While originally conceived as a modern-day western, many plot points were also taken from Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. Like Jean Valjean, Richard Kimble is on the run from the law, and must frequently change locales to stay free. His pursuer, Gerard, is both inspired by, and named after, Inspector Javert.
This show was based on the Samuel Sheppard murder case of 1954. While the show does feature some similarities to the case, Roy Huggins consistently denied that he based Richard Kimble on Sheppard, or the fictional murder on the real one. Claiming that he was unfamiliar with the Sheppard case until the series began, he said the show was actually influenced by his love for Westerns, and he wanted to do a series about a modern character roaming around the country, in a similar fashion to a mythic cowboy.
David Janssen was working on The Green Berets (1968) when the final episode of this series aired; when Part Two of the episode was aired, he was interviewed on Joey Bishop's ABC nighttime program from Fort Benning, Georgia, where he commented on the series' finale.
Some sources incorrectly state that an alternate ending for the series was planned in which Kimble would be seen removing a false arm, revealing him as the true killer. In the book "The Fugitive Recaptured" (and its later audio adaptation) Barry Morse reveals that this rumor may have started with a never-realized plan that he and David Janssen had for pulling a "false arm" gag at public appearances. Janssen also often joked that Kimble killed his wife because "she talked too much". Morse also said that he and Janssen conceived for fun an alternate epilogue to the series finale, in which Kimble awakens in bed with his wife Helen, and reveals to her that he "just had the most horrible nightmare". Janssen also gave an interview to TV Guide at the time of the finale in which he said that his idea for resolving the show was to have a final scene in which Kimble is seen on a beach reading a newspaper account of how the one-armed man has just been executed for the murder. Then, with his trademark half-grin, Kimble would stand up, detach his prosthetic arm and walk off into the surf. It's not known whether he was serious, or just kidding.
A running gag had Kimble staying in the rundown "Edmund Hotel" in many episodes. This was due to many scenes being filmed on the studio backlot, where the Art Director had created a standing set of a typical downtown street, including the false-front entrance to the "Edmund Hotel". This gave the impression, as Kimble crisscrossed the country, that nearly every major American city had a fleabag "Edmund Hotel", in which Kimble could find lodging.
The train derailment sequence in the opening credits with the words "Chemin de Fer" is stock footage taken from The Young in Heart (1938), starring Janet Gaynor and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., produced by David O. Selznick, and released by United Artists. Gaynor is one of the figures propping up older woman Minnie Dupree as they walk away from the train.
The theme music and its variations was recorded in London at the CTS Studios in Bayswater, using around fifty musicians from Ted Heath and London Philharmonic Orchestra. The Conductor was Harry Rabinowitz. The Sound Engineer was Eric Tomlinson. All one hundred twenty episodes were scored with the same "library music" that was recorded at the start of production, and not tailored to specific scenes in the show.
Barry Morse had said that on more than one occasion, he was accosted by elderly ladies in supermarkets, telling him to "leave that nice Dr. Kimble alone", telling him that a one-armed man is the true killer.
According to the book "The Fugitive Recaptured", ABC announced in April 1966 that the series would film episodes in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii. This never came to pass, but may have occurred, had the series gone to an originally-planned fifth season, a plan vetoed by David Janssen, because he was physically worn out from the demanding shooting schedule. At this April 1966 announcement, ABC also disclosed that they would add a young son for Kimble for the show's fourth season, in an attempt to draw more younger viewers. This plan was aborted in a May 1966 press conference, when ABC realized the idea would not work, given the specter of Lieutenant Gerard.
Roy Huggins initially had great difficulty selling the series to potential producers. Many thought that a series based on a wrongfully convicted man running from the law would be too perverse, as well as a slap in the face to the American justice system. Producers felt that no one would want to watch such a series and urged Huggins to give up on the concept.
In the final two-part "Judgment" episodes, as well as a few others in the last year, music cues that were composed by Dominic Frontiere for The Outer Limits (1963), 12 O'Clock High (1964), and Branded (1965), were added to the tracking of those episodes, though he was not credited for that in the end credits. Also used, were cues from the DBS music library composed by Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith, as well as from Capitol's music library.
In a 1993 interview, Jacqueline Scott remembers David Janssen with great affection. "He was a very sweet man. But there was a part of him that was kind of quiet and removed. Although he was very outgoing, and friendly, and funny, I think that was the part of him that was very interesting on that show."
Series Music Editor Ken Wilhoit was married to Susan Hayes, who had an affair with Dr. Sam Sheppard, on whose case the show is widely believed to have been based, and who appeared as a prosecution witness against him.
It's been stated that the show's instrumental theme song, bares an eerie similarity to the classic early 1960's love song, "When I Fall In Love", which most famously (in vocal form) was sung by The Lettermen. Especially true where a slower and more "mournful" sounding version plays over certain scenes.
The car Richard Kimble drove in the first episode and throughout the series in the flashback scenes to the night of the murder in 1961 (when he nearly runs over the one-armed man) was a 1960 Mercury Park Lane. It was also available in convertible. It was also in extended flashback scenes in season one, episode fifteen, "Home Is the Hunted".
The science fiction book "Prison Satellite" by Leo P. Kelley was considered to be a futuristic version of this show. The book is about space cop Officer Barry Marks who (like Lieutenant Philip Gerard) goes after convicted prisoner Kirkland, who has escaped from a prison satellite.