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Chapter 4 The Legacy of The Fugitive 77 On August 29, 1967, the final episode of The Fugitive aired on prime-time television. As the newly acquitted Kimble and Jean Carlise (Diane Baker), a court reporter who helped him, walk away from the courthouse, they suddenly spot a police cruiser pulling up alongside them. For a fleeting moment, Kimble’s face and body register a strong flush of fear before Carlise gently reminds him to relax. Kimble responds with a half-hearted smile. William Conrad, the omniscient narrator, solemnly states, “Tuesday, August 29th—the day the running stopped.” Despite Conrad’s somber declaration, you can’t help but wonder whether Kimble will ever completely overcome his fear or innate urge to run at the sight of the authorities. Kimble, of course, was not the only nonviolent wandererredeemer on television in the 1960s. However, because of The Fugitive’s strong redemptive theme and lasting popularity, it became the most influential wanderer-redeemer series on American television. The Fugitive’s main contribution to television culture is establishing the narrative and thematic characteristics that define the contemporary, nonviolent wanderer-redeemer television tradition. The traits of the wanderer-redeemer include : traveling alone or with a partner; having a troubled past 01 Pierson text.indd 77 10/27/11 12:04 PM 78 Chapter 4 and taking to the road because of a momentous event; searching for meaning; and experiencing a troubling relationship with community and society-at-large. The wanderer-redeemer also serves a Judeo-Christian mythic redemptive role in his journey. Because of his dark past, he is able to empathize with the people he meets who are estranged from their family and friends. The wanderer-redeemer liberates these lost souls through compassion and selfless acts of kindness. Through his actions, the wanderer-redeemer is granted temporary moral redemption for his unfortunate past. While this redemptive role was largely implied in the early television wanderer-redeemer series, as the tradition progressed over time, it became more explicit (see, e.g., Highway to Heaven). The wanderer-redeemer’s violent dimension is largely suppressed in series’ narratives, but he does not hesitate to use physical force if the occasion demands it. Because Kimble is a nonviolent redeemer, he refuses to travel with a weapon and only resorts to physical violence to defend himself or to protect a woman or child. In the first Fugitive episode, for example, Kimble rescues a female piano player from further physical abuse by punching her sadistic husband. The violent side of the wanderer-redeemer became more pronounced in the late 1970s and the 1980s, and his character traits, established by The Fugitive, continued to shape and influence all of the wanderer -redeemer programs that followed it. The popular NBC TV series Run for Your Life, which overlapped historically with The Fugitive, features an interesting and thought-provoking variation on many of the narrative traits and themes established by The Fugitive. Roy Huggins, who was aware of all the innocent-man-on-the-run program imitators that followed The Fugitive, was approached by NBC to create a new version of the wanderer-redeemer. Run for Your Life follows the adventures of Paul Bryan (Ben Gazzara). Bryan runs because his doctor informed him that he has a rare, life-threatening disease for which there is no known cure and that he has 01 Pierson text.indd 78 10/27/11 12:04 PM 79 The Legacy of The Fugitive at most two years left to live. In this series, The Fugitive’s Gerard “is replaced by the specter of Death itself, as Bryan wanders highways and byways in a desperate attempt to discover the meaning of his own essence on the American road” (Marc and Thompson 1992, 149). His sudden awareness of his impending death leads him to sell his law practice, sell his home and possessions , and begin a life of wandering. He hopes to “squeeze twenty years of living into the one or two years he has left.” When Bryan leaves the doctor’s office, his doctor and the audience learn that there was a mistake—there is nothing wrong with him (Newcomb 1974, 149). Viewers feel a level of tension in all of Bryan’s actions because we know they are based on an incorrect medical diagnosis. Gazzara, a theatrically trained New York City actor, plays Bryan as a dynamic man capable of showing both intense bouts of exuberance and melancholy. Because he believes he has a terminal condition...


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