The End of America's Most Wanted: Good News for Criminals, Bad News for the FBI
The fugitives of the U.S. may be heaving a sigh of relief at the news that the television show America's Most Wanted is no more. After 23 years of profiling the dregs of the criminal underworld — directly leading to 1,154 arrests by law-enforcement agencies — the show was canceled in May by Fox, and its final episode aired last month. The close working relationships that host John Walsh cultivated with the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service over the years was an unprecedented collaboration between law enforcement and television. It was one of the very first reality shows that resulted in great TV and did a lot of good. Its cancellation leaves a hole both of those agencies will now need to fill.
"This is a big hit for us. The show is invaluable," says Geoff Shank, assistant director of investigative operations for the U.S. Marshals Service. "We have arrested so many heinous people and we've saved so many lives because of America's Most Wanted." Kevin Perkins, assistant director of the FBI's criminal-investigations division, echoes the sentiment. "I personally hate to see it go," Perkins tells TIME. "We had 17 of our most wanted fugitives captured because of them and over 550 different cases solved as a result of tips."
It is worth noting that AMW had ratings that dwarfed the freak shows hosted by Jane Velez-Mitchell and Nancy Grace on HLN. This puts the lie to the idea that networks put on trashy tabloid shoutfests because "that's what the viewers want." Nancy Grace prospers while AMW is canceled because her show is CHEAP (and here) More viewers "wanted" AMW than Grace. The bean counters get the final vote, not the audience.