The End of the Run

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This Monday, the Arts & Entertainment Network repeats “The Judgement,” the legendary two-part finale of the ABC series “The Fugitive.”

When the conclusion originally aired Aug. 29, 1967, it made television history. An amazing 72% of the viewing audience tuned in to see Dr. Richard Kimble finally exonerated for the murder of his wife. The series begins all over again on Tuesday with the first episode, which made its debut Sept. 17, 1963.

Watching “The Fugitive” nearly 30 years after its premiere, it’s hard to imagine what the series would have been like without David Janssen as Richard Kimble. Janssen, an underrated actor in the Clark Gable tradition, gave “The Fugitive” its spark. He made it special.


Born David Meyer in 1930 (some sources list 1926), Janssen began acting as a teen-ager and played Johnny Weissmuller’s brother in 1946’s low-budget “Swamp Fire.” His subsequent films, 1952’s “Yankee Buccaneer” and 1956’s “The Girl He Left Behind,” were equally unmemorable.

So Janssen turned to television, where he guest-starred on series and dramas. Then actor-turned-producer Dick Powell gave Janssen his first big break, casting him as the lead in the series “Richard Diamond, Private Detective,” which aired on CBS and NBC from 1957 to ’60.

After “Diamond” left the airwaves, Janssen tried his luck again on the big screen. This time he had starring roles in 1961’s “King of the Roaring Twenties” and 1963’s “My Six Loves,” both undistinguished.

“The Fugitive” turned Janssen into a television superstar. After he quit running in 1967, Janssen attempted to parlay his small-screen success into big-screen stardom. But his post-”Fugitive” films were failures: 1968’s “The Green Berets” and “The Shoes of the Fisherman” and 1969’s “Where It’s At.”

By the fall of 1970 he was back on television in the short-lived CBS series “O’Hara, U.S. Treasury,” which also airs on A&E.;

His next series, ABC’s “Harry-O,” in which he played an offbeat private eye, aired 1974-76.


Janssen continued to star in television movies and miniseries, including “A Sensitive Passionate Man,” “The Word” and “Centennial.” Janssen died at 49 of a heart attack on Feb. 13, 1980. His last movie-of-the-week, “City In Fear,” aired shortly thereafter on ABC.

“The Fugitive” airs Monday-Fridays at 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Saturdays at 11 a.m. on A&E.;

“O’Hara, U.S. Treasury” airs Tuesdays at 11 a.m. and Wednesdays at 6 a.m. on A&E.;