|"What are you doing with that rope and a bag of Trojans?"|
When NBC News' Dateline program started filming their ...To Catch A Predator series, their goal was simple. Expose the dangers to your teenager that creeps online pose. And right out of the gate, they achieved that goal. But like everything else in life, too much can sometimes be a bad thing. As they did more and more of these specials, the reactions from the viewing audience changed from the anger and shock of the proliferation of pedophiles online, to reactions of joy from the entertainment contained within each episode. I know I laugh at these shows a lot more than I probably should. I don't think that's necessarily the reaction the producers of the show intended.
After a while, the show begins to get a little predictable. They show a few online chat-logs between the predator and a decoy. These start innocently enough (for as twisted as this shit is), but almost always devolve into said predator emailing pictures of his junk to the "kid." The guy shows up at a sting-house and is let in by the decoy, who always manages to stay out of the direct eyesight of the predator. As she steps into the back to take care of some last minute laundry, we are treated to a few uncomfortable seconds of the sicko mentally prepping himself for action.
One beat later, the hand of god steps through the curtain. Chris Hansen, surely representing all of our collective judgment, walks onto the scene, along with four cameras and a boom mic; commencing to give the shell-shocked pedophile an interrogative colonoscopy. After two minutes of grilling, the whimpering pederast is allowed to leave the house, and makes his exit into the gentle arms of the local police department. The show usually wraps up with text line of each featured subject and the amount of time he received from the court. Simple and effective, it's public justice for the 21st century.
As predictable as it can be, it's the little details that had me hooked on the show. Hansen's deadpan reading of the chat-logs are awesome: MenudoFan69: do you like the angle of my dangle? I love the amused look on the decoys face as she describes whatever kind of regional snack she's prepared for the predator to nosh on while she throws her soiled shirt in the off-camera washing machine. It's always sweet tea if they're down South, lemonade in California, and cookies or a bowl of candy anywhere else. The guy almost always denies he was there to do anything sexual, but for some reason always has a bag full of rubbers and either a six-pack of Miller Genuine Draft or a bottle of Boone's Farm. And it's always a kick to see the glimmer of hope that he is off the hook in the creep's eyes when Chris says the magic words, "You're free to leave." Of course that always results in about ten angry cops pinning the guy to the driveway as they slap those weird plastic handcuffs on him. Good times.
Sadly, they don't seem to be doing these shows anymore. It came to an end when a District Attorney in Texas suspected of soliciting minors committed suicide rather than face THE LONG DICK OF THE LAW. His family blamed the show, who was in the area filming at the time and a lawsuit was filed. It was later settled and NBC moved on to other stories. There's no doubt the show was effective, but it does bring up some legal questions. Chief among them are the possible entrapment issues their stings brought up, as well as a possible tainting of the jury pools in the cities in which they were filmed.
But when you think about it, they really don't have to film anymore, do they? Because nobody recycles old shit better than current shallow Cable-TV, and that's where ...To Catch a Predator lives now. Predator Raw: The Unseen Tapes on MSNBC shows the original stings WITH BONUS COMMENTARY! And even though I've seen it all before a hundred times, and I know what's going to happen, here I am on a Sunday night waiting for my fix. And I highly doubt that I'm the only one.