America's Most Wanted is a crime reality TV show on the FOX Network for its first 24 seasons and then on Lifetime that ran for 30 minutes during its first two seasons and 60 minutes thereafter. The series refers to itself as a "weekly nationwide criminal manhunt". Two or three unsolved crimes are re-created each week. Victims and law enforcement officers that have worked on the case provide the audience with information that might help determine who the perpetrator is and/or where they might be hiding. If one is available, a photo of the criminal is also shown to viewers. Then a toll-free phone number is made available for the audience to call in information or further clues to law enforcement.
America's Most Wanted CastJohn Walsh .............. Host
Don LaFontaine .......... Narrator (1988-2008)
America's Most Wanted TriviaThe tip line to call for America's Most Wanted is 1-800-CRIME-TV.
In the beginning, the final two numbers of the America's Most Wanted tip line were "88" for the current year of "1988). Then it was changed to "89" in "1989", etc. In 1994 the number became 800-CRIME-TV permanently.
No one can deny the amazing success of America's Most Wanted in providing law enforcement with the information needed to apprehend criminals. The first arrest of a featured crook happened just four weeks after the first episode aired. That was no petty criminal either. It was a murderor and rapist who was on the F.B.I.'s top ten most wanted list! On May 2, 2008, the America's Most Wanted website stated that the show had assisted in its 1,000th arrest!
While the series began mostly highlighting cases involving the abduction of children, it soon expanded to include adult murders, adult rape, gang-related crime, violent robberies, and even white collar crime. Many shows have also covered crimes that weren't totally commited inside the U.S. like international terrorism. The show that immediately followed the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 was a two-hour special that gave viewers one of their first looks at the tactics of terrorist groups. On October 12, 2001, another episode covered the 22 most wanted al-Qaeda leaders. That episode was actually requested by President George W. Bush who also directly told gave that list of names to the U.S. public just a couple of days earlier.
The first TV show to use America's Most Wanted's format was a German series that aired in 1967. A Canadian series titled, "Crimewatch" that premiered in 1984 also sought the help of viewers in catching criminals. America's Most Wanted premiered February 7, 1988 on just seven local stations owned by FOX. After just ten weeks on those local stations, the series went nationwide on the FOX Network. America's Most Wanted became FOX's first hit TV series and is currently (2008) FOX's longest program on the air!
In the fall of 1990, America's Most Wanted began its first full season schedule in the Friday night time slot from 8:00 to 9:00PM. It had some pretty considerable competition from two mega-hit sitcoms on ABC, "Full House" and "Family Matters". To make matters worse, NBC was airing the popular sci-fi series, "Quantum Leap"!
After a comprehensive search was conducted, Adam Walsh was selected to become the host of the America's Most Wanted TV show. Walsh was certainly the best choice from several other worthy individuals for a couple of reasons. First, he had lost his own 6-year-old son, Adam Walsh, to a kidnapper and murderor. That meant that he could personally identify with the anguish of the victims of crime and convey that anguish to viewers. His objective was definitely to prevent others from experiencing the pain he felt at the hands of a monster, not to be a TV star. Walsh had also been instrumental (along with others) in convincing Congress to create the "National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
In the fall of 1994, America's Most Wanted was cut back to 30 minutes. Then, in the fall of 1996, FOX executives decided to drop America's Most Wanted from its schedule and replace it with another FOX sitcom titled, "Love and Marriage". What a mistake that was! FOX got thousands of complaints from viewers, law enforcement officials, and politicians including 37 state Governors! Love and Marriage's ratings also stunk so America's Most Wanted returned in its former one hour format and everyone was happy again!
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