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It was called "the most repulsive concept ever for television" when Roy
Huggins pitched it to ABC in 1960, until Leonard Goldenson of ABC
called it the best idea he'd ever heard.
Such summarizes the huge effort Roy Huggins invested to get The Fugitive to television. Teaming with producer Quinn Martin, Huggins' concept was made flesh with the casting of David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble and British-born Canadian Barry Morse as his nemesis, Lt. Philip Gerard. Huggins and Martin worked to make a compelling weekly drama via superb scripts, top-notch guest casts, and enticing music by Peter Rugolo, and succeeded perhaps more than they ever dared to hope.
The Fugitive remains compelling television 40 years later. Janssen and Morse imbue tremendous sympathy into their roles and make their characters so compelling that audiences even went too far, assailing Morse by saying, "You dumb cop, don't you realize he's innocent?" It even extended to the one-armed vagrant who was key to the drama, played by stuntman Bill Raisch, who in one incident was even picked up by the real LAPD because they thought he was "wanted for something," before they realized he was just an actor.
If The Fugitive had a drawback, it was because it worked too well - it is emotionally draining watching the show because the sympathy enticed for the characters is so great that seeing them suffer is painful, such as in the two-part episode "Never Wave Goodbye" - the audience is put through the emotional wringer every bit as much as Kimble, Gerard, and the story's supporting players (in this case played by Susan Oliver, Will Kuliva, Robert Duvall, and Lee Phillips).
The series was shot in black and white in its first three seasons, but for the fourth season came the replacement of producer Alan Armer with Wilton Schiller and the switch to color. The quality of the series remained high, but it is a measure of the show's quality that early fourth-season episodes are considered disappointing, and yet are still excellent stories with genuine emotional pull. The fourth-season settled down when writer-producer George Eckstein was brought in early on to help out Schiller, and it helped bring about some of the series' best moments, notably in the episode "The Ivy Maze," where for the first time in the series, all three protagonists (Kimble, Gerard, and Fred Johnson, the one-armed man) confront each other.
The performances and all else within made The Fugitive TV's most compelling drama, then and forever.
According to both my ears and the book 'TV's Biggest Hits' by Jon
Burlingame, much of the music we hear in the episodes of the original
version of the TV series 'The Fugitive', first appeared on 'The
Twilight Zone'. In fact the musical director of 'The Fugitive', once he
heard that the show was coming to an end, went up to the late, great,
Jerry Goldsmith, who has composed the original tracts when they were
used on 'The Twilight Zone', and said 'What's this I hear: they're
going to cancel 'our' show!'.
Still, it was an appropriate choice as Richard Kimble spent four years in his own, personal 'Twilight Zone'. If you look at most of the classic episodes of the earlier show, they involve a troubled hero finding himself in a world that doesn't seem to make any sense any more. He convinces himself if he can figure it out, or find a way out of it, things will be OK again. But he never seems to make it- just like so many of our dreams. Kimble's world is shattered by an argument with his wife and her subsequent murder. He's on the run in his own country, now suddenly hostile to him. He has to suppress his emotions and hide his identity while he pursues 'the way out': the one-armed man; and avoids pursuit by Lt. Gerard, the symbol of all his fears. Goldsmith's music was very well used.
I heartily agree with those that rank this as the best TV series ever. Leonard Goldenson was right: it's the best concept for a show ever. Also the best execution. David Janssen's performance is amazing. He's deprived of most of an actor's tools: he keeps his head down and says as little as possible in order to avoid recognition. Yet he conveys this character's feeling perfectly. The tremendous array of guest actors, playing characters in their own little psychological prisons adds great depth to the show. The directing was sharp, well-paced and uncluttered with too many obvious 'techniques'. The writing was consistently good. Pete Rugolo's wonderful main musical theme could be played allegro for excitement or largo for poignancy- and this was the most poignant show ever. It was about psychological alienation. The only other shows I can think of that reached this deep were 'The Twilight Zone' and, occasionally, 'Star Trek'.
