Vice Media is rightfully criticized for a lot of things — exploiting freelancers, sexual harassment in the workplace, and poor editorial judgement, just to name a few. And yet I can’t turn away from Viceland, its gonzo lifestyle channel (launched in partnership with A+E Networks). It’s my go-to channel surfing destination, because I never know what I’ll find. Sure, a lot of the content seems to be SHOCKING for the sake of shocking, but there’s a thrill of exploration to viewing the channel that’s hard to describe. Some shows are weirdly fascinating (Abandoned, Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia), some are batshit crazy (Traveling the Stars: Ancient Aliens with Action Bronson and Friends), and others are simply good (Desus & Mero, Hate Thy Neighbor). What draws me, I think, is that I never know what I’m in for when I tune in. It’s unpredictable — self-consciously so, to be sure, but it’s not all bullshit “Millennial-appeal” posturing either. There is an experimental spirit that’s exciting in a way so little else on TV is these days.
And that’s how I found The Trixie & Katya Show. Trixie Mattel and Katya started as contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and went on to land their own web series called “UNHhhh” via the World of Wonder YouTube channel (WOW produces Drag Race). Their Viceland series is basically “UNHhhh” writ large. Longer runtime, better cameras, but the broad format remains unchanged — namely, just let these two queens talk about whatever they want. The show relies on the unbeatable chemistry of Trixie and Katya because… well, that’s literally the show. Onscreen graphics illustrate their tangents, while weird sound effects punctuate their gags. Intentionally jarring editing, bad green screen, and pun-tastic segment names create something between a cult darling and a surrealist masterpiece.
The show started last November, and to date only four episodes have aired. Each one is themed around a topic: “Hooking Up”, “Death”, “Porn” and “Fear” so far. There are reoccurring bits, like “Male Bag” which has the ladies read a supposedly encouraging online message from a fan, but which usually is a painfully cutting troll comment (the sequence ends in a long bout of awkward silence). There’s also “Men on the Street,” where Trixie and Katya recruit their field team (themselves out of drag, in their civilian personas as Brian and Brian) to interrogate the public.
Is this show for everyone? No, probably not. At first glance it’s a low-budget, stream of conscious little morsel that doesn’t appear to have actually migrated off of YouTube in the first place. And yet.
AND FUCKING YET.
It’s hypnotic, and hilarious, and far more savvy that it seems at first blush. Do yourself a favor and give it a chance. The Trixie & Katya Show” returns tonight at 10:30pm EST, and they’ll be doing a deep dive on “Break Ups”.