The Fugitive and The Fugitive (2001)


The Fugitive (1963-1967)
The Fugitive (2000-2001)
Type: Revival

   The original series The Fugitive was a TV classic. It was based on the real life case of a doctor who was wrongly convicted of killing his wife and then had his case reversed after spending years in jail. For the TV show it inspired, things went a little different. Doctor Richard Kimble was convicted of his wife's murder, a murder he didn't commit. He had in fact arrived just after she was killed and had seen a one armed man fleeing the scene of the crime.

   While being transported to prison, the train Dr. Kimble was on derailed. He escaped and set out to prove his innocence by finding the one armed man. As he pursued the real killer, Dr. Kimble was himself pursued by U.S. Marshal Philip Gerard who was determined to catch the fugitive.

   The setup is a classic TV formula. Each week finds Dr. Kimble, played by David Janssen, is a new town on his quest. Each week, he helps out someone with their problems before leaving town just steps ahead of his pursuer. And it's The Fugitive that set the standard for what this sort of show should be.

   In most cases, these shows end with the driving central plot unresolved. They just run out of steam and get cancelled without any closure. In the case of The Fugitive though, the viewers actually got a resolution! Dr. Kimble caught the one armed man just as Lt. Gerard caught him. With Kimble and the one armed man in pitched battle, Gerard had to decide if he believed in Kimble's proclaimed innocence. Who should he be trying to help in the fight? Who should he be saving? In the end he saved Kimble by shooting the one armed man.

   Years later the series came back in the form of a feature film starring Harrison Ford as the fugitive and Tommy Lee Jones as Gerard. It was a huge hit.

   Then, years after the film, the film's makers attempted to revive The Fugitive again as a TV series. Given that the story on this show started from square one and was not any sort of continuation of the original series or the film, the new show was in fact more of a redo or revival rather than some sort of spin off or crossover. This time Richard Kimble was played by Wings star Tim Daly. Once again, on the way to prison, there is an accident and Richard Kimble escapes to travel the country looking for his wife's one armed killer and help those he runs into in need.

   Well, that was the plan. Remember how I said most of these shows end before they can wrap the central plot up? Yeah, well... one season on this one and then cancelled without a finish. Of course not enough people were watching to really care anyway.

   The really weird thing is that The Fugitive revival looked like a sure thing: a redo of a classic made by the same folks who had made it a hit film? Please. Should've been a slam dunk for CBS... but wasn't. Meanwhile CBS had this other show that premiered at the same time. No one thought much of it. It was this weird crime show where scientists would go over crime scenes with a fine tooth comb and solve the crime. It sounded like a redo on Quincy or something. And it was a "smart" show produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of "dumb" action films like Armageddon. CSI (Crime Scene Investigators) had forgotten and cancelled stamped all over it. But, surprise, it became an out of no where hit. It was huge! It was smart and edgy and... original. It was original and The Fugitive was a retread. CSI got all the attention and The Fugitive... well, I guess he got away.


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