In his column today, “Using predators to catch viewers,” Variety‘s chief TV critic Brian Lowry addresses those hidden-camera child-molesters-on-the-prowl shows that purport to be in the public interest and saturate television, in particular, Chris Hanson’s To Catch a Predator, the NBC Dateline series that reruns almost as frequently as I Love Lucy.
[P]edophilia is so heinous and abhorrent, daring to question the righteous indignation the subject evokes feels dicey. Yet with the degree of reporting becoming so blatantly out of whack relative to the scope of the threat, there’s cause to second-guess the motives of those perpetuating concerns that every child is a random mouse-click away from being scarred for life. […] Most troubling is that the sheer tonnage of programming seems tethered in part to cynical demographic calculations. After all, those most likely to be alarmed are parents of young children — a contingent disproportionately represented in the 25-to-54 age group sought by advertisers.