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Chapter 1 Man-on-the-Run 1 1 In the early 1960s, scores of viewers rushed to their TV sets on Tuesday evenings at ten o’clock to see how Richard Kimble would once again escape from the ever-tightening grip of the police who were pursuing him unjustly for the murder of his wife. Loyal viewers tuned in every week to find out which guest star Kimble would befriend and what type of dramatically charged situation he would find himself embroiled in. The prime-time series became popular with groups of college students living in dorms who affectionately called it “The Fuge.” Men with hectic professional lives probably identified with Kimble, who struggled every week to achieve a small measure of freedom and personal happiness against a persistent barrage of outside forces. Women, in particular, were enamored with David Janssen’s (Richard Kimble) tough exterior but vulnerable demeanor. His haunted, confused facial expressions and brooding charisma were certainly reminiscent of the late screen idol James Dean (“The Fuge” 1965). The ABC-TV series The Fugitive , which ran from September 1963 to August 1967, features the story of Dr. Richard Kimble, an innocent man from Stafford, Indiana, who is unjustly accused, convicted, and sentenced to 01 Pierson text.indd 1 10/27/11 12:04 PM 2 Chapter 1 death for the murder of his wife. The Fugitive is television’s longest -running chase story. Each episode begins with the image of a train barreling down the tracks at night as it transports Kimble to be executed at the state prison. Kimble is accompanied by Lt. Philip Gerard (Barry Morse), the man who arrested him for his wife’s murder. William Conrad’s somber but soothing voice introduces the prisoner’s fate: “Proved guilty, what Richard Kimble could not prove was that the moment before he discovered his wife’s body he encountered a man running from the vicinity of his home . . . a man with one arm. A man who has not been found.” We then see a shot of Kimble inside the train, his face reflected in the compartment window as Conrad describes his limited future: “Richard Kimble ponders his fate as he looks at the world for the last time . . . and sees only darkness. But, in that darkness, fate moves its huge hand.” In a sudden twist of fate, the train derails and Kimble is freed to begin his long cross-country search for the one-armed man. At the same time, he is doggedly pursued by the obsessive Gerard, who blames himself for Kimble’s escape. Each episode is framed by Peter Rugolo’s rousing theme music and is sequenced into the now familiar multiple act structure from prologue/opening to Act I through Act IV and the inevitable “epilogue” common to most Q.M. (Quinn Martin) Productions. Q.M. Productions’ highly stylized structure lends each episode a sense of a theatrical, dramatic presentation and serves as a recognizable trademark for the production company. The Fugitive offers viewers an unusual role reversal. While the convicted criminal is the series’ hero, the hard-working, dedicated police protagonist is the show’s villain. Gerard is at first a bureaucratic fussbudget who sees the world in simple black-and-white terms (Proctor 1994, 185). There is little room for moral ambiguity and uncertainty in his world. Gerard’s character is a sly critique on the dispassionate Sgt. Joe Friday of the popular 1950s TV police drama series Dragnet (1951–59). 01 Pierson text.indd 2 10/27/11 12:04 PM 3 Man-on-the-Run He also references the cool, technocratic bureaucrats who were part of Kennedy’s New Frontier administration. New Frontier social liberalism insists that most social problems, like poverty, unemployment, and crime, can be addressed through applying scientific methods and bureaucratic procedures. Even though Gerard is only in about one in four episodes in the series, his intense presence can be felt even in episodes where he is absent . Despite his incontestable sense of duty, Gerard’s character seems to grow slightly less intense and more humane over the course of the series. Morse’s skillful and subtle performance prevents him from being a one-dimensional character. He confers on Gerard a degree of humanity beneath his shield of stoic professionalism. Of course, for most viewers, the strongest appeal of The Fugitive is the memorable, poignant performance of Janssen as Richard Kimble. Janssen, a man of ordinary physical build and appearance, plays Kimble as a man...


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