The Fugitive (TV series)

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The Fugitive was a ground-breaking TV drama series that aired on ABC from 1963-67.

Dr. Richard Kimble (David Janssen), an innocent man, is wrongly convicted for a murder he did not commit. However, while being transported to Death Row by train, there is an accident that enables him to escape.

Now Kimble must continually travel throughout the country, looking to find the true murderer and clear his name. In the meantime, he takes small jobs and inevitably gets involved in the personal lives and problems of the strangers he encounters.

In addition to his quest, Kimble is pursued by Lt. Philip Gerard (Barry Morse), a police detective who is determined to capture him, thus precluding the fugitive from simply settling down in an remote area with an assumed identity.

The Fugitive was adapted as a feature film in 1993, and a short-lived Remake series in 2000 which starred Tim Daly as Kimble.

This premise has since become a sub-genre of action and drama shows.


Tropes used in The Fugitive (TV series) include:
  • Adventure Towns
  • All Bikers Are Hells Angels: "The Devil's Disciples".
  • Amusement Park: Setting of the final-episode showdown.
  • Book Ends: Part 1 of the final episode, "The Judgment", opens with Kimble in Tucson, Arizona... the same town he'd visited in the first episode, "Fear in a Desert City".
  • The Boxing Episode: "Decision in the Ring" has Kimble as cut man for a boxer who may be suffering brain damage.
  • Clear My Name
  • Climbing Climax: The final showdown.
  • Crusading Widower
  • Disposable Woman: Kimble's murdered wife.
  • The Drifter: Both Kimble and the One-Armed Man.
  • Dye or Die: After his escape, Kimble dyed his grey hair to the black it remains throughout the show.
  • Easy Amnesia: Happens to Kimble in "Escape Into Black".
  • Embarrassing Rescue: Kimble is put in the odd position of having to save Gerard's life in several episodes. Other episodes had Kimble saving Gerard's son and wife.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Although the One-Armed Man had a real name (Fred Johnson) and several aliases, most everyone just remembers him as, well, the One-Armed Man.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Some of the bad guys Kimble meets can't fathom his frequent attempts to help others, even when the smart move is to run for his life before the cops show. Conversely:
    • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Sometimes Kimble gets caught off-guard by seemingly-helpful people who happen to be pulling a Batman Gambit that now needs a patsy - say a Wrongly Accused doctor - for their plans to work.
    • Subverted with, of all people, Gerard. As he pursues Dr. Kimble across the country, Gerard comes to learn how Kimble thinks and acts, and comes to realize that Kimble can be trusted to behave in certain ways. Gerard especially knows that Kimble would never hurt a child... which is why Gerard isn't upset when Gerard's own son is stuck with Kimble during a dire crisis. It's just that pesky murder of Mrs. Kimble, you see.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: at least until the Grand Finale.
    • Lampshaded in the Mad Magazine parody, "The Phewgitive". Both Kimble and Gerard realize that if they ever actually catch the One-Armed Man and Kimble, respectively, the series will be over, so when each narrowly misses his quarry the response is actually one of relief ("Phew!") rather than disappointment.
  • Good Cop:
    • Gerard. He may be obsessed with capturing Kimble, but he's incorruptible, honest, and will aid the local law enforcement in arresting the other criminals who happen to be guest-starring that episode. Also By-The-Book Cop: Gerard may be obsessed with capturing Kimble, but he'll bend the law only so far. The only time Gerard comes close to breaking the law is in the final episode, when he gives Kimble 24 hours to find out who helped the One-Armed Man jump bail.
    • Kimble does get caught by other incorruptible cops during his ordeals, but is able to escape thanks to some moral dilemma that forces the cop to look the other way, or in some cases through sheer good fortune.
  • Grand Finale: One of the first shows to have a final episode to wrap up the whole series. It was at the time one of the most-watched episodes ever.
  • If You're So Evil Eat This Kitten: In "See Hollywood and Die", Kimble is forced to pretend he's a hardened criminal to keep two hoodlums from killing him and a female hostage. When the hoodlums find out he's really the famous doctor "who killed his wife", it makes it easier to deal with the hoodlums but harder to deal with the woman who's now terrified for her life.
  • I Have Many Names: Kimble, and to a lesser extent, the One-Armed Man.
  • Inconvenient Hippocratic Oath: In that, it forces Kimble to risk his own safety when helping others. On the other hand, it convinces those he helps that he's really a good guy and they repay his kindness by helping Kimble escape.
  • Inspector Javert: Lt. Gerard.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: Composed, along with much of the show's incidental music, by Pete Rugolo.
  • I Owe You My Life: In "The Evil Men Do", Kimble is working as a stable hand when he rescues the stable's owner from an out-of-control horse. When the owner, a former Mob hitman, discovers Kimble's identity and plight, he attempts to repay his debt by killing Gerard.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • When Kimble finally corners the One-Armed Man he angrily asks him why he killed Kimble's wife. Johnson answers back "'Cause she wouldn't let me go!" This stuns Kimble, because he had been arguing with his wife about a divorce because she refused to adopt.
