Monday, September 08, 2014

At Flashbak: Men on the Run: Seven Knock-offs of Quinn Martin’s The Fugitive (1963 – 1967)

My new article at Flashbak remembers many of the various TV series, across the decades, that re-used the format of The Fugitive.

"The Quinn Martin TV series The Fugitive (1963 – 1967) may just be one of the most influential TV programs in the medium’s history. 

The series ran for four highly-rated seasons on CBS, and told the story of Dr. Richard Kimble (David Janssen), a man wrongly accused of his wife’s murder 

After escaping his captor, Lt. Gerard (Barry Morse), Kimble hit the road in search of the one man who could clear him, his wife’s real murderer: The One-Armed Man (Bill Raisch).

Inspired perhaps, in part by Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables (1862), The Fugitive nonetheless firmly established a format that was rigorously -- even ritualistically -- repeated by several TV series that followed.

Key elements of this oft-utilized format include the innocent protagonist wrongly accused or targeted by the Establishment, the Hapless Pursuer (who pursues but never catches his quarry), and “the mission” that would bring the crisis to a resolution. 

Similarly, on a weekly-basis The Fugitive found Kimble helping people in need while on the run. So while evading his pursuer, he was also helping to solve the problems of those he encountered.

Finally, there were virtually no standing sets on The Fugitive, as Kimble could never stay in any one place too long. 

All these ingredients are also re-purposed in the following knock-offs."


  1. John entertaining thoughts on men on the run. Like Incredible Hulk, Werewolf (1987 – 1988) was special because they were both about a man that would unwillingly transform into a creature.


  2. During a slow afternoon at work a couple years ago, a friend and I identified a broad genre of television we called the "people traveling around helping strangers" shows, of which the "man on the run" could perhaps be a subcategory. We included many of the series you mentioned in your article, as well as Route 66, Then Came Bronson, Knight Rider, and The A-Team, and The Fantastic Journey. There were more too... I wish I'd thought to write them all down, as it became obvious to us that a LOT of television has followed the general premise: there is a person or persons who are compelled for some reason to move around the country (or world), stopping briefly to somehow help out before continuing their journey at the end of the episode.