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Viceland series by Little Rock-born filmmakers debuts

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In a TV landscape filled with vapid reality offerings and frivolous, high-decibel game shows, it's refreshing to find an oasis of serious, thought-provoking, inspiring programming.

These are intelligent shows designed for discerning viewers. A sterling example from filmmaking brothers and Little Rock natives Brent and Craig Renaud debuts on Viceland at 9 p.m. today.

Never heard of Viceland? See the information at the end of today's column.

The brothers' Last Chance High is an eight-part series that was adapted and updated from the award-winning 2014 Vice News web series that focused on the students at Chicago's Moses Montefiore Academy. The therapeutic school served the most troubled youths on the city's West Side -- kids who had been kicked out of everywhere else.

Viceland publicist Perri Cohen says, "The original series followed the staff as they struggled to keep students in school and off of the streets. But when the city closes Montefiore, students are quickly engulfed by street life while former staff members do everything they can to save their lives.

"The expanded and updated episodes pick up in 2016 as the school is closing amid Chicago's most violent period in 20 years, following up on the teachers as they reconnect and attempt to reach out to their former students and save them from the streets."

Last Chance High won the prestigious Peabody Award, as well as a Golden Eagle and Webby Award. It was also an Emmy and IDA Award nominee.

At the 2014 Peabody Award ceremony, Brent said, "Last Chance High is about what we feel is a severely under-reported correlation between mental and behavioral disorders and the tragedy of youth violence."

Over the past decade, the Renaud brothers have covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 2010 Haitian earthquake, turmoil in Egypt and Libya and cartel violence in Mexico.

Off to War, about the 39th Brigade of the Arkansas National Guard in Iraq, was especially moving for me. It won an IDA Award for best TV series, an Overseas Press Club Award, and was nominated for a Director's Guild of America Award.

The brothers co-founded the Little Rock Film Festival in 2007, which ran for nine years.

About their work, Brent said in Curator Magazine, "We hope that the time we put into the films translates to the viewer having a more complex understanding of a particular subject or issue. We don't make political films, or activist films, but we do want our work to make a difference."

Find out more about the brothers' work at their website renaudbrothers.com.

More information on Last Chance High and other Viceland programs is available at viceland.com.

What Would Diplo Do?, 9 p.m. Thursday on Viceland. As long as we're in the neighborhood, you may want to check out Viceland's first experiment with an original scripted series.

What Would Diplo Do? is a TV-14 half-hour comedy/drama starring 40-year-old James Van Der Beek, who is still seeking a proper comeback vehicle from his glory days of Dawson's Creek when he was 21.

In his new show, Van Der Beek plays a fictionalized version of "world-famous international superstar DJ, rapper, singer, songwriter and record executive Diplo" (real name Thomas Wesley Pentz).

Dipwho? I've never heard of Diplo, but this show is aimed at hip young people, not me. I asked two young co-workers nearby and they were well aware of Diplo and his world-famous work.

"He dated Katy Perry," one added. Joining that long, distinguished list that includes musician John Mayer and actors Orlando Bloom and ex-hubby Russell Brand is certainly worthy of worldwide notoriety.

What's Viceland? Viceland is a new TV channel operated by Vice Media in partnership with A&E Networks "with a focus on lifestyle-oriented documentary and reality series aimed toward millennials, [featuring] new original series, along with adaptations of and reruns of existing Vice web series."

How do you find it? Viceland is one of those niche channels way up in the nosebleed section of the digital dial. Go to the website viceland.com and plug in your ZIP code to see if your cable provider carries it.

But double check your listings. I found at least one that Viceland had incorrect.

For those who have cut the cable, Viceland has an app for Apple TV, and mobile apps for iOS and Android. Full episodes can also be downloaded on iTunes, Roku and Sling TV.

Some episodes are available for free on viceland.com. You can also follow Viceland on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email

mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Style on 08/08/2017

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