    • In "Corner of Hell", Kimble is befriended by a group of moonshiners, who subsequently capture Gerard and plan to lynch him after the daughter of one moonshiner is beaten unconscious and Gerard is found next to her. As it happens, Gerard saw another man running from the scene of the crime just as he arrived... but he can't prove it.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Series creator Roy Huggins initially had great difficulty in selling the series to potential producers. Many of them felt that a series based on a wrongfully convicted man running from the law would be perceived as being too perverse, as well as a slap in the face to the American justice system.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Helen Kimble had a miscarriage before the plot proper begins. It left her incapable of bearing future kids, and the issue becomes a strain on hers and Richard's marriage. Their arguments over the merits of adopting becomes the "motive" in the prosecutor's argument that Richard killed her.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Kimble's conviction.
  • Narrator: Voiced by William Conrad, who's ideal for this.
  • Not So Imaginary Foe: Gerard doubts the existence of the One-Armed Man, believing him to be a figment of Kimble's guilty imagination. However, by the final season, Gerald has caught glimpses of the One-Armed Man, and by the finale he even interrogates him and and openly doubts his alibis.
  • Novelisation: The pilot episode was novelized, much to Roy Huggins' disgust - he held the rights to all merchandising and the book had been written without his knowledge or consent. There were, unsurprisingly, no further novelizations (and not much merchandising).
  • Opening Narration: Two different ones were used over the course of the show.
  • Posthumous Character: Helen Kimble.
  • Recurring Character: The One-Armed Man, Captain Carpenter, Donna Taft, Leonard Taft, Mrs. Gerard.
    • Gerard technically counts as one of these, appearing (outside of the opening) in only 37 of the show's 120 episodes.
    • Helen Kimble, also. She first appears in flashback mid-Season 1, her body is seen in the opening credits of Seasons 2-4, has a voiceover in another episode, and one final flashback in the Grand Finale, revealing the one clue that finally clears Kimble: There was a third person in the Kimble house the night of the murder, who witnessed the One-Armed Man murder her, and kept silent solely because he didn't want to be exposed as a Dirty Coward.
    • Finally, there's Sister Veronica, a nun Kimble encounters in a rare two-part episode in Season 1. She turns up again in Season 4, becoming the only recurring character who's neither a Kimble family member, nor directly connected to Helen's murder.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Unlike many series of its time in the '60s (and subsequently), the series relied on a specially composed library of music by Pete Rugolo and licensed music written for CBS shows rather than have any episodes receive an original score.
  • Rousseau Was Right: Most characters that Kimble meet along the way are willing to help him escape the police when they get close to catching him. Often because Kimble's already done them favors and they realize he's not really a killer.
    • In the few instances people don't help, it's because they're either bad guys or because they're helping the One-Armed Man. One episode had Gerard surprised by a woman who was actively trying to get Kimble captured because she was secretly the One-Armed Man's girlfriend.
    • In a Real Life example, actor Barry Morse (Gerard) would tell stories about running into fans of the show who would angrily tell him to "stop chasing that nice doctor!"
  • Series Goal: Find the One-Armed Man and clear Kimble's name.
  • Stern Chase
  • Temporary Blindness:
    • In the episode "Landscape with Running Figures", this happens to Gerard's wife... while she happens to be with Kimble.
    • Kimble himself falls victim to this in "Second Sight".
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Urban folklore states that the show was inspired by Dr. Sam Sheppard, who was falsely convicted of murdering his wife in an extremely high-profile 1954 court case, and served nearly 11 years of a life sentence before the Supreme Court declared the original trial a mistrial. He was subsequently re-tried, acquitted, and released from jail. The creators have denied the inspiration, but the similarities in Kimble's and Sheppard's cases do lead one to wonder...
  • Walking the Earth: What Kimble does during his chase for the One-Armed Man. The plot that he was wrongly accused helped solve a problem with earlier TV shows that had wandering characters getting involved with other people's problems: "Why won't the heroes take the problem to the local authorities?" In Kimble's case, he couldn't.
  • Where It All Began
  • Whole-Episode Flashback
  • Worthy Opponent: Kimble and Gerard have a great deal of respect for each other. Kimble calls Gerard a "brilliant" detective on several occasions (and Gerard often demonstrates this). While Gerard thinks Kimble is guilty, he's aware of the number of people Kimble's helped and believes Kimble will never kill again.
  • Wrongly Accused: Kimble, of course.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Frequently.
  • You Look Familiar: Lots of actors will guest star in more than one episode in a different role. Perhaps the best example is Richard Anderson, who played Kimble's brother-in-law, Len Taft in the last 2 episodes. Anderson guest starred in 6 episodes total. The last 2 are the only ones where he played Len.

The 2000-2001 remake provides examples of:[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Left Hanging: When it was abruptly canceled after one season, a lot of plot threads were Left Hanging.
  • The Remake: A new TV version, starring Tim Daly as Kimble and Mykelti Williamson as Gerard, aired on CBS in 2000-01.
  • Too Happy to Live: The prologue of the premier episode established that Dr. Kimble had an ideal life--a beautiful wife who he adored, plans to have children and buy a new house, and a stellar career as a surgeon--before it was blown apart by his wife's murder.