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'Dateline's' 'Lost in Suburbia:' Well worth watching

Lester Holt, left, interviews Diane and Jon Windemuller

Lester Holt, left, interviews Diane and Jon Windemuller on Dateline NBC's special on suburban poverty. Credit: NBC

THE SHOW "America Now: Lost in Suburbia," on "Dateline"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday at 8 p.m. on NBC/4

WHAT IT'S ABOUT The good life seems, or would have seemed, easily attainable in Boulder County, Colo. Fast growth. Lots of jobs. And throughout the '00s, a rapidly expanding middle class. But that was then, and this is now.

"Dateline's" "America Now," anchored by Lester Holt, steps in amid the financial wreckage in the lives of three once solidly middle-class families here. There's Diane and Joe Windemuller, parents of three young children. She's a former human resources exec who was laid off after a "dispute" at work and Joe -- laid off as a consultant -- who finally found work at a sporting goods store; they've lost everything. Diane's reluctant to take any job, but finally is forced to.

Joyce and Lincoln Welch, also parents of three, have a child with a rare chromosomal disease; Lincoln's been out of work for months, and the Welches, like the Windemullers, go to local food pantries.

Finally, there's Ann Huggins, a single unemployed mom struggling to pay for her daughter's diabetes medicine. They all have one thing in common -- they are victims of the great recession.

MY SAY "Dateline" began following these families last year, and with this hour offers a portrait-as-timeline -- tracking the weeks and months as they roll agonizingly by. There's an aching familiarity and even universality to their stories -- a fear for their future and their children's future, and a sense that the black cloud overhead will never disperse. Nothing breaks their way. Marriages are strained, and kids wonder when anything will ever get back to normal -- the parents afraid to tell them that this is the new normal. But what emerges from this intelligent, nuanced "Dateline" is an unexpected punch line: They all adjust.

At first their destitution is unthinkable. How did this happen to us? Why are we poking through bins in a food pantry? But slowly they absorb the fact they, too, are a grim and growing statistic -- of people living below the poverty line. When this reality sets in, they begin to fight, and fight hard. It lends the hour an optimistic coda, but you're also left to wonder how many millions have simply given up the fight.

BOTTOM LINE Well worth watching. One only wonders how many people on Long Island are in exactly the same desperate circumstances?

GRADE B+

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