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20/20 Hindsight

This past Friday night, the ABC News program 20/20 showed an hour-long John Stossel special based on Freakonomics. Because our involvement was quite limited — we helped brainstorm the segments and sat for interviews, etc. — I can say without bragging that it was really, really good. A large and very hard-working team of producers took a bunch of our sketchy ideas and made smart, compelling, entertaining TV out of it, and for that we are very grateful. Just watching Stossel arch his famous eyebrows over our material would be have been well worth the price of admission. (Stossel has been one of my favorite journalists for a long time, TV or otherwise; he also loaned me a necktie for the 20/20 taping after I showed up without one due to travel complications that cannot be described here.) But there was so much more than that. Not content with replaying the story of the bagel man in our book, 20/20 went out and found a commercial fisherman who runs an honor-payment business. Not content with merely asking the question “How is a crack dealer like a beauty pageant contestant?”, they went out and found a woman who was a former crack dealer and a former beauty contestant. They let us talk about our ideas and they also featured the work of Sudhir Venkatesh, Roland Fryer, John List, and Keith Chen, any one of whom could have held down their own hour of TV, and each of whom I’d be honored to share any program with. So hats off, and thanks, to ABC.