America's Most Wanted (partially found reality legal TV show; 1988-2012)

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America's Most Wanted logo.png

The show's logo

Status: Partially Found

America's Most Wanted was a reality legal show on Fox from 1988-2011 and on Lifetime TV in 2012. Hosted by John Walsh, the show would profile criminals who were on the run from authorities and show reenactments of the events that led up to the crime. Viewers were urged to call America's Most Wanted hotline, where tips would be forwarded to authorities. At the time of the show's cancellation on Fox, it was the longest-running TV show in the network's history with 25 seasons in total. The show returned to Fox in March 2021 with new host Elizabeth Vargas.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

Background[edit | edit source]

Reality legal programming was nothing new. In the 1950's, a program on CBS called Wanted aired, but only lasted one season. The concept for Wanted was introduced to Europe in the late 1960's and a German show called Aktenzeichen XY … ungelöst (Case Number XY ... unsolved) premiered in Germany in 1967 and still airs to this day. In the 1980's, television programs were booming in numbers. The BBC decided to take a crack at the reality legal programming genre and in 1984 the TV show Crimewatch debuted. Seeing the success of reality legal programming in Europe, executives at CBS decided to re-visit the reality legal programming genre and the show Unsolved Mysteries debuted in 1987. Fox also wanted to have a program of their own.

In 1981, John Walsh's son Adam Walsh was kidnapped out of a mall in Hollywood, Florida. The murder of Adam Walsh soon became well known when in 1983, NBC aired a Made-for-TV film titled Adam which was based on the unsolved murder of Adam Walsh. Soon John Walsh would go to Fox and agree to be the host of America's Most Wanted. The first episode of America's Most Wanted aired on February 7, 1988, and was met with great success.

Cancellation[edit | edit source]

The first attempt to cancel America's Most Wanted came in 1996 when Fox wanted to cancel America's Most Wanted and replace it with a sitcom. Soon dedicated fans wrote to Fox and demanded America's Most Wanted to stay on the air. This campaign proved to be successful as the show was saved.

On May 16, 2011, Fox had announced that America's Most Wanted was going to be cancelled citing high production costs. Within hours of the announcement, fans took to social media to share their disappointment with Fox. Host John Walsh also expressed his disapproval of the decision and talks were made to have America's Most Wanted as a segment on Fox News. In September of 2011, Lifetime had announced that it had picked up the rights to America's Most Wanted and new episodes on the network Lifetime began to air in December 2011. On October 12, 2012, America's Most Wanted ended its 25th season on Lifetime. This would be the last time the show would air as on March 28, 2013, Lifetime had announced that America's Most Wanted would be canceled due to high licensing fees from Fox and low viewership. John Walsh moved to CNN with a similarly-formatted series, The Hunt with John Walsh, which premiered in 2014 and has made no mention of America's Most Wanted since.

Current Status[edit | edit source]

Due to the long run of the series, with over 1000 episodes produced over the span of 24 years, much of the episodes cannot be accounted for. Currently, there are some clips as well as full episodes available from various seasons on YouTube, but many full episodes and seasons of America's Most Wanted are still unavailable. There are no plans to release the series on any streaming sites or to DVDs.

Found episodes and/or Clips[edit | edit source]

Season 3 episode 95.
Part of Season 24 episode 14.
A segment showcasing Ramón Arellano Félix.
Part of Season 18 episode 38.

External Links[edit | edit source]

Reference[edit | edit source]

  • Breslin, Jack (1990). America's Most Wanted: How Television Catches Crooks. New York, New York: Harper & Row. pp. 80–85