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Archive for Friday, March 27, 2009

Dateline’ exposes more money woes

March 27, 2009

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“Dateline” (9 p.m., NBC) returns to its three-part expose of America’s economic woes with a look at consumer debt, out-of-control credit card companies and collection agencies that cross the line between diligence and harassment.

Correspondent Chris Hansen interviews members of several families who have fallen behind on their credit card bills because of loss of income, and, in one case, a catastrophic medical emergency — their teenage son’s battle with cancer.

To put that last story in some perspective, a “Frontline” that aired last year made it abundantly clear that no one goes bankrupt or loses their homes due to medical expenses in England, Canada, France, Germany, Japan or Switzerland. That is a fact that sets the United States apart from virtually every other developed nation.

“Dateline’s” Hansen also interviews a Harvard professor who claims that credit card companies have become so usurious in their rates and so thuggish in their collection efforts that they have “put the loan sharks out of business.”

One woman plays a message left on her home answering machine from a third-party collector threatening to rape her if she did not settle up on her Target department-store credit card. A hidden camera shows some collection “professionals” bragging about their illegal exploits.

You have to give “Dateline” and NBC some credit for risking the loss of potential advertisers with this report.

Then again, maybe Target should hire collection agencies that don’t threaten their customers. And banks should stop sticking their customers with rates often exceeding 20 percent. We used to have laws against usury in this country.

• After wrapping up “Battlestar Galactica” last week, the Sci Fi network allows “Stargate SG-1” fans to catch up with their favorites with two movie-length offerings: “Stargate: The Ark of Truth” (8 p.m., Sci Fi) and “Stargate: Continuum” next Friday.

Proof that strong science fiction franchises never have to die, “Battlestar Galactica” will live on, or at least look back with “Caprica,” a prequel series airing in 2010.

And proof that some marketing types can’t leave well enough alone, the Sci Fi network will change its name to SyFy, beginning July 7. One can only ask, why? Or is that “wy?”

• “Her Story” (7 p.m., ESPN) offers a group portrait of female athletes, including surfing phenomenon Bethany Hamilton, who returned to the sport after losing her arm in a shark attack in 2003.

Tonight’s other highlights

• John Henry’s dark side emerges on “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” (7 p.m., Fox).

• Anthony Hopkins returns to his Hannibal Lecter role in the 2002 shocker “Red Dragon” (7:30 p.m., FX).

• Matt’s grandmother suffers a setback on “Friday Night Lights” (8 p.m., NBC).

• A virus outbreak sends Echo back to her old school, where she picks up pieces of her real past on “Dollhouse” (8 p.m., Fox).

• Kate swears off men on the season 1 finale of “Mistresses” (8 p.m., BBC America). Season 2 picks up next Friday.

• The Kansas University Jayhawks play the Michigan State Spartans in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (8:37 p.m., CBS).

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