And there is value here. Correspondent Thomas Morton travels to Laos to interview young women who escaped North Korea and are now in danger, we are told, of being forced into the sex trade. The reporter accompanies a South Korean church pastor who hires a boat to sneak the refugees across the Mekong River into Thailand. Everyone here is at risk of arrest or worse and, as the boat moves across the river in total darkness, it's a moment that is both informative and thrilling.
Other reports, such as correspondent Ryan Duffy's trip to a Philippine militia's training camp filled with pre-teen recruits and black-market firearms, are top-heavy with attempts to pack in as much information as possible yet maintain a bromantic smoothness to the narrative flow. (When the camp's general clutches Duffy's hand during a tour of the camp, the correspondent jokingly confesses it calmed his nerves.)
"Vice" seems to be in search of some sweet spot between "60 Minutes" and "Jackass," and there's enough here to prove that such a spot may exist. The concept could work, especially if Smith and his correspondents were more inclined to point the cameras away from themselves.
Vice (30 minutes) premieres Friday at 10 p.m. on HBO.