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Series: Dateline
4Chan had a field day.

Hi there. Take a seat...what are you doing?

When a show makes you feel sorry for potential child rapists, you know it's doing the wrong thing.
-Charlie Brooker, The Guardian

Dateline, also known as Dateline NBC, is a Prime Time News show and one of the largest, most popular, and most infamous news programs ever. It started airing in 1992 and has never entirely gone away.

The series was conceived in 1992 mainly as a cheap schedule filler and about the 73rd attempt to unseat 60 Minutes. It was hosted by Jane Pauley and Stone Phillips. Stone Phillips would become the face of the main Dateline. The series existed mainly to fill holes in the programming schedule; during the bulk of the 1990s, Dateline was on more nights than not. Archived (rerun) Dateline crime stories are used for this same purpose on MSNBC, Investigation Discovery, and TLC during dead periods.

The series drew infamy with its constant stream of fluff stories, You Can Panic Now stories, and screw-ups — most notably, an early 1992 episode of the show got into hot water when it falsely claimed that 1973-1987 GM pickup trucks have leaky and explosive gas tanks (when in reality, the only reason they exploded for the cameras is the remote controlled explosives the NBC crew put there).

Recurring segments include The Dirty Dozen (in which it takes a critical eye to health inspection scores of various fast-food restaurants), Could This Happen to You? stories, as well as full length episodes dealing with True Crime mysteries (the show has done so many episodes about murder cases involving well-to-do, adulterous suburban types, it was nicknamed "If You Marry a Doctor, You Will Die"). Many of the episodes are narrated by Keith Morrison, whose voice can be described as "Mr. Rogers as-a-creepy-old-man".

The series began to fade by the late 1990s when NBC began shoring up its late night line-up, which meant fewer nights of Dateline. Stone Phillips left the series (Jane Pauly left several years earlier) and Anne Curry and Chris Hansen took over as main anchors for the series.

The series would returned to the spotlight in 2004, when a segment Chris Hansen did with the group Perverted Justice catching men attempting to arrange sexual encounters with underage teenagers, "To Catch A Predator," garnered a huge amount of publicity. This led to a whole series of Dateline "To Catch A Predator" specials and a spin-off, "To Catch A Predator: The Raw Tapes", which shows longer versions of the confrontations between Chris Hansen and the predators. Controversy was sparked, mostly by accusations of entrapment by lawyers for the accused predators and a high profile suicide of one man caught in the sting (but who did not appear on the show, having discovered prior to his death that he had been nailed in a sting operation). The show and Chris Hansen ultimately achieved Memetic Mutation, with parodies appearing on different shows like South Park, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Arrested Development, The Boondocks, Squidbillies, etc. Whether because of the legal controversy, the increased popularity making it hardernote  to lure men to the houses, or because the "demographics" of the alleged predators had declined,note  no new TCAP segments were produced after 2007. According to a Facebook comment in 2009, it might return someday. If so, it will likely be without Chris Hansen, who recently had his own embarrassing scandal.

Dateline is still on the air in a Friday Night Death Slot (right before the local news), and also airs on Sundays opposite 60 Minutes between season of NFL football. It has some internal infamy, as CNBC airs 60 Minutes on CNBC rather than Dateline: Business Edition because of the show's lack of any non-tabloid coverage... Though there being a Dateline: Business Edition says something.

The launch of Rock Center with Brian Williams in November 2011 suggests that NBC knows that Dateline should never be omnipresent on the main network schedule again.

Not to be confused with Dateline, where it took the name from.

Why don't you use these tropes over there?

