THE REAL FUGITIVE, PART II
In the previous post, I wrote about Sam Sheppard, the doctor who was falsely accused of murdering his wife and who is the inspiration for the protagonist in the Dr. Scott James Thriller Series. Sheppard was real and his story and trial are detailed in that post. In 1963, however, the whole thing changed. The good doctor escaped from custody, and reality, and began running across the TV every night.
The Fugitive TV series began in September, 1963, two-and-a-half years before the February 1966 trial that acquitted Sam Shepppard. Personally, I believe this series played on the minds of the jurors that eventually acquitted Sheppard.
The ABC program topped the ratings charts. Many, many people watched, in an era before TV was swamped by hundreds of competing, quality shows. Of course, ABC denied that the hero of the show, Dr. Richard Kimble, portrayed famously by David Jannsen, was depicting Sam Sheppard, but the world knew that was a lie.
Some things were changed. In the series, Kimble was a Pediatrican, whereas Sheppard was an osteopathic physician. The TV had the real killer as a "one armed man,” while in real life, Sam Sheppard claimed that the killer of his wife was a “bushy haired man,” running from the crime scene. In the series, Doctor Kimble was given a death sentence, while Sheppard was sentenced to life.
But it was the same. "Kimble" was Sheppard and Sheppard was innocent. TV perception was reality. We, the ardent followers of The Fugitive, knew Kimble (Sheppard) was innocent, and had we been on the 1966 jury, would have judged him innocent as well, even without the brilliance of F.Lee Bailey.
The circumstances of the involvement of the law officer guarding Kimble on TV when he escaped in a train wreck was interesting to prospective jurors. In the series, this officer was named "Phillip Gerard" and was played by Barry Morse. While Gerard chased Kimble in the early episodes of the drama (out of a guilt trip he had for allowing Kimble to escape), he turned his sympathies toward the man he pursued in later episodes. This had to influence jurors.
The Fugitive was nominated for five Emmy Awards and won the Emmy for Outstanding Dramatic Series in 1966. In 2002, it was ranked No. 36 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. TV Guide named the one-armed man No. 5 in their 2013 list of The 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time.