Tuesday, August 28, 2007

An innocent victim of blind justice...

For my money, the best action/dramatic series ever presented on American television is not "24." In fact, it's not even on TV anymore.

No, that lofty claim belongs to a show canceled 40 years ago today.

I speak, of course, of "The Fugitive."

Dr. Richard Kimble's quest to clear his name and find the One Armed Man that killed his wife thrilled audiences for four highly-successful seasons from 1963-67. The last episode, in which Kimble finally tracks down the One Armed Man, remained the most-watched episode of all-time until the "Who Shot J.R." fad hit "Dallas" in November 1980.

Go back and watch this series. You'll not find a better program.

David Janssen was picture perfect as the haunted Kimble. His understated performance may be one of television's best.

Nearly as good was Barry Morse as the obsessed Lt. Phil Gerard, the Indiana police officer who lost Kimble in a train wreck while transporting him to death row.

Commenting on the action was the stern voice of actor William Conrad, who each week informed audiences that Kimble was "an innocent victim of blind justice" and kept the viewers abreast of the Fugitive's every move.

Presented in black-and-white for its first three seasons, "The Fugitive" took on a film noir look and feel. It was presented in four acts (with an epilogue), as was the trademark of producer Quinn Martin.

The acting and writing were superb. The guest stars were some of the most famous names in the business.

The show, really, was a glorified western, a (then) modern-day story about a drifter on the run. Each week found Kimble in a different location, often using an alias. He would briefly become involved with various folks in various towns, but always moved on, always continued to run, unable to keep interpersonal attachments for very long.

The running stopped in August 1967. Kimble tracked the One Armed Man to Los Angeles, then back to Stafford, Indiana. It all ended on a tower in an abandoned amusement park in a scene that can still quicken the pulse.

CBS/Paramount has released the first volume of the first season on DVD. Do yourself a favor and relive the weekly adventures of everybody's favorite fugitive.

You won't find anything like it on TV today, I can promise you.

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