  • Affectionate Parody - The program is very subject to this.
  • Awesome Mc Cool Name: STONE.
  • Badass Baritone: Stone Phillips.
  • Big "NO!": A few predators have let one out when they were apprehended by the police.
  • Blatant Lies: The potential predators, when they try to talk their way out. Chris always has a field day with them, especially when they say they were invited in by hot older women.
  • Catchphrase: Why don't you have a seat over there...
  • Deadpan Snarker - Chris Hansen whenever predators attempt to justify themselves when the chat logs say otherwise.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Sometimes, the subjects of the show are gay.
  • Dirty Old Man: Some of the predators.
  • Driven to Suicide: One of the men they captured with To Catch a Predator killed himself when he realized the cops were closing in. NBC "amicably resolved" his sister's lawsuit..
    • Another arrested man (this one from Turkey), kept threatening "[if] You show this, I [will] kill myself". It remains to be seen as to whether he knows that regardless of what actually appeared in the broadcast (if any of it made the cut), his whole affair is on Youtube uncut.
    • This was parodied ruthlessly on the South Park episode "La Petite Tourette," where Hansen is a corrupt sadist who threatens Cartman with the ultimatum he may have "shot himself" if he doesn't co operate with his show. He escapes this after several paedophiles are tricked into entering the studio, and, realizing this, kill themselves en masse (an irate Hansen moans "Aww, not again!").
    • On Chris Hansen's first such investigation in Long Island (before police were involved), a depressed man with a history of self-harm has his identity hidden and face blurred out specifically to prevent this.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: They claimed that GM's trucks were playing this trope straight, but in reality, they averted it.
  • Evil Cripple: One pedophile suffered from Cerebral Palsy.
  • False Reassurance: When confronting pedophiles, Chris Hansen often tells them "I'm not going to arrest you". Then, as soon as they leave the house, they get arrested by the police. After all, he's not the one doing the arresting.
  • Genre Savvy: Some pedophiles look around for TV crews, and try to run away if they spot them.
  • Harmful to Minors: Of all the utterly bizarre cases, the most horrific of them was when the predator brought his two-year-old son with him to the decoy's house. Everyone was taken aback by this, and special measures had to be taken to arrest the predator as swiftly as possible, while not scaring the child.
  • Hope Spot: For some folks caught in the sting who are unfamiliar with the show, they feel very relieved when Chris Hansen says they're free to go, some of them almost bordering on jubilant. But they won't get very far...
  • Hypocrite: On report #3 in Riverside, California, one predator talked about being upset at his step daughter getting with someone who was way older than her for sex. Yet, he's on dateline...
  • Implausible Deniability: "I wasn't gonna do nothin'!" "Well, I have the transcript right here..."
  • Irony: Chris has gotta be feeling pretty foolish after this
    • This is even better.
      • Considering the source of that story, its authenticity is questionable. What's more, considering we haven't heard any more developments after Chris's denial, it's shaping up to be false.
  • Karma Houdini: Most of the predators on the show before Dateline began working with law enforcement - even though some of them ended up getting arrested later anyway, some even returning a repeat time.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: It is hard to fathom that a person who looks and sounds like Stone Phillips — and is named Stone Phillips — actually exists outside of a comic book.
  • Logical Fallacies: The predators are full of excuses. Most of which don't hold much water.
  • Long Runners: Has aired since 1992. Furthermore, it was also NBC's first successful news magazine after failed attempts such as Prime Time Saturday/Sundaynote ; NBC Magazinenote  and Monitornote .
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: Unfortunately, in a lot of their missing person cases, this is true.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Perverted Justice's actions have resulted in many of the people arrested getting Off on a Technicality. The bulk of them would wind up released when the group refused to show law enforcement complete chat transcripts.
    • It should be pointed out that PeeJ vehemently denies that they "refused to cooperate" with authorities, and since they work daily with law enforcement in many jurisdictions successfully, the one "authority" who claimed that PeeJ wouldn't cooperate (District attorney John Roach of Collin County, Texas — the only jurisdiction where the suspects' charges were dropped) is not to be taken seriously.
  • Oh Crap: Pretty much every guy when Chris Hansen steps in.
  • Older than They Look: The decoys.
  • Pædo Hunt: What do you expect from a show centered around catching child molesters?
  • Parallel Porn Titles: I'm Chris Mansen from To Catch a Predator XXX.
  • Pedophile Priest: A number of predators caught have been religious figures, such as ministers, rabbis, etc. No literal priest though.
  • Product Placement: Somewhat unintentional since these are not dramatizations. It's somewhat disturbing how many predators enter the house with a case of Mike's Hard Lemonade. Is this the official drink of pedophiles?
    • Similarly, McDonald's must be dismayed at how often potential pedos show up with their bags of food in hand.
  • Schmuck Bait: When predators are on the brink of wanting to get the hell out of there, they'll ask Hansen if they're in any serious trouble. When Hansen says they're free to walk out that door at any time, that's usually the cue for the men to run out the door...and straight into the handcuffs of the police.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Many folks on Predator try to make a run for it when confronted by Hansen...but they won't get very far.
  • Skewed Priorities: One mentally disabled predator was more distressed about his mom taking his computer away than being arrested.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Some predators, like this one, get almost poetic in their chats.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: To Catch A Predator.
  • The Stoic: Chris Hansen keeps a straight face at all times.
  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix: An affectionate remix of some Dateline clips has become very popular on Youtube.
    • And after that, a Stupid Statement Dubstep (of course) Mix was made by Sadhu, simply entitled, "Chris Hansen".
  • Syndication Title: Many of the hourlong true-crime documentaries are rebroadcast on MSNBC under individual titles without the Dateline branding.
  • The Blind Leading the Blind: The majority of these predators fall victim to the widespread myths concerning entrapment and the perceived requirement that undercover police must answer truthfully if asked "Are you a cop?". Most of these myths originate in television police dramas. One memorable individual even claimed that his druggie friends advised him on this issue.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: See Oh Crap - especially the guys who have seen the show before and know that as soon as Chris Hansen appears, their life is pretty much over.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Guess who?
  • Two Words: Obvious Trope: "Two words for you: Roleplaying chatroom, dude!"
  • Villainous Breakdown: More than one predator completely loses it.
    • Villainous BSOD: One predator went still and literally fell out of his chair to faceplant into the kitchen cabinet, after learning that he was being recorded.


20/20Prime Time NewsRock Center
The Daily ShowNonfiction SeriesDemocracy Now
The Darkon Wargaming ClubLong RunnersDegrassi
Dark ShadowsAmerican SeriesThe Dating Game

alternative title(s): Dateline NBC; To Catch A Predator
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