Review of The Fugitive

The Fugitive (1963–1967)
9/10
TV's Most Compelling Drama
21 November 2002
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.
43 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink

Recently Viewed