Series / Dateline
aka: Dateline NBC
4chan had a field day.

"Hi there. Why don't you take a seat right over there...what are you doing?"

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 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.

On April 2015, Hansen launched a Kickstarter campaign to promote his successor to the original series, Hansen vs. Predator. The campaign was so successful, Hansen eventually took over as host of the daily syndicated series Crime Watch Daily, of which Hansen vs. Predator became a recurring segment on the show; his takeover as host boosted the show's ratings.

Dateline is still on the air, now anchored by Lester Holt, 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?

  • Adult Fear / Truth in Television: The dangers that TCAP confronted were very much real life fears that are among parent's worst nightmares.
  • Affably Evil: Most of the predators are surprisingly polite when they are caught.
  • Affectionate Parody: The program is very subject to this.
  • Always Male: The pedophiles featured on the show.
    • They did once have online contact with a married couple who wanted to meet one of the purported teenagers, but only the husband actually showed up. One expert Hansen spoke to said that while female predators do exist, they tend to pursue children or minors they personally know, rather than seeking anonymous encounters online.
  • "Awesome McCool" Name: STONE.
  • Badass Baritone: Stone Phillips.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Of the villain kind. Some predators went down their path because the "child" they were talking to gave them an attention and connection they lacked in their daily life.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: One predator wanted the girl to have sex with her cat. Another talked about sex acts with a dog.
  • Big "NO!": A few of the "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.
    • One predator claimed he met the girl in a roleplaying chatroom and thought she was only pretending to be 14, but it was actually a romance chatroom.
    • The majority of predators claim that the meeting they have with Chris is their first meeting, and while technically speaking this cannot be proven untrue, the circumstances in which they arrived at the decoy houses make this hard to believe.
  • 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.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Some predators try to invoke this, saying that this was the first time they'd ever tried this and of course they wind up in a sting operation for national TV.
  • Catchphrase: Why don't you have a seat right over there?
  • Cool Car: One of the predators had a customized Nissan Ultima. Even Hansen said "That's quite a car you've got out there", before telling him to have a seat.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Chris Hansen whenever predators attempt to justify themselves when the chat logs say otherwise.
    David Schumacher: I don't wanna be on the news dawg.
    Chris: Well, it's a little late for that dawg.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Sometimes, the subjects of the show are married to a woman, yet they seek a boy to have sex with.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Other times, some of the subjects of the show are gay.
  • Dirty Cop: At least one predator was a cop.
  • Dirty Coward: A few predators have run away once they saw Chris and some others have cried and begged for mercy when they were about to get arrested.
  • Dirty Old Man: Some of the predators are middle-aged or older.
  • Double Entendre: One of the more notable predators on the show was this man, who got busted twice in 24 hours (despite having an Oh, Crap! moment after the first meeting, he wasn't deterred from initiating a second). In his second meeting, when he is confronted at the McDonald's he asked the decoy to meet up at, he thrice says immediately upon meeting Chris that he "just came to get something to eat!" A line with a both ironic and harsh double meaning because while the man meant to say that he had only came to get food, his words could be viewed as him getting something to eat (regarding an act of molestation he might have performed on his supposed victim).
  • The Dreaded: Chris Hansen is this to the predators. Once Hansen enters the room, the predator knows it's all over.
  • 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.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first To Catch a Predator special was actually titled Dangerous Web, and spent only half the time on the home encounters. The latter half focused on reactions and interviews with teens and parents, as well as instructing people on how to keep their kids safe on the internet. And of course the police arrests didn't begin until the third special.
  • 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.
  • Exact Words: Chris Hanson uses this often in his interviews with the predators to keep them calm, e.g., "I'm not going to arrest you" or "It's not up to me whether you go to jail." The SWAT team waiting right outside the door, however, will be arresting the predator.
  • 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, Hansen's not the one doing the arresting.
  • Genre Savvy: Some predators will try to search the house for adults, especially camera crews. Of course, they can't be that genre savvy if they showed up at the house in the first place.
  • 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...
    • Even before the show had direct police involvement, they were still handing all evidence over to authorities, and many of them were eventually arrested despite walking free.
  • Humiliation Conga: Every encounter with Hansen is this to the guys on the show. Especially after police start getting involved.
  • 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...
    • Pretty much every father ensnared in the stings fall into this. Chris Hansen made a point to ask people who have children what they would think if a man of their age came over to their house to have sex with their underage daughter, then when they respond that they would be outraged, Hansen would follow-up with "Then why would you think it's OK for you to come over and have sex with an underage girl?"
  • Idiot Ball: In the second Predator special, one of the men is caught in a chat room less than 24 hours after he'd already been confronted at the house. Chris was especially irritated when they confronted him the next day.
    • Then there was the guy caught in one of their California stings, only to show up at their next sting 8 months later.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Every single predator after the show started working with law enforcement is arrested and has their personal lives exploited on national television.
  • 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.
  • Modesty Towel: Whenever Chris runs into a naked predator he has them cover up with a towel before they take a seat.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Most predators when they realize their attempts to have sex with a minor has cost them their lives.
  • Naked People Are Funny: At least one predator has entered the house naked.
  • No Social Skills: A good portion of the predators, especially the younger, under-30 ones. When Chris would ask why they simply couldn't date people their own age, some of the predators said they couldn't get a date with someone in their age bracket and that the person they were talking to were the only quality connection they had with someone.
  • Oh, Crap!: Pretty much every guy when Chris Hansen steps in.
  • Older Than They Look: The decoys. They're legally old enough to date the men that enter the room, but due to their appearance, they could easily pass as an underage teen.
  • 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 rabbis, ministers, etc. No literal priest though.
  • Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: All together now: "Why don't you have a seat right over there?"
  • 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.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Michael Warrecker (the guy with the delightful screenname "can_i_rape_you_anally") is one of the creepiest predators on the show, mostly because he has a rape fetish.
  • 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.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: One guy is accidentally tasered when the police swoop in to arrest him. Hilarity Ensues.
  • 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 get almost poetic in their chats. For example, one says there's a difference between "making love" and "fucking". To wit, "fucking is just raw passion and making love is a connection of bodies."
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: To Catch A Predator.
  • The Stoic: Chris Hansen keeps a straight face at all times.
  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix:
  • Syndication Title: Many of the hourlong true-crime documentaries are rebroadcast on MSNBC under individual titles without the Dateline branding.
  • 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.
  • Three-Way Sex: A disturbing example. There was a married couple who wanted to have sex with one of the decoys (though only the husband showed up at the house).
  • Too Dumb to Live: Any predator that's seen this show and still shows up could count, but special mention should go to John Kennelly who was caught entering the house naked and was caught having another explicit chat with a decoy less than 24 hours later.
  • Tranquil Fury: Chris does an excellent job maintaining himself professionally but there are moments where he raises his voice at someone, and you can tell he's holding back from smacking some of the men he confronted.
  • Two Words: Added Emphasis: "Two words for you: Roleplaying chatroom, dude!"
  • Villainous Breakdown: More than one predator completely loses it.
  • Villainous B.S.O.D.: One predator went still and literally fell out of his chair to faceplant into the kitchen cabinet, after learning that he was being recorded.

"I'm Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC, and we're doing a story on tropers. If there's any other tropes you'd like to add, feel free to do so. Otherwise, you're free to leave this page anytime."

Alternative Title(s): To Catch A Predator, Dateline NBC