In the television series that ran from 1963-1967 David Janssen starred as Dr. Richard Kimble- a noted surgeon wrongfully accused, tried and convicted for the brutal murder of his wife. En route to death row, Kimble's train derails and crashes, allowing him to escape and begin a cross-country search for the real killer, a "one-armed man". At the same time, Dr. Kimble is hounded by the authorities, most notably by Police Lieutenant Philip Gerard (Barry Morse).
Kimble moved from town to town, changing jobs and identities, following clues and desperately trying to stay one step ahead of his pursuers. Because of his compassion and natural inclination to help people in need (he is after all a doctor), every week he got involved in the drama of a different set of strangers. Inevitably they’d find out who he really was and he’d have to move-on.
I have to confess, this show was a bit before my time too (yeah, believe it or not). When I was a kid it was two series later for David Janssen and he was on every week- in color- as TV’s “Harry-O”. What I do remember of The Fugitive was that every time Harry-O came on---and I mean E-V-E-R-Y-T-I-M-EDavid Jansen came on screen for so much as a commercial my parents would involuntarily mumble the words “the fugitive” to themselves. It was as if it were a trigger word to keep them from forgetting that they need to stay alert and on the look out of the real Dr. Kimble. The show had THAT much impact.
I’d never seen The Fugitive before I popped in the DVD but I wasn’t watching for long before I realized I HAD seen this show! I used to spend all week looking forward to watching every Friday night! I just didn’t recognize it because I remembered it a little differently. As I remember it starred Bill Bixby as the doctor who was falsely accused of murder and roaming from town to town, getting involved in the lives of the strangers he met every week. And instead of Lt. Gerard he was being hounded by a reporter named “Jack McGee”, I think.
…and there was something…something else different about the show I remember…
…oh yeah. It was that Bill Bixby would have to leave town because he TURNED INTO THE INCREDIBLE HULK!
Yeah, when Kenneth Johnson developed the Incredible Hulk from comic book to television he made no attempt to disguise the fact that all he did was give The Fugitive a new coat of paint. Hard to get mad him. If it works it works! Johnson went back to the well again in 1984 for an extremely short-lived series called Hot Pursuit, which was about a married couple this time on the run from the law. I may be that one person who watched all three episodes that aired.
Vol. 2 of the second Season of The Fugitive begins with Dr. Kimble taking another penny-ante job, this time at a rinky dink gift shop on a seaside boardwalk. The shop is owned by Norma (Angie Dickinson) and her misanthropic older brother, Leslie (Robert Duvall) who was recently paralyzed in a car accident. She hires Kimble to be Leslie caretaker and help out with the shop, but her ulterior plan is to seduce Kimble and convince him to kill her cantankerous brother so she can collect the insurance money and no longer be burdened. Bu the plan goes awry when Kimble’s patience and knowledge of physical therapy dramatically improve Leslie’s condition…and she starts to genuinely fall in love with Kimble. When her co-plotter and real boyfriend, Lars, gets wind of what’s really going on he takes matters into his own hands and soon Kimble finds himself back behind the eightball and surrounded by police.
This Compassion vs. Desperation of the human soul +near escapes+ famous guest stars, peppered with clues to the identity of the infamous ‘One-armed man’ was the formula for the entire run of the series. It seems formulaic now but The Fugitive was, for lack of a better analogy, the Lost of its day, as far as must-see TV. It still holds the record for the highest percentage of televisions in America (72%!!) that tuned in to watch it’s series finale.
As for this DVD box set, it’s hard to really recommend to anyone who isn’t already a fan and doesn’t plan on collecting the entire series. It only encompasses the second half of the second season. That still leaves another two seasons (which’ll break down to 3 or 4 more sets) before you get to the conclusion. Furthermore, the episodes in this set are so much more focused on the weekly morality plays than driving the overarching narrative forward. Even for someone like me, who’s a huge fan of listening to classic radio dramas, I hit my saturation point with The Fugitive after about four episodes.
The funny thing is that as I got older and watched The Incredible Hulk I found myself more and more involved with the David Banner portions of the stories and almost bummed out when he’d transformed into the Hulk. I imagined the show would be even better if the Hulk wasn’t in it at all. Season two of The Fugitive is pretty much THAT show…and honestly, after awhile I started hoping someone would break a chair over his back so his pupils would go white and his muscle would rip his shirt apart.
You can purchase The Fugitive: Season Two, Vol. 2here.