You know how at the end of romantic comedies the two people fall in love but the thing is they were actually right in front of each other all along? This is what happened with me and Dateline.* For years our relationship was a casual and haphazard one. I’d stumble upon an episode from time to time (after FNL, for instance) and would always be surprised at how excited I was to see it. Then just the other week, after happening upon this totally riveting story and watching the entire two-hour episode without moving a single muscle in my body — even to go get a snack — I realized: I fucking love this show. I love it hard. So I’ve just now added it to the TiVo queue and this means I’ll have two (or more?) new episodes every week wheeeeeeeeee!
Everything about this program is delightful to me. I love the the newsmagazine format. I love the perfectly bite-sized, glossy nuggets of sensationalized investigative journalism. I love the awkward b-roll. I love the somber yet dramatic voice-over teasers that hook me in to the segment that’s going to follow the commercial break. And not surprisingly, it was Dateline that years ago introduced me to one of the most compelling stories I’ve ever heard, a story that my friend Wendy and I became mildly obsessed with to the point where we followed the families’ other media appearances and bought the book to share. I still sometimes think about the two families from this story, actually — I wonder how they’re faring and if they are still getting together for the occasional dinner and I wonder, too, if they are indeed still the kindest, warmest people on the planet. Dateline introduces us to a lot of psycho criminals, but I’ve noticed it also has really amazingly nice Americans on it.
*(I’m not talking about Dateline: To Catch a Predator — the one where they get people to go online posing as kids so they can lure child molesters into a house and then the host leaps out and goes Ha I’m not a kid, I’m NBC! and then the cops run in and grab the predator and throw him in the slammer — although my friend was just telling me the other night that I MUST watch this next and I plan to. What I’m talking about here is just plain regular Dateline NBC).