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America's Most Wanted is an American TV show produced by Twentieth Century Fox's syndication division, and is the longest-running program of any kind in the history of Fox.

The show's chief purpose is to assist law enforcement in the apprehension of fugitives wanted for major felonies (such as murder, rape, child molestation, white collar crime, armed robbery, gang violence and terrorism). Numerous fugitives profiled on the show are currently on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, and AMW has a separate "Dirty Dozen" list on its Web site outlining twelve notorious criminals still at large (some of whom are on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list). On May 2nd 2008, the program's Web site announced its 1,000th capture; to date, over 1,100 fugitives have been captured as a direct result of tips offered to the show's toll-free and anonymous tipline. Dramatic re-creations of the crimes committed are an important part of the show's arsenal, and the show itself works closely with law enforcement agencies worldwide to help catch fugitives.

The concept for America's Most Wanted was adapted from the 1960s German show Aktenzeichen XY... ungelöst (File Number XY... Unsolved) and the 1984 British show Crimewatch. AMW's first episode aired in February 1988, and within four days of the broadcast, one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives was captured as a direct result of a tip phoned in to the show; this capture helped to sell the show's premise of "Watch TV, Catch Criminals" to skeptical law enforcement officials.

After the pilot's premiere, Fox eventually hired John Walsh to host the program. Walsh became a public figure after his 6-year-old son, Adam Walsh, was kidnapped and murdered in 1981; John Walsh and others had successfully persuaded Congress to create the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Walsh has been the host of the show ever since, and has sometimes appeared at the arrests of high-profile fugitives who have been captured thanks to the program.

In the fall of 1996, Fox cancelled the show; this would prove to be a short cancellation. Low ratings of the shows that replaced it -- combined with a massive effort from fans, numerous law enforcement and government officials, and the governors of 37 states -- successfully persuaded Fox to uncancel the show just six weeks later. The program was rechristened America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back upon its return, and the program resumed its regular Saturday night timeslot, paired with reality show Cops; the two-hour Cops and AMW block was the longest unchanged primetime schedule in the history of American television.

Fox announced the cancellation of AMW again in 2011; instead of continuing the show as a weekly program -- citing rising unprofitability due to high production costs as the chief culprit behind the decision -- Fox plans to replace it in the fall with repeats of other Fox shows, while still presenting two-hour AMW specials every quarter. Campaigns are already underway to convince Fox to change its mind, much like the last time they decided to cancel the show. Lifetime ended up being the show's savior, with new weekly episodes to appear on the cable channel starting December 2.


Tropes featured include:

  • Channel Hop: Fox to Lifetime.
  • Crime Reconstruction
  • Pater Familicide: John List murdered his entire family rather than admit to them that he lost his job and that the family was in dire financial trouble. He went into hiding and adopted an alias and remarried and would probably have gotten away with his crime if not for AMW doing a special on him.
  • True Crime
  • Uncanceled: Twice!
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