The Fugitive, August 29, 1967

Written By: Greg Howell - Feb• 22•14

Fugitive4The Fugitive was the television series that did everything the right way. Opening with a bang and spectacular ratings, the premise found Dr. David Kimble discovering the murder of his wife, being arrested, and escaping after his train derails en route to prison. The drama unfolded over the seasons much like an anthology series, with Dr. Kimble’s miscelaneous interactions with people he met while on the run. The running thread, however, was the mysterious one-armed man, the true murderer.

The Fugitive catapulted into big ratings, and over 119 episodes, never lost its focus or power. At the end of 4 perfect seasons,The Fugitive broadcast the final show, #120. It is notable that this final broadcast was the first of its kind, as no other dramatic television show had ever intentionally capped its long run with a show ending plot line.

Dr. Kimble finally met face to face with the one-armed man, culminating into a powerful, breathtaking fight scene atop a water tower. After much struggle, the one-armed man drops the long fall to the ground, ending David Kimble’s long run from the law.

This is the first great television series finale, and it broke all ratings records. It would be another full decade before another television show would bookend a series, with such perfect intention, media coverage, and high ratings. (Mary Tyler Moore in 1977.)

Prior to The Fugitive, a few series attempted  send-offs. The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp closed its 6-year run with a 5 episode story arc of the showdown at the OK Coral between Earp, Doc Holliday and the Dalton Gang. However, no one seemed to care and the series was cancelled by the network.  Leave It to Beaver capped its show with a final episode where the family gathers around a scrapbook, recapping highlights from the series. Howdy Doody, in 1960, after a long run and falling ratings, ended its show with a “secret surprise.” Clown Clarabell, silent for the entire run, looked into the camera, tear rolling down cheek, and said, “Goodbye Kids!”  This is believed to be the first official TV show finale.  However, none of the above brought much attention except The Fugitive, which scored 72% of the audience and held the highest rating for a television series until the famous resolution of Dallas‘ “Who Shot Jr.” story arc concluded in the fall of 1980.

Here is the final epilogue of The Fugitive

 

 

Sources:

The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, Marsh & Brooks

 

©Thursday, April 19, 2007, Greg Howell

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