It has been eight years since television viewers last watched Chris Hansen stare coolly at a nonplussed grown man across a kitchen table and speak the words, “Why don’t you have a seat over there?”—but fans of Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” segments might not have to wait much longer for new episodes. Hansen, who left NBC in 2013, is taking to Kickstarter to attempt a crowdfunded revival of “To Catch a Predator.” The new project is set to be titled, somewhat inevitably, “Hansen Vs. Predator.”
From 2004 through 2007, “To Catch a Predator” set up shop in states from coast to coast, leading to the arrest of dozens of alleged “sexual predators” from California to Texas to Florida—all men who made sexual advances toward what they thought were minors in AOL and Yahoo chat rooms or IM (the decoys were actually paid consultants from Perverted Justice). Dateline stopped producing the segments in 2007 because in some ways, the show had become a victim of its own success—its popularity made it more difficult for the decoys to get people to agree to actually meet up in person. The show also figured into the high-profile suicide of Texas Assistant District Attorney Louis Conradt, who interacted online with one of the show’s decoys and shot himself when local police showed up at his home to serve a search warrant.
Although the show drew criticism over its methods and results (a significant number of people snared in the show’s “stings” were released without being charged or had their charges dropped), the show became part of the cultural zeitgeist of the late 2000s. Watching adults—almost always men—blithely stumble into a house stuffed with cameras and then get noisily arrested for some variation on a “solicitation of a minor for sex” charge proved addicting to audiences. Chris Hansen memes and gifs are regularly posted on discussion boards—and that high residual popularity is what Hansen is banking on now.
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