As I sat quietly in my freshman dorm room, I never imagined the horrific phone call I would receive from my mother. It was Sept. 25, 2001- the sun was shining and things were going great, but they were about to take a devastating turn. “Hello, Rachel,” my mother said. I have some bad news. Your cousin, Dina, is missing.” These words still linger years later.
According to the Mothers Against Sexual Predators At Large, 817,213 missing persons were reported missing in 2000.
As any detective can tell you, investigating missing property or death is competitively easy compared to elusive missing people. However, in New York City there is a special unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigators designed to find them. Using the vast resources and clues they receive, the team races to find the brother, daughter, aunt or cousin missing.
CBS’ ‘Without A Trace’ is a riveting drama, which began airing in Sept. of 2002, which imitates the real-life stories of the FBI missing persons unit of New York.
As the agents of ‘Without A Trace’ establish a timeline on a white dry-erase board in their Manhattan office, they begin tracking the minute-by-minute reconstruction of events leading to the model’s disappearance or child’s kidnapping. ‘The Journal of American Popular Cultures’ states television is an object of academic fascination and anxiety. Audiences are able to formulate opinions about the topics addressed on television dramas, such as ‘Without A Trace,’ and escape their daily routines, have an outlet for their fantasies and fears and gain satisfaction when a criminal is prosecuted or a missing person is found.
The ‘Without A Trace’ team reconstructs a ‘Day of Disappearance’ which details every minute of the 24 hours prior to the disappearance of the victim, following one simple rule: learn who the victim is to find where the victim is.
Senior agent Jack Malone (Athony LaPlagia) heads the task force; Samantha Spade (Poppy Montgomery) uses different tactics in solving the missing persons puzzle and Vivian Johnson (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) uses her special insight on family matters. Danny Taylor (Enrique Murciano) uses his street smarts to unfold the complex storyline and rookie Martin Fitzgerald (Eric close) uses his father’s connections to continue his work on the complicated cases.
Unlike many other hour-long dramas, ‘Without A Trace’ considers how the missing person lives and thinks, rather than just concentrating on the mystery. The sole responsibility of the special task force is to find missing persons by applying advanced techniques to trace the victim’s whereabouts. In an effort to discover whether they have been abducted, murdered, committed suicide or simply run away, the detective’s reveal much of their own lives. Audiences are introduced to the detective’s boyfriends, families and insecurities.
Unlike many other cop dramas, ‘Without A Trace’ creates a personal connection between the audience and its’ characters. The show feeds on the atmosphere of a country “on alert.” Unlike reports of real kidnapping cases, such as my cousin Dina’s, audiences are able to gain a satisfaction guarantee. Whether the story ends in a positive light or not, the team is always able to solve the case. Malone uses “kitchen-sink psychological profiling” that is understood by ordinary people and this is what attracts the large audience that toons in each week. Many of the shows viewers could only image dealing with the death of their father or suspecting the nanny of kidnapping their little boy.
Until I receive another phone call from my mother stating Dina has been found, I will continue to watch ‘Without A Trace’ and be thankful that some missing persons are found alive and reunited with their family and use the show as a way to deal with the emotional pain associated with a missing family member.