The Fugitive aired on ABC for 4 seasons, 1963-1967. I was a mere tot then, only 2 years old when the show ended. I recalled my Dad remembering how a lot of America tuned in for the last episode of The Fugitive, and I don’t think that record number of tv viewers for one tv episode was broken until America tuned in to see the last episode of MASH, in 1983. When I found out that A Shroud of Thoughts was hosting a Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon this weekend, I had to join in on the fun. Be sure to visit the site to read about other bloggers favourite tv show episodes.
I was curious about The Fugitive. So many Americans made sure they tuned in each week to view it. Checking out Youtube one day last year I was pleasantly surprised to discover that two folks had put all of The Fugitive episodes there. I began watching and now I’m on Season 3.
Why do I enjoy this show so much? Various reasons! The writing for this episodic tv show was excellent, with interesting story lines, that were bookended with a retelling of the show’s main premise. The narrator-William Conrad. Long before Conrad had his own hit tv show on CBS, Cannon, he did a lot of radio work-he was Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke , the radio show, before that Western made it to tv. Conrad’s voice is wonderful, low and knowing, as he intones to the viewers what alias the fugitive has adopted for that episode, possibly what part of the country he is in, and a hint at the trouble he’s going to get caught up in. The actors and actresses-just superb! David Janssen was the show’s protagonist, aka the fugitive of the title, Dr. Richard Kimble. Janssen played Kimble as a very serious guy and wouldn’t one be if they were on the run from the law? British actor Barry Morse was the show’s antagonist, police Lt. Philip Gerard. Morse also played his character with lots of no nonsense and an obsessive gleam in his eye. I don’t think the guy ever smiled in any episode he appeared in! The guest stars were top-notch and many were just starting out in their careers, so that’s always neat to see.
Each episode of Season 1 begins with Dr. Kimble and Lt. Gerard riding on a train as it makes its way to the penitentiary where Kimble will receive the death penalty. William Conrad’s voice informs us that Dr. Richard Kimble is an innocent man, innocent of the murder of his wife, and that he saw a one-armed man running from his home the night of the murder. However, fate is about to throw Dr. Richard Kimble a curve. Then we see the train derail and Kimble is on the run. Girard is obsessed with finding Kimble, who escaped on Girard’s watch. An innocent man on the run each week, the relentless law man scouring the country for him, if this plot sounds vaguely familiar to you, it’s none other than French writer Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables redone with a modern 1960s vibe.
Season 2, episode 21, “Corner of Hell” is the episode that I watched a few months back and it had an excellent plot twist: Lt. Gerard needing Dr. Kimble’s help in order to survive!
Guest stars for this episode were: R.G. Armstrong as Tully, the partriarch of a moonshine making family, a family that the local law officers avoid. Lt. Girard is appalled when he finds that fact out! Bruce Dern, playing a mean, sneaky, and slightly crazed young man, Cody, in with the moonshiners gang. Sharon Farrell, as Elvie, Tully’s mischievious daughter-she likes to lift wallets and keep the cash. Dabbs Greer as the hapless Sheriff Claypool who refuses to look for Dr. Kimble with Lt. Girard due to the fact that Kimble might have run off into the moonshiners’ woods.
Of course, Cody,(Bruce Dern) finds Dr. Kimble running through the woods and takes him prisoner, courtesy of his shotgun. After Kimble and Cody wrestle/fight in front of Tully(R.G. Armstrong), Elvie(Sharon Farrell), and the rest of the moonshiners, Cody injures his arm cutting an artery on some glass in the melee. Dr. Kimble impresses them with his medical skills in stitching up Cody’s wound and dressing it. As Elvie is making the good doctor a meal he can take with him, Tully is notified about a stranger’s car coming down their dirt road. Kimble watches from behind the front window’s curtains and is shocked when he sees that the “stranger” is his nemesis, Lt. Girard!
Lt. Girard makes the mistake of telling the moonshiners that he is a police officer looking for a fugitive, wanted for murder. When Evie finds Girard’s wallet, steals the cash from it, and Cody hits her over the head to take the cash for himself, the trouble kicks into high gear. Cody runs off, Lt. Girard finds the unconscious girl and Tully accuses him of harming his daughter. Kimble has to come forward to provide Elvie with medical care in her unconscious state. He sees that the moonshiners tie up Lt. Girard, taunt him, refuse to listen to his claims of innocence, and in a key scene, the fugitive and the law man are left alone for a bit in the shack. They have enough time for Kimble to get Girard to see what it’s like to be accused of a crime that one says one didn’t commit, and no witnesses to back up the accused’s alibi.
With Elvie finally gaining consciousness, Kimble finally able to cajole her into telling the truth of who hit her, the vigilante justice that was about to be carried out is tamped down. Here is the entire episode, courtesy of Youtube. This episode was directed by Robert Butler and the teleplay was written by Jo Heims and Francis Gwaltney. Roy Huggins was the creator of The Fugitive. This is a very enjoyable episode and you just might find yourself seeking out this series via dvd or via Youtube again!