This was one of the few classic TV shows of which a movie version was later made that was any good at all. Roy Huggins, the creator of the show, had some input into the Harrison Ford film. That film, compared to the TV show, is rich in money, production values and excitement. It has flashes of characterization that give the action more meaning than most modern day flicks. However the TV was rich in time, with four years of hour long episodes to tell all its various stories. In the end that made it far more moving. If only the film could have been the ending of the TV show, ('The Judgment' is not really all that good, despite its historical ratings).
My dream ending for the show is Kimble leaving the courthouse and suddenly finding himself surrounded by the women who fell in love with him in all his travels, and then running down the street to escape from them! Actually, I think it would have been nice if he found Vera Miles and the boy from 'Fear in Desert City' waiting for him. That would have been the most poetic ending of all. I wonder what Goldsmith might have written for that.
"The Fugitive" was without a doubt the ultimate example of how a
dramatic series is suppose to be done and to this day sets the example
for other dramatic shows that were to follow. It was simply put one of
the greatest television shows of all time,and the greatest drama ever
presented in the history of prime time-television. Somehow,this series
has a uniqueness about it in its own way,but in the long run was the
prototype of many other shows that were to follow it("The Immortal",
"The Invaders","Run For Your Life","Run,Joe Run","The Incredible
Hulk"). TV Guide once called this series,"the best TV drama of the
1960's". But it became so much more as the series was frankly a
combination of drama,and crime events put together along with some
breathtaking suspense and cliffhanging excitement as the standard
formula for this show,and it did extremely well giving the series
several Emmy nominations for its excellent writing and acting for its
star of the show:David Janssen. In other words,the best dramatic series
of all time. The opening credits give the introduction to the
Dr. Richard Kimble,an innocent victim of blind justice..... Falsely accused for the murder of his wife when a train wreck frees him on route to the death house....FREED HIM...To hide in lonely desperation and to go from town to town toling at many jobs...... FREED HIM...To search for the one-armed man leave the scene of the crime and to go after him for the murder of his wife.... FREED HIM...To run before the relentless pursuit of the Police Lt. who is obsessed with his capture...
Of course the character of Richard Kimble was loosely inspired by Dr. Sam Sheppard who was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for the 1954 murder of his wife,Marilyn,but was acquitted in a second trial in November of 1966 for a murder he did not commit. The major difference was that Richard Kimble spent four years chasing the real killer who was near the scene of the crime(a one-man armed man)while he was being framed for a murder that he didn't commit,whose wife was brutally murdered in her own home while she was alone,and he was blamed for the crimes....That is basically setting up an innocent man who had nothing to do with the crimes,but also was trying taking his life to hell in a handbasket for something he didn't do! That's wrong! That's blind justice gone astrayed! But the series "The Fugitive" was grand entertainment at its finest hour,and let me explained how......
I.)The Black and White Episodes:Seasons One Through Three:1963-1966
From its premiere episode in September of 1963,"The Fugitive",was grand suspenseful and intriguing entertainment at its finest and with the black and white episodes that came out,it works on many levels,and we are introduced to the character of Richard Kimble(David Janssen),and his adventures going from town to town as he stays one step ahead of the Police Lt. in charge of the manhunt for Kimble,Phillip Gerard(Barry Morse),and the search of the one-armed man who killed his wife,Fred Johnson(Bill Raisch). During the first three seasons of the show,it presented a good decent,and well developed main character and from there evokes emotion from the viewer by having something happening to him that he absolutely doesn't deserved,which evoke genuine emotion,plus he was a character whom viewers can empathize with. Whatever pain he was feeling,the audience felt it too. And each week there was always something happening as Kimble stumbles into each town or city for someone's help or help comes to him,and right away the trouble ensues and the suspicious party that recognizes Kimble's wanted poster from the police bulletin,are right there to call the authorities with by the way,Kimble easily escapes them with just a slip from the cops in the local town and from there drifts into a new venture where he must stay one step ahead of Gerard and to one step toward the lookout for the one-armed man. Kimble eluders his pursuers,gets away for another week while we see him walking backwards down the road,thumbling a ride with a sack over his shoulder. A car passes him,he turns around keeps walking while the legendary William Conrad's voice speaks in the background,"Richard Kimble:Fugitive. Still searching for the one-armed man". "The Fugitive" was an incredible exercise in formulatic writing when nowadays is used as a textbook on
"The Effect Screen writing Of Classic TV Shows",which as of this writing several college campuses and universities are using this format as a part of the TV writing and Journalism courses as a teaching tool for those who are interested in this venture. So college courses show this series as a backdrop on how to write,and produced standard TV shows and it works!(The Black and White episodes of this series) Back to the TV show,"The Fugitive",the show followed the standard Quinn Martin production formula of prologue,multiple,and epilogue--which is basically used in several QM produced shows to follow like,"The FBI","The Invaders","Dan August","Cannon","The Streets Of San Francisco","Barnaby Jones","The Runaways","Harry-O" and so forth.
Here is the summary formula for almost every show: 1. Prologue 2. Act One 3. Act Two 4. Act Three 5. Act Four 6. Epilogue
II.)The Color Episodes:Season Four:1966-1967. In the fall of 1966,"The Fugitive" made the transition from shades of gray(black and white)to color,and from there the show suffered in the ratings,but before the producers(Quinn Martin and Roy Huggins)let ABC bring down the axe of this show,they decided by not risking the series to be cancelled without having a finale. However,the format was basically the same with Kimble staying ahead of Gerard,but the last two episodes of the series were simply put the greatest upset in the history of television. The two-part finale of The Fugitive entitled,"The Judgment",aired on August 27,1967 and the last episode of the series on August 28,1967,after an astounding four seasons and 120 episodes. After four grueling years of chasing and being chased,Kimble finally catches up with the one-armed man,who admits to having been Helen's real killer. In the climax,Kimble chases Johnson on top of the building and from there Johnson is shot and killed by Lt. Gerard,who saves Kimble in the process and is acquitted of all charges. It went on to become one of the highest rated TV finales of all time,and still is in the top ten of the best TV finales ever made.
This is one of the greatest TV series of all time, why is it not
available on DVD? and I'm not talking about bootleg VHS copies from
Ebay for $300.00.
An outstanding classic television series that needs to be presented in it's entirety in a DVD set. The movie version was a bunch of bloated, Hollywood tripe all to typical of whats been put out today.
Painstaking effort has been made to present DVD material of such crap as Full House, Saved by the Bell, etc, etc. I'll bet we'll see Love Boat come out next. Why no Fugitive?
This is absolutely unacceptable.
I read a Roy Huggins novel called "Too Late For Tears" that was turned into a solid film noir movie. Huggins also is responsible for the western series "Maverick." With "The Fugitive" Huggins combines elements of noir (a man trapped in circumstances beyond his control) and the western (a loner wandering across the American landscape) for one of the best dramas in the history of television. David Janssen is perfectly cast as Doctor Richard Kimble -- fugitive. There's an aura of sadness that seems to cling to Janssen that feels just right for the situations the fugitive is always finding himself in. Despite his predicament Kimble is always putting the needs of others above his own. In the wrong hands such lofty morale aspirations might feel a bit forced, but The Fugitive manages to keep it well grounded.
The Fugitive was a top show starring David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble.
Kimble had been wrongly accused of the murder of his wife and he went on the
run pursued by Lt. Gerard (played by Barry Morse). His only method of
proving his innocence was to find the one-armed man who had killed his
It was a very realistic drama show and David Janssen drew the audience into his predicament. Whatever pain he was feeling, the audience felt too. He was a man who viewers could empathize with. Each week he travelled from place to place meeting up with people, most of whom sympathized with his predicament. There was tension and drama throughout the entire series run. It was a very believable drama. It's a pity that nobody can produce shows like that any more.
One other thing; I believe this show inspired The Incredible Hulk live action series from the late 70's. In both cases, innocent men were on the run for crimes they didn't commit, both men were pursued (David Banner was pursued by a reporter) and both David Janssen as Kimble and the late Bill Bixby as David Banner drew the viewers into their predicament.
With each passing decade, we seem to descend further into lower and lower literary standards in prose, film, everything. Jumping back thirty or forty years, we see that even television could be deep at times. This and many other shows of the first twenty years or so of TV actually had believable premises, developed characters and strong supporting roles as foil to the lead (Barry Morse's lawman here). The good news is that cable will continue to unearth gems from the past such as "Fugitive" due to sheer need of programming.
"The Fugitive" is, without a doubt, the finest episodic drama series in the history of television. Who can't feel for Richard Kimble? His son is stillborn, which contributes to making his wife unable to have more children, which turns her into a bitter alcoholic, which strains their marriage, which makes him storm out of the house one evening, which leaves her alone to be murdered by a burglar, which is then blamed on him! Talk about your life going to hell in a handbasket! I think "The Fugitive" holds up so well because of its strict avoidance of schmaltz. The show never degenerates into maudlin soap opera; the characters are fresh and well-defined, the plots are gripping and realistic, and Kimble is a protagonist with whom we can easily identify. He's never presented as being squeaky clean; he's just a basically decent guy trapped in an overwhelming situation and trying to make the best of it.
'The Fugitive' is a classic dramatic series I watch whenever I have an
opportunity. David Janssen was (and still is) the best Dr. Richard Kimble
(sorry Mr. Ford and Daly!). Barry Morse was equally effective as Lt. Philip
Gerard, the man obsessed with capturing our hero. This classic lasted four
years and 120 episodes. (The real reason I watch this show is because some
of its elements would be later used in 'The Incredible Hulk,' which is my
all-time favorite episodic TV series.)
Of course, the character of Richard Kimble was loosely inspired by Dr. Sam Sheppard. The major difference was that while Dr. Richard Kimble spent four years chasing the real killer (a one-armed man) of his wife Helen, Dr. Sheppard spent ten years in jail for the 1954 murder of his wife Marilyn.
It might be interesting to note that when Dr. Sheppard was acquitted in a second trial in November of 1966, 'The Fugitive,' which was then in the middle of its fourth season, began to slip in the ratings. For this reason, the producers were smart not to wait for the ax to fall and risk having the series cancelled without doing a finale.
"The Judgment," the two-hour series finale, aired in the summer of 1967. After four years of chasing and being chased, Kimble finally catches up with Fred Johnson, the one-armed man, who admits to having been Helen's real killer. He is then shot and killed by Lt. Gerard, who saves Kimble in the process.
While the finale was weak in some respects, it was generally a fitting conclusion to the 'Fugitive' series. Of course, it was also one of the highest rated TV finales of all-time.
The Fugitive is unique. Although it has been loosely imitated (The
Immortal), parodied (Run, Buddy Run) and remade (as a mediocre movie and
mediocre TV series) there has never been anything like it on TV, before or
since. The acting, production values and especially the writing are as good
as it ever gets on television.
If you have never seen an episode you are in for a treat if you ever get the chance to see one. I remember watching the show as a kid when it was first broadcast in the mid-sixties but I didn't really appreciate how very good it is until I started watching it on A&E in the early 90's.
The first three seasons were in black and white and the fourth and final season was in color. Like a lot of shows some of the best stories are in its second season, when the writers and audience are comfortable with the premise and characters but there are still plenty of fresh ideas to fuel the storyline. "Nemesis" and "May God Have Mercy" are typical of the show's high quality.
You can appreciate the show on many levels. It's cerebral yet there's plenty of action. The guest stars are a Who's Who of past (Mickey Rooney, Ed Begley Sr.) and future (Robert Duvall, Telly Savalas, Harry Dean Stanton, Carroll O'Connor and many others) stars. The stories are compelling to watch and instructive to study.
The Fugitive is a gem.
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