I should like to talk about a show that has me angered and horrified, and probably not for the reasons one might guess. It is an exploitation of sick people, doing sick things, and ultimately being forced to meet their impending doom for our shock and viewing pleasure, right there on Primetime Television. The show I am referring to is not American Idol, but the Dateline NBC series, TO CATCH A PREDATOR, a hidden camera investigation of online child predators.
The all-star cast consists of a group of highly trained agents (probably NBC interns) known as The Perverted-Justice Team, who sit in a truck and play online all day; an overweight, 49 year-old woman smoking a cigar who masterfully disguises her voice as that of a 13 year-old girl's (or boy's) for when they finally get Mr. Predator on the phone; a small woman-gymnist-type person (possibly Cathy Rigby) to pose as the young girl/boy for when the poor schmuck eventually shows up at the front door; and last but not liked, the ringleader of this crooked circus, NBC's own seven-foot-a hundred Chris Hansen...A man far creepier and more frightening than any of the child predators he is out to catch.
I realize I am coming at this from an unpopular angle, and I in no way endorse what these old pervs do. I simply do not enjoy the spectacle that this show has become, and have begun to question its merit. First of all, Chris Hansen, in all of his promotional interviews, is very proud of the fact that he is SAVING THE CHILDREN OF THE WORLD by doing this service, and that is bullshit. There are plenty of sick-Os out there who aggressively hunt young children every day, who pose a serious threat, and who must immediately be stopped. This does not seem to be the group that TCAP is "bringing to justice". Instead, they are online preying, themselves, for lonely, relatively harmless old losers who can't get a date to save their lives. In most cases, these pathetics are too scared to even carry on a conversation with the "kid" and try to decline many times before the NBC fakers finally badger them into going along with it. (I guess if they can't cast the roles of "scary predators 1 thru 5" for the week they don't have a show.)
Anyway, the creeps finally show up to the scene one by one. Cathy Rigby invites them in, mixes them a dry martini, makes them say some embarrassing stuff, and then finally excuses her self to "slip into something more comfortable" or "douche" or whatever the script calls for that week. She leaves, Chris Hansen enters with his camera crew, conducts a riveting interview which rivals Larry King's with Paris Hilton, the old pervert shits on the floor, Chris Hansen eats it, and then the perv is set free to run and skip and pick daisies in the garden which he may take home to his lovely wife and children (who have probably just sat down to watch Dateline NBC)......Or so he thinks....
What really awaits him outside is a police squad, the fire department, the US Army, the mayor, the President of the United States, the Pope, the entire neighborhood waving torches, a pack of wolves, Matt Lauer, the rest of the touring cast of Peter Pan starring Cathy Rigby, and the FBI. Meanwhile, the poor, lonely predator is usually either 80 years old, in a wheelchair, missing a leg, blind, paraplegic, or all of the above. 9 times out of 10 the guy has no intention (or capability) of running away or putting up a fight. Still, every time, like clockwork, he is pummeled to the ground by 12 HUGE police officers with machine guns and knives, who sneak up on him, hit him and scream at him. It is completely unnecessary, but it sure does make for some action-packed TV.
The funniest part of this show, which has been on for years now, is that most of the predators have already seen it, and so NBC really has to stay on their toes to pull this shit off. The young decoy, once played by a small adult, is now an actual teenager, who keeps getting younger and younger every season, in an effort to keep the set up fresh and convincing. They also seem to have her (or him) go along with the plot just a litte bit further each time, so as not to tip off Predator Pete. Like, originally, the "young girl" would open the door and immediately run back to safety. Now, the decoy is forced to spend a good 10 minutes chillin' with the bad guy. By next season, I believe they will have her actually go through with the sex part, which will no doubt prove more effective (and amusing).
Some of the pervs are apparently faithful viewers of the program, and seem almost excited to have made it on! They show up to the house wearing "To Catch A Predator" merchandise, and are thrilled by the chance to at last meet Chris Hansen and get his autograph. It's as though they have finally landed in the hot seat of "WHO WANTS TO BE A CHILD PREDATOR?". They walk through the door, confetti falls, the lights start flashing, and they wait for Chris to make his grand entrance in a cloud of smoke to present them with a shiny new criminal record and a 500 dollar gift certificate to Ohmaha Steaks. Not to mention a fabulous spot on NBC's Wednesday night lineup. (Maybe it doesn't happen exactly like that..)
I guess the most obnoxious part for me is Hansen's "interview" segment with each of the contestants. When he saunters out from behind the curtain with that smug, stupid little face and his paperwork in hand...And he always tries to come up with some cute little opening line, custom-made to cleverly fit each predator. Like, if the guy is a dentist, Chris will say, "Well, it looks like you're interested in filling more than just this girl's cavities."...or if the guy is a carpet salesman, he'll say, "Come to check out some carpet samples, have you?". (Whatever it is, it is usually far more offensive than anything the predator has said by this point.) And his questions are always brilliant. He really delves deep into the psyche of these men and gets right to the core of why they do what they do. One of his staple questions (in so many words) is, "Why - oh - WHY would a gross old man like you drive all this way for the chance to have sex with a hot young chick??". This always seems to baffle him. (um....I think you know why, Chris.) And then he always uses the same, tired, old bit for the big reveal and to wrap things up. "I'm Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC..."Yeah, they know who you are, Chris! They've got you TiVo'd at home.
Anyway, I'm sure this show has done plenty of good over the years. It's opened a lot of people's eyes, and it certainly has an important message, but sometimes I feel like they're just luring poor, sick, crazy dogs into their trap by tempting them with hot, underaged dog biscuits and then mutilating them on camera simply for entertainment value. Most of the time, the guys they catch have no prior record of sex offense or any other criminal activity, for that matter, and probably never would have gone to the house had they not been so intensely persuaded by the alleged teen. Have Dateline's crew and Chris Hansen really saved the children of the world by pulling these doofuses off the streets? But at least these 'tards are caught on tape making potentially the biggest mistake of their lives, which have now crumbled before our eyes. And at least we have something to watch on an otherwise slow Wednesday night.
As a side note, I find Chris Hansen completely atrocious and feel he must be CAUGHT, himself. I'm sure he's home every night doing plenty of "research" for the show, and is probably the grossest child predator of them all, who just happened to get lucky enough to land this gig. He couldn't wish for a better cover-up.
I will be hosting my own show, called "DATELINE NBC: TO CATCH CHRIS HANSEN". I will be online day and night, searching chat rooms for this phony, and will even go so far as to sleep with hundreds of thousands of people if need be. The children of the world will be safe once and for all with me on the job. Until he is exposed as a fraud, I will not rest.