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America's Most Wanted Canceled After 23 Years

America's Most Wanted Canceled After 23 Years

Chicago Sun-Times via YellowBrix

May 17, 2011

‘America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh isn’t burned out, nor does he plan to fade away anytime soon. But he’ll likely need to find another home for his long-running true crime show, which aired on Fox for 23 years until its cancellation Monday.

While four more episodes of “Wanted” will trickle out as two-hour specials, the weekly program — whose high profile and flurry of called-in tips helped local, national and international law enforcement officials nab more than 1,100 bad guys — will go away after June 18.

“[‘Wanted’] bridged the gap between Hollywood and the real world of law enforcement, which is tough to do at times,” said Jason Grunwald, chief inspector for the U.S. Marshal Service’s Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, which is headquarted in Chicago.

Grunwald, who worked with Walsh and his producers on several occasions, lamented the fate of “a great partner” in crime fighting.

Chicago-based FBI special agent Ross Rice expressed similar sentiments, saying he was “shocked and saddened” by the news.

Crime victims will feel the loss, he added, because they’ll no longer have the same “opportunity to get some closure, to bring to justice the person or persons responsible for causing pain in their own lives. … I don’t think we’re going to be able to replace ‘AMW.’ There isn’t another show out there that did what they did as well as they did it.”

For Fox, bumping “Wanted” was merely a business decision. Although it was “an important show for us historically,” Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly said, it “wasn’t particularly viable” financially.

Walsh, 66, is frustrated and puzzled by the decision. “Maybe we’re not a huge money­maker, but my God, we’ve saved lives and gotten people justice who have nowhere else to go,” he told the Sun-Times.


John Walsh was moved to launch “America’s Most Wanted” in 1988 after the murder of his son, Adam, went unsolved for years. The killer was discovered in 2008. [AP]

Surely, though, it came as little surprise that bottom-line concerns trumped public service. “Maybe it shouldn’t be only about the money,” said Walsh, who predicted the show “would kick ass in syndication” and is working on a global version.

Walsh’s 6-year-old son, Adam, was abducted and murdered in 1981 by serial killer Ottis Toole. That painful incident eventually spurred the former Florida-based luxury hotel developer to begin his dogged televised manhunt. “Wanted” first aired on only a handful of Fox stations in early 1988 and soon shot to No. 1 in its time slot.

Two decades later, in late 2008, Adam’s case was finally solved.

“I’ll always be the father of Adam,” Walsh said, “and it took 27 years of anguish and pushing to get the cops to close that case. I think I’ve gotten better at it. I think I’ve gotten tougher and smarter and I figured out how to incorporate the public, who are my biggest resource. The public has kept the show on the air.”

And the public, he knows, can help reinstate it. When “Wanted” was dropped once before, in 1996, “the public went bananas,” Walsh said. Governors, members of Congress and affiliate stations around the country, he noted, “roared up” as well.

“We were the shortest-canceled show in TV history, so you never know. I always look at it as the glass half full.”

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