From the sixties through the nineties, TV series built around the viscerally appealing concept of the person on the run from authority while in pursuit of a just cause (all the while helping others along the way) has been a staple of television.
Yet for some reason, since about 2000 the genre has largely disappeared as mysteriously as the one-armed man following the murder of Helen Kimble.
David Janssen, in fact, set the standard for the program category with his portrayal of Dr. Richard Kimble, “an innocent victim of blind justice” who in 1963 began a four-ordeal in search of his wife’s real killer, the mysterious one-armed man. The show, of course, was ABC’s “The Fugitive” and it’s success led to several imitators over though the sixties, seventies and nineties.
Some of the more notable examples included:
>>“Run for Your Life” (NBC/1965-1968): Ben Gazzara wasn’t on the run from authority per se, but death itself as he portrayed terminally-ill attorney Paul Bryan who as he traveled from town to town and city
>>“The Invaders” (ABC/1967-1968): Roy Thinnes played architect David Vincent who, after witnessing an alien landing, found himself on the run from the beings while trying to prove their existence to the rest of the world.
>>“Alias Smith and Jones” (ABC/1971-1973): Pete Duel and Ben Murphy were Hannibal Hayes and Kid Curry (aka Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones), two western-era outlaws promised amnesty by the governor of an unnamed state if they stayed out of trouble until it became politically feasible for him to grant them amnesty. Their only problem was they’d still be wanted in the meantime. Roger Davis took over the Hayes role after Duel’s apparent suicide in 1971.
>>“Kung Fu” (ABC/1972-1975): David Carradine was a half-American/half-Chinese Kwai Chang Caine, a Shaolin monk/martial arts expert traveling across 19th century America in search of his half brother while being pursued by Chinese assassins who hold him responsible for the death of the emperor’s nephew.
>>"“The Incredible Hulk” (CBS/1978-1982): Bill Bixby was Dr. David Banner, a scientist whose experimentation with human adrenalin caused him (when angry) to transform into a not-so-jolly green giant (portrayed by Lou Ferrigno). Following an explosion, Banner is believed dead and goes underground in search of a cure. The creature, meanwhile, becomes a tabloid sensation pursued by reporter Jack McGee (Jack Colvin).
>>“The A-Team” (NBC/1983-1987): The iconic show starred George Peppard, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz and Mr. T as a team of former soldiers on the run from the Army after being framed for a crime they didn’t commit in Vietnam.
>>“Renegade” (Syndicated/1992-1997): Lorenzo Lamas was Reno Raines, a good cop framed by bad cops for a murder he didn't commit. While on the run to clear his name, he accepts work as a bounty hunter.
>>“The Pretender” (NBC/1996-2000): Michael T. Weiss played Jarod, a former child prodigy with the ability to learn new skills incredibly quickly and, therefore, assume any job while on the run from The Centre, an organization that sought to use his talents for its own nefarious interests.
>>"The Fugitive” (CBS/2000-2001): Talk about coming full circle. This time it was Tim Daly in the role of Dr. Richard Kimble.
While the serialized Fox series “Prison Break” (2005-2009) certainly had man-on-the run elements, the genre has largely laid dormant for about a decade.
Personally, I think TV audiences have had enough of somber procedurals of the “CSI” and “Law & Order” mode and are ready for a new idealistic loner to pursue justice from outside the system.
Toward that end, post production has recently been completed on “Photo Finish,” an independently produced sci-fi pilot starring Thai-American actor/martial artist Michael Chaturantabut as brilliant scientist Albert Einstein Fong, the inventor of a camera that photographs future events and whose life is forever changed when he’s framed for the murder of a romantic and professional rival.
The man behind the frame is Ethan Fletcher (Meshach Taylor of “Designing Women”), an enigmatic billionaire industrialist intent on obtaining the camera for himself and using it, as he puts it, “to manipulate markets, cash in on future disasters — and influence elections here and abroad.”
Albert, meanwhile, is on the run as the camera itself mysteriously prods him (through a flashing sensor) to take photos that reveal startling future events – forcing Albert to risk his life and/or capture to save innocent victims. The show is currently being shopped to the networks via Rick Dunaj of The Dunaj Agency.
I hope it sells. First, because I co-wrote it with Michael Jue, an engineering specialist who, on the side, sells renovated vintage cameras via Amazon. An interesting man to be sure, he came to me with the idea for a show about a government unit that utilizes a camera that photographs the future.
I immediately thought the idea of a show built around such a camera was brilliant, literally one of the best premises I’ve ever heard. After talking it through, we agreed on certain changes -– mostly aimed at taking camera out of the hands of the government (which, on reflection, seemed oppressive) and, instead, placing the powerