The Fugitive in Flight
Faith, Liberalism, and Law in a Classic TV Show
"In the 1990s when I was watching reruns of The Fugitive on the Arts and Entertainment Network twice a day, I couldn't take my eyes off it. . . . No one in The Fugitive ever relaxes as you watch and you can't relax either, even though for long stretches absolutely nothing happens. It was the combination of nonstop tension with the (relative) absence of slam-bang action that attracted me, and as I now reflect on it, the same combination characterizes the literary works I have been reading and writing about for more than forty-five years."—Stanley Fish, from the Introduction
In the stark television drama The Fugitive, Dr. Richard Kimble, an innocent man convicted of murder, is on the run from the police and in pursuit of the real killer. The award-winning show, which aired on ABC from 1963 to 1967 and inspired a 1993 blockbuster movie, still has many devoted fans, none more passionate than literary and legal theorist and intellectual provocateur Stanley Fish. In The Fugitive in Flight, Fish examines the moral structure of the long-running series and explains why he thinks this may well be the greatest show ever aired on American network television.
Analyzing key episodes, The Fugitive in Flight goes beyond plot summaries and behind-the-scenes stories. For Fish, the real action of The Fugitive takes place in confined spaces where the men and women Richard Kimble encounters are forced to choose what kind of person they will be for the rest of their lives. Kimble is the catalyst of such choices and changes, but he himself never changes. Breaking free from the political and social problems of his time, he is always the bearer and exemplar of the very middle-class values informing the system that has misjudged him. Kimble is the perfect representative of a mid-twentieth-century liberalism that values above all independence, personal integrity, and the refusal to surrender oneself to obsessions or causes. He is so consistently faithful to his liberal vision of life that he displays both its virtues and its dark side, the side that flees attachments, entanglements, responsibilities, and human connections. Stanley Fish's Richard Kimble is the ultimate man in a gray flannel suit, even when he is wearing a windbreaker and walking down a dark, lonely road.
Stanley Fish is Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Humanities and Law at Florida International University, in Miami, and Dean Emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a New York Times online commentator and the author of numerous books, including Surprised by Sin: The Reader in "Paradise Lost" and Save the World on Your Own Time.