At the time of its cancellation by FOX television network in 2011, America’s Most Wanted was the longest running television show of the network. It has been taken up and dropped and then taken up again numerous times by different networks, all due to its immense popularity. And the popularity stems from the show’s premise which reenacts most wanted criminals and fugitives. Viewers play an active role by calling on the toll-free number in case they learn something of the fugitive shown on the show.
It has been 30 years since the show first started in 1988. Despite following it through all these years, there may be some facts you never knew about the show. Here are some astonishing facts about America’s Most Wanted.
1. FOX owner, Rupert Murdoch’s assistant gave him the idea to create a show similar to Crimewatch on BBC which had a premise similar to America’s Most Wanted – asking the audience to help bring criminals to justice.
2. The makers of the show went through myriad options before choosing John Walsh as the host. Walsh became a famous advocate for victims after his own young son was abducted and killed.
3. FOX was not more than 2 years old when it launched America’s Most Wanted in 1988. Despite its age, the show and the network became a hit as the viewer ratings reached a million households.
4. in 1996, Don LaFontaine did the voice over for the show as its narrator. LaFontaine did about 5000 movie trailers and was given monikers like “Thunder Throat” and “The Voice of God.”
5. The law enforcement’s apprehension of a show that dealt with a premise like this was understandable. Despite that, the authorities overcame any skepticism once they took into account the immense help American public can give in locating the fugitives. The officials even gave tips to the show makers and the understanding between the two parties has led to many arrests so far.
6. The first big break for a fledgling America’s Most Wanted came just 4 days after its launch! A viewer tip led to the arrest of David James Robert, a rapist and murderer who escaped jail in 1986.
7. Roberts was the first of the 17 most wanted criminals to be caught directly as a result of a viewer tip on America’s Most Wanted. The FBI acknowledges this on its website.
8. With a show that relies so much on public calls, one might expect things to get pretty messy with blank calls and prank calls crowding the lines. But that surprisingly was not the case with America’s Most Wanted. The show received very few prank calls. But it did receive quite a few blank ones which makers assume were people just wanting to check if the hot line actually worked.
9. Mark Goodman who was in prison for a burglary conviction in Palm Beach County, Florida, was almost done with his time in jail. But he had previously escaped custody and as soon as his face flashed on America’s Most Wanted, his fellow inmates reported the authorities as they were all watching the TV at the time.
10. American audience and the legal authorities vented their anger and disappointment when FOX decided to cancel America’s Most Wanted in 1996. Countless people wrote, “This is wrong,” to the makers who were shifting other FOX hits to the same time slots.
11. After 9/11, White House made a special request to the show to air the 22 most wanted terrorists. John Walsh even gave a scathing message to those who launched the 9/11 attack.
12. Although the show helped locate certain dangerous people in society, it also led to arrests that ultimately resulted in the acquittal of the person. For example, Richard Emile Newman was arrested on murder charges, sent to Canada for a trial, and then later freed of any wrong-doing.
13. After Stephen Randall Dye was flashed across American televisions for shooting and a murder, he turned himself him in California before he was given away by someone else.
14. President Obama made an appearance on the 1000th episode of the show to acknowledge the milestone. John Walsh met the then President at the White House where they discussed the President’s anti-criminal initiatives and how the show was helping excpetionally in the process.
15. The show has led to findings and capture of more than 1000 fugitives. To mark the 1000th capture, the show got some celebrities to give out congratulatory messages in 2008.