Can millennials build the world’s most sustainable modern town from scratch?
That’s the premise of “Jungletown” (10 p.m. Tuesdays on Viceland), a documentary about the vision of Jimmy Stice. With his shaggy hair and mellow vibe, he seems to have just stepped off a surfboard, but he’s a real estate entrepreneur and is good at wooing Silicon Valley investors and “interns” for his town-building project.
The series follows 80 young interns who pay $5,000 to spend 10 weeks in a remote, muddy, yet lush corner of Panama. They come to Kalu Yala, as the town is called, with big dreams but soon realize they’re not in paradise. There’s horse poop everywhere and it needs to be shoveled up. And the jungle is … a jungle. One intern sees a gnawed-up armadillo corpse. “What ate that?” she wonders.
Two interns leave because, as Stice puts it, “they didn’t understand the vision,” which he says is “researching how you can live beautifully.” Meanwhile, he jets off to conferences and stocks up on pinot noir.
The staff seems bumbling. They struggle for hours to hook up a PVC pipeline to bring in water from a stream for bathing and imbibing. Then one staffer says the next big storm will wash much of it away.
Millennial stereotypes are as plentiful as the ants that crawl the jungle floor. People have “idea orgasms.” And they debate whether a man bun is the best way to tame unruly locks.
Still, it makes for thought-provoking TV. Is Kalu Yala a way to heal the earth, a real estate investment or a loony pipe dream? Perhaps the most realistic viewpoint comes from the locals. “I liked it when the gringos arrived here,” says a Panamanian villager, “because they bring the money.”
Read more of Marc’s TV musings: