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Keep on Running

September 12, 1993|Georgia Jones-Davis

Thirty years after the first airing of "The Fugitive" (Sept. 17, 1963), Pomegranate Press Ltd. has just published "The Fugitive Recaptured: The 30th Anniversary Companion to a Television Classic" by Ed Robertson (paper, $17.95, illustrated), with a brief introduction by Stephen King.

What a break for die-hard fans of the original series.

Don't get me wrong. I loved the movie. Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford are great. The movie was a real E-ticket. But it just wasn't "The Fugitive."

Ford as a man on the run came across about as disenfranchised as a guy stuck in traffic without his cellular phone. The old television series was an Edward Hopper painting in motion, film noir for the small screen. It echoed Thomas Wolfe's poetic monologues about America at night, the loneliness of small towns under the prairie moon, train whistles, bus rides into empty town squares. . . .

"The Fugitive" wasn't about glamorous aerial shots of city lights, amoral doctors and drug companies, train wrecks, hovering helicopters and guys shooting each other. It was about the loneliness at the core of the American heart.

And David Janssen--he of the big ears and basset-hound eyes, surely the saddest face in America; he looked even more depressed when he smiled--captured in Richard Kimble a quiet, gentle man of dignity, the misunderstood Western drifter for our own times.

Viewers around the world shared a masochistic urge to tune in weekly for another episode of Janssen's agonizing, inarticulate loneliness, and to catch a moderately thrilling chase scene (stilted by today's post "French-Connection" standards). And we never wanted to miss the corny epilogues in which the innocent man on the run, his thin tweed jacket pulled closely around his throat, slips away into the night as we listened to William Conrad's voice-over profundity of the week: "Somewhere a destination for this truck. But for Richard Kimble, no destiny. And even asleep there are shadows, shadows that haunt a man on the run: a fugitive."

Robertson's book offers a synopsis, the epilogue, entertaining details about and analysis of each of 120 episodes of the program; why most television executives hated the idea of the series, a complete list of the Fugitive's aliases, jobs and locations, and how to obtain favorite episodes from NuVentures Video in Los Angeles.

Plus, tips on how to live like a fugitive.

Robertson's homework includes researching various odes to the series. Funniest of all is Mike Royko's column, which ran in the Chicago Sun-Times on Aug. 30, 1967, the day after the running stopped. Royko "interviewed" Richard Kimble, now a free man, remarried (to Jean Carlisle?) and mowing his lawn in Stafford, Ind. (He's free "to pay for the house, two cars, an expensive country club membership" and to listen to his new wife's nagging. . . .)

Lets hope "The Fugitive" keeps on running.

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