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Viceland's 'Payday' comes to Baltimore

The TV series "Payday" comes to Baltimore tonight at 9 on Viceland.

I like the premise of this docu-series: "Follow 20-somethings over the course of a single pay-period to see how they spend, struggle and thrive," in the words of the channel's website.

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It's a real-life look at economics for young adults.

The four Baltimore residents who will be featured tonight are a professional dirt bike rider, an underground tattoo artist, a photographer and an entrepreneur who runs a portable hookah operation.

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As a journalist, I have my problems with Vice's approach to nonfiction storytelling. In tonight's episode, for example, three of the four persons featured are identified on the screening copy only by their first names, A.J., Noah and Cat. On the other hand, viewers are given the full name of the bike rider, Chino Braxton.

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Furthermore, one of the storylines involves a fundraising photo event involving children from the neighborhood where Freddie Gray was arrested. The narrative builds to the fundraiser that features the sale of photos taken by the children. But then it abruptly ends with narration saying the photographer and the children's group "parted ways after the fundraiser due to a financial dispute."

The statement raises more questions than it answers and makes me question the emotional commitment I made to caring about the storyline, photographer and kids.

That said, this is still TV time well spent — especially if you are in the target age group and struggling yourself with an economy that makes life very tough for many millennials.

The episode offers some hard dollars-and-cents numbers about Braxton's earnings, as well as an inside look at his family and how they feel about Baltimore after a shooting that left him with a bullet in his head. The numbers are mushier when it comes to the underground economy in which the tattoo artist works. But his story is a compelling one.

It is also fascinating to see the different levels of ambition among the four people and how that correlates with how much money they are — or are not — making.

Making economics entertaining enough to meet the expectations of a prime-time TV audience is a challenge. And Viceland meets it in this episode on Baltimore.

Viceland airs on Comcast cable channel 826 in Baltimore city. It can also be seen DirecTV's channel 271 and DISH's channel 121.


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