The Fugitive was quite different from many of the other TV shows at the time, because its narrative structure didn’t allow episodes to resolve neatly each time. This kept audiences on their toes throughout the whole duration of the show. It was ranked by TV Guide as the best dramatic series of its decade, and it also earned a spot as number 36 TV Guide’s list of greatest television shows of all time, as of 2002. The show was also nominated for five Emmy awards, and in 1966, it won the Emmy for Outstanding Dramatic Series.
The show was most popular in its second season, when it was ranked as the fifth most popular TV show according to the Nielsen ratings. While it wasn’t quite as popular during its third and fourth seasons, a staggering amount of audience members tuned into the series finale, proving that it never truly lost favor within the country.
The show has remained incredibly popular, so much so that it has even inspired several remakes. In 1993, the show inspired a film of the same name, starring Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble. In the year 2000, there was also a short remake of the show, but it ended a year later. There is another remake of the same name which is set to be released in 2020, and while the plot has changed somewhat, the overall themes should remain the same.
In today’s video, we’re going to look at some fascinating behind the scenes facts about The Fugitive. Even though its ratings dropped a little during its third and fourth season, its legendary series finale was so groundbreaking that a record number of audience members tuned in. Make sure you stick around, because we’re going to reveal just how impactful that series finale truly was!
The Series Was Inspired by Les Misérables
Any author takes inspiration from the world around them, and sometimes that inspiration can come from other forms of media. All great creators learn from others, so it’s no surprise that The Fugitive had some interesting inspirations of its own. Roy Huggins, the creator of the show, was loosely inspired by the French historical novel Les Misérables, which was published by Victor Hugo in 1862. In 1980, the novel was adapted into a French musical, and its English adaptation has been running since 1985 in London. In 2012, it was adapted into a film which won three of the eight Academy Awards it was nominated for.
However, The Fugitive initially seems a far cry from the plot of Les Misérables. Until, that is, you break it down to its bare essentials. The Fugitive follows Dr. Richard Kimble, fleeing from a crime, while he is eagerly pursued by a ruthless Police Lieutenant, Philip Gerard. Similarly, the plot of Les Misérables follows a convict, Jean Valjean, who is being pursued by one of his old prison guards, Inspector Javert. Supposedly, the name Philip Gerard was loosely inspired by Javert’s name, as well.
The Narration for the Series Finale Was Changed in Canada
Americans had waited a long time for the series finale of The Fugitive. However, the show wasn’t just being broadcast in America, and it had diehard fans in other countries, as well. The series finale of The Fugitive was released in the United States on August 29th, 1967, on ABC. Every episode of the show was narrated by William Conrad, who, aside from working as an actor, also had experience as a director, producer, and even as a fighter pilot in World War II. His sonorous voice was perfect for The Fugitive, and he also narrated the shows Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Rocky and Bullwinkle.
The opening narration for the series finale of The Fugitive began “Tuesday, August 29. The day the running stopped.” This was the exact date that the show itself had been released. However, viewers in Canada wouldn’t get to see the series finale until September 5th. As a result, the date of the narration was changed to September 5th for the show’s Canadian viewers, giving the audience the impression that the show’s events were occurring in real time.
Dr. Richard Kimble’s Origin Story Was Changed
When the show was in its earlier stages, the writers wanted the main character, Dr. Richard Kimble, to hail from the state of Wisconsin. However, they later learned that the show wouldn’t be accurate if this was the case. Dr. Richard Kimble, who was accused of murdering his wife, was sentenced to the death penalty as a result. He spends the show on the run from the law, evading execution and searching for the real murderer. However, Wisconsin law didn’t actually allow the death penalty in cases of murder. As a result, the writers had to modify the script so that Dr. Richard Kimble originally came from Indiana. The wanted posters, which listed his hometown as Beloit, Wisconsin, had to be changed to read Stafford, Indiana, instead. What a nightmare for the props creators!
While most of the changes were made seamlessly, you can find one error if you look closely during the season one episode “Glass Tightrope.” In the episode, one of the posters still reads Beloit, Wisconsin instead of Stafford, Indiana.
The Series Finale Was Insanely Popular
As we mentioned earlier, the show reached the peak of its popularity during its second season. However, during its third and fourth seasons, it dropped in popularity. Miraculously, though, the series finale was stunningly popular.
The idea of a series finale was actually a new concept at the time. Before, most shows simply kept going until they were cancelled, and most writers and directors didn’t put the effort into creating a narrative series. During the series finale of The Fugitive, however, all of the events of the show culminated into one amazing two part episode, entitled “The Judgement.”
When the series finale aired, almost half of America tuned in to watch Dr. Richard Kimble confront the show’s villain in a high stakes episode that would go down in history. In total, 45.9% of American households watched the finale when it aired. It held the nation’s record as the most-watched episode until the Dallas episode “Who Shot J.R.?”
The show didn’t just change history because of its series finale, though. The entire concept of a narrative television show paved the way for countless beloved series to come. Make sure you stick around until the very end of this video, where we’ll reveal just how much The Fugitive would shape TV shows to come. And, if you’re enjoying this video so far, please take a moment to like this video and subscribe to our channel for more!
The Train Crash Footage Was from a Comedy
While on his way to Death Row, Dr. Richard Kimble found the opportunity to escape when the train bearing him crashed. Of course, getting good footage of a train crash isn’t an easy feat, and the show simply didn’t have the budget to film a new one. As a result, the producers of the show combed through films and television episodes to find a train crash that would suit their needs. They found the footage they needed in a 1938 romantic comedy, The Young in Heart. The train crash was used during the opening credits of the show, as well, and most fans are surprised to learn that the footage comes from a lighthearted film, since it was used in such a gritty show.
Much of the Show’s Music Was Also Recycled
The train footage wasn’t the only piece of media that was recycled for the show. Finding the budget and time for a decent composer is hard work, and the producers ultimately decided to recycle music from other shows and films. It would take a keen ear to remember these melodies, but if you listen carefully, you might be able to hear music from The Outer Limits, Branded, 12 O’Clock High, and even The Twilight Zone!
It Paved the Way for Narrative Television
Today, we tend to take ongoing narratives for granted in our favorite television shows. However, at the time The Fugitive was created, episodic forms were the norm in TV. Just think of The Twilight Zone or Star Trek. The thread of Dr. Richard Kimble’s plight and his pursuit of the One-Armed Man spanned a crazy four seasons, and if a fan missed even a single episode of the show, they would certainly be confused while tuning in the next week. The Fugitive was one of the first television shows to use a narrative structure, but this form is now incredibly popular in dramas and even comedies nowadays.
Without The Fugitive, we may never have gotten to see shows like Stranger Things or The X-Files come to life!
The Fugitive made history in a lot of different ways, but of course, the creators of the show still took inspiration, and even footage, from other pieces of media. Were you more surprised to discover that the show was inspired by Les Misérables, or that the producers used footage from a romantic comedy? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!