America's Most Wanted may be coming to a close, but John Walsh isn't getting out of the crime-fighting business. In his first interview since TV Guide Magazine broke the news that Lifetime had canceled AMW, Walsh says he's mulling several options for his next move in TV.
The host says he has a meeting scheduled this month with new CNN boss Jeff Zucker about possibly joining the news network. "He knows my passion," says Walsh, who once hosted a syndicated talk show for Zucker at NBC.
"Maybe Jeff will say there's room on this channel, especially with CNN's international reach," he says. "They ask me constantly to go on Anderson Cooper, Erin Burnett and Piers Morgan. Maybe I can come up with some kind of hybrid show that might serve those purposes... I hope that maybe with the blessing of Lifetime that I might be able to do something."
Walsh is still committed to Lifetime, which picked up America's Most Wanted after Fox canceled it in 2011. He's currently working on the Lifetime project John Walsh Investigates, which will focus on three cases per episode "that really meant a lot to me."
Among the stories Walsh will tackle in the John Walsh Investigates pilot: The case of convicted murderer and sex offender Joseph Edward Duncan and the mystery of what happened to three boys who disappeared under the watch of their father, John Skelton. "It will be a little tougher and edgier than [CBS newsmagazine] 48 Hours," Walsh says. "They let me pick the stories."
America's Most Wanted, which caught 1,202 criminals over 25 seasons, has been off the air since October. "Lifetime had to pay pretty heavy duty license fees to use the name America's Most Wanted. That's something Fox trademarked and copyrighted before I even did the show," says Walsh, who calls it "smart TV business."
But that's also why Walsh says it's likely he'll be moving on from AMW to a new brand in which he'd have more control. "I think it would be easier," he says. "Fox has been great to me. But with the America's Most Wanted brand name comes the license fee and the obligation to Fox. And that comes off the top. Not to disrespect Fox in any way or their support to me, but maybe it's time to make it something else. I'm in that thought process."
Walsh says he is most proud of finding 60 missing kids, including Elizabeth Smart, during his tenure. But he's frustrated with not being on the air, particularly when unsolved crimes hit the headlines. When law enforcement was hunting for fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner earlier this year, Los Angeles Police Department chief Charlie Beck reached out to Walsh, not realizing AMW was off the air. "I couldn't really do much for LAPD except to put that creep on the front page of our website."
Walsh also wants to help solve the recent murders of district attorneys in Texas. "This DA case is really disconcerting because they don't have any suspects," he says. "I could get something on Friday night and on the website immediately. It' s very frustrating."
The host says he still believes execs should bring a show like AMW back to TV. "Whether it involves me or not, it should be on a network. In a 600-channel universe, whatever they call it and whomever the host is, it gets horrible people off the streets and saves lives." As for Walsh himself, "I'm not ready to throw the towel in yet. It's very hard to turn down these people who are constantly reaching out and saying, 'Catch this guy, find justice for me.' We are the court of last resort."
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