The Fugitive 1963-1967

Starring David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble and Barry Morse as Lt. Philip Gerard

I was a child when it was on originally and over the years it has seldom been rebroadcast. I bought the
first season on DVD back in 2009 and was immediately hooked. Along with Rt.66, the Fugitive allows us to
learn or be reminded of what the U.S.A. looked like in the 1960's. The cars, the clothes, the culture before
political correctness ruined it, and towns, cities, and countryside as they appeared fifty or so years ago.

The Fugitive follows from place to place Richard Kimble, a doctor wrongfully convicted of murder. His
travels are ostensibly to find the real killer but this aspect of the storyline is ignored in most episodes. At
the same time the ever present danger of being recognized and arrested permeates nearly ever
moment.  

I found the best episodes to be those where Kimble interacts with his temporary neighbors in an
atmosphere relatively free of constant dread. When Kimble is able to reveal himself as a doctor it makes
for very effective television. Surprisingly, the makers of this show were careful to not overuse Kimble's
medical degree as a crutch (I couldn't resist) and thus only perhaps a dozen of the 120 shows highlighted
that feature.

While the Doctor gets involved to one extent or another with numerous
beautiful women, he avoided
falling in love every week although there were several serious romantic entanglements over the four
years. Of these, Susan Oliver in an early Season One episode, and Janice Rule in a late Season Four
episode, are among my favorites.














There were weaknesses, some of commission and a couple of omission. To a degree Kimble was
portrayed as a very able, quite intelligent, and resourceful guy. He was never a James Bond type hero,
but he could fight with his fists and think with his head and thus was a reasonably worthy adversary. On
occasion however (far too numerous occasions actually) he could be surprisingly stupid. For instance if
he spotted a cop while walking down the street, instead of nonchalantly sauntering on, he was more likely
to dodge into an alley or behave in some manner that is universally understood to be a really good way to
attract the attention of law officers.

Another small quibble was the presence of police Lt. Gerard at locations across the country. Small town
departments can't afford to send their men on junkets here and there on the off chance a fugitive might
be caught. That sort of thing is understandably is left to the local officials since they are already on the
scene. It would have been more realistic to make Gerard an FBI agent or member of a task force or some
such. Also the propensity for the authorities to re-lose Kimble was rather silly and hard to believe.
Several times they had him in their grasp only to blunder him away again.

Probably my major disappointment with the series was the failure to integrate recurring characters into
the storyline. Aside from the regulars and not counting two-part episodes there was only one recurring
character. The series would have been greatly improved if Kimble had a friend or community of friends to
turn to when he was in dire straits.

The Fugitive was not intended as light hearted fare. It was serious and virtually completely lacking in
laughs. Kimble rarely smiled or indulged in banter. The people he met were from varied backgrounds and
ranged from entirely normal to decidedly messed up.  David Jansen was what I consider to be a quirky
actor who had a perpetually pained expression and resigned-to-life body language. The music by Peter
Rugolo was outstanding as was the opening and closing narration by William Conrad.

I watched the series over the course of a couple years, forcing myself to watch only an episode or two a
week. Off the top of my head of the 120 episodes, I would rate roughly 25% of them as outstanding, 50% as
very good, 20% as decent, and roughly 5% as weak. This show easily lands in my personal Top Ten best all
time television shows.
David Janssen, left,
starred as
Dr. Richard Kimble
with
Barry Morse, right,
as Lt. Philip Gerard in
The Fugitive
Copyright & all rights reserved by
R. Mark Johnson 2014
Susan Oliver, Brenda Vaccaro, Janice Rule,
and Vera Miles, some of the gorgeous women
Dr. Kimble met along his four year odyssey. More of
Kimble's leading ladies
here.
Above, an outstanding video from YouTube by David Von Pein that
nicely showcases the music and some key stills from The Fugitive