Hi Matt -
4/21/2016 11:16:15 am
Interesting story. Sadly I am not in contact with anyone who is involved with development at Vice, I am just a freelance editor and videographer who was hired to convert a web series to a tv series and make some promos for those programs. The burlesque thing I mention has nothing to do with Vice the origanal reality show was pitched to Ophra's channel or lifetime I believe, again not sure because I work only in the production or post production phase, the doc is a personal project with one on the associate producers from the reality show that we would make a film and take it on the festival circuit, we have no intention of selling it as a TV show.
4/21/2016 12:10:44 am
About that new VICE program....gosh, I feel just awful that I won't be able to watch a bunch of stoned rappers watching Ancient Aliens.
4/21/2016 07:32:24 am
Just remember, the shovel is an alien designed tool specifically engineered for humans.
4/21/2016 05:37:21 pm
Neadrethals have been done, but it might be an insult to neadrethals.
4/22/2016 08:34:48 am
I have no clue why anybody watches any of those shows. Axe Men, Ice Road Truckers, Bushpeople, they're all equally worthless. Just watching ads for Honey Boo Boo made we want to puke.
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