Lifetime has decided not to pick up another season of America's Most Wanted, TV Guide Magazine has learned exclusively. The decision effectively ends the groundbreaking reality series after 25 seasons, at least for now.
Separately, however, the cable network is looking to stay in business with AMW host and executive producer John Walsh. Lifetime is ordering a pilot, tentatively titled John Walsh Investigates, which would take a different approach to Walsh's ongoing crime fighting and victims' advocacy work.
And although they declined comment, Walsh's production company and Twentieth Television (which distributes the show) are said to still be examining their options on whether or not to shop AMW elsewhere.
AMW ultimately ran for 44 episodes on Lifetime, resulting in 36 captures. But by the end of its run, AMW wasn't making much noise in the ratings for Lifetime. The show's final episode aired October 12 and averaged just 807,000 viewers. Walsh and the AMW producers had been talking to Lifetime about producing another round of episodes, but ultimately a deal was not reached.
Since its launch on the then-fledgling Fox network in 1988, AMW has helped law enforcement capture 1,202 fugitives worldwide. Among recent notable cases, a tipster to AMW helped authorities find the "person of interest" in the shooting of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen. "I've seen a lot of shocking stuff and a lot of tough cases," Walsh said at the time. "You can be a crime victim anywhere in America."
Fox ended the show's original run in June 2011 after 24 seasons, but ordered a handful of specials and allowed Walsh to shop the regular series elsewhere.
Lifetime, which has found success through the years with TV movies based on real-life crimes (as well as repeats of Unsolved Mysteries) eventually picked up AMW for its 25th season. AMW debuted on Lifetime in December 2011, and did well enough to earn a pickup of 20 more episodes in March 2012.
But as it has been off the air in recent months, AMW missed a number of high-profile stories, including the elementary school shootings in Newtown, Conn., and the Southern California manhunt for fugitive Christopher Dorner.
It's an end of an era, of sorts, for the two shows that made up Fox's Saturday night lineup for nearly two decades. As AMW goes off the air, Fox is also mulling the fate of Cops, which only aired sporadically on the network this season. Cops executive producer John Langley told TV Guide Magazine that he would shop the long-running series elsewhere this spring should Fox decide not to pick up another season.
Don't count AMW out yet, however. The show was canceled twice by Fox — besides 2011, it was also briefly dropped in 1996 (and revived just days later after outcry from law enforcement and government officials). AMW is still seen as an important vehicle for locating fugitives, even if the show doesn't command as large an audience as it once did.