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"Vice" offers dangerous, compelling stories

Journalists don't have the best reputations, but I'd have to guess that if you separated foreign correspondents from other reporters in polls, the favorable numbers would be higher.

They should be. I'm not devaluing local news, but it takes a special breed and a special kind of courage to go to far-flung places and cover stories where the danger is evident.

"Vice" (11 p.m. Friday, HBO), an edgy news magazine, is chock full of that special breed of journalist and is focused on the stories that take a lot of effort and a lot of bravery to cover. It makes for a fascinating and illuminating half-hour.

You might have heard of "Vice" recently; that North Korea trip by "Celebrity Apprentice" and former NBA star Dennis Rodman was done for this show.

Hosted by Shane Smith, the Vice media company's founder, the first episode features a look at political assassinations in the Philippines. Reporter Ryan Duffy follows a candidate registering for re-election in a country that has has 1,200 political assassination in a decade. He uses that journey as a way of examining the country's gun culture (nearly 70 percent of the population owns guns) and how opposition groups teach children to use guns and kill.

That detail connects the story to the second report, about children suicide bombers in Kabul. Children are used because they can get past the checkpoints easier; 80 percent of the attacks are now done by teenagers, ignorant of the true teachings about suicide in the Koran, and duped by the Taliban to believe either that they will survive the bomb strapped to their chests or to think the vests are full of documents.

Smith manages to get interviews with some of the children captured, and it's clear and sad to see that they are indeed children. And there are hundreds of them. Some of the people fooling them are imams, religious leaders co-opted by the Taliban. Smith even gets an interview with a senior Taliban leader.

A second episode I screened had stories on an underground railroad that helps people escape North Korea and the volatile Kashmir border that separates India and Pakistan.

These stories are scary, but important, the kind of news you need to know but that you don't want to know because they let you know how precarious peace and safety are. Thank goodness for the journalists at "Vice" for being brave enough to bring these stories to us.

What to Watch on Friday: Andy Richter as Penny's (young) dad on 'Happy Endings'

Nikita (8pm, CW) - Nikita and Michael learn about a new prosthetic hand that could help Michael return to his old self, but it comes at a steep price.

Profile for Murder (8pm, Lifetime) - A serial killer escapes from prison and stalks the retired criminal profiler who helped put him away.

Happy Endings (8pm, ABC) - Two more "Happy Endings" episodes tonight. In the first, Jane and Alex recommend Max to their longtime hairdresser, who dishes some juicy gossip about the ladies and triggers a sisterly war. In the second, Penny reaches out to her estranged father in advance of her wedding. Andy Richter plays her dad (he's kinda young for that, right?).

Grimm (9pm, NBC) - Rosalee is called up for jury duty and enlists Nick and Hank to stop a Wesen defense attorney from overturning a murder case.

Michael Feinstein's American Songbook (9:30pm, UNC-TV) - Season 3 opens with a look at American musicals with help from Steven Sondheim, Christine Ebersole and Angela Landsbury.

Blue Bloods (10pm, CBS) - Danny investigates a murder in a cemetery and discovers that the victim was a religious woman who was hiding her interfaith romance from her family.

Vice (11pm, HBO) - A new newsmagazine program offering stories from around the world debuts with a visit to the Philippines to examine the violent rivalries that erupt between political opponents. Also, a report on kids who are recuited by the Taliban to be suicide bombers in Afghanistan. Adrienne has a review of "Vice".

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