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by   Bill Harry

Television’s longest-running manhunt was the popular series ‘The Fugitive’, which ran for four years from 1963, lasting 120 episodes. The story was originally inspired by ‘Les Miserables’, the classic Victor Hugo novel of a peasant who is pursued relentlessly by an implacable policeman.

The series starred David Janssen as Dr Richard Kimble, who arrives home one night to see a one-armed man fleeing from his house. He discovers the dead body of his wife Helen and, with no-one believing his story of the one-armed man, is arrested, convicted and sentenced to death. On the way to the penitentiary, his train is derailed and he escapes. He sets off to find the one-armed man and is, in turn, pursued by a determined police lieutenant Philip Gerard, played by Barry Morse. ‘The Fugitive’ attracted such attention that slogans began to appear on walls: ‘Kimble is innocent’, and a debate as to his guilt or innocence was a regular feature in the media. Critic Barry Norman, for instance, wrote: “I think Kimble is guilty. I think he’s a dirty, wife-slaying rat who deserves to be strung up from the nearest lamp-post.’ Right up until the climactic two-part ending, not even the members of the regular cast really knew how things would turn out.

The series actually ended in August 1967 when millions of viewers in America, Britain, Japan, Canada and Australia saw the conclusion of the massive manhunt (although London was the only ITV region which didn’t receive it – viewers had to wait 20 more weeks to see the concluding episodes). In the final story the one-armed man, Fred Johnson, played by Bill Raisch, is tracked down to an amusement park, but as Richard Kimble closes in on him, he himself is closely trailed by Lt Gerard. Kimble and Johnson battle on an amusement park tower and just as he is about to push Kimble over, the one-armed man admits to the killing and is shot by the detective. During the course of the series, Dr Kimble was involved in thirty fights, had eight gunshot wounds and four stabbings. He was also knocked unconscious ten times, temporarily blinded by an explosion and was run down by a car! He also suffered from amnesia and contracted pneumonia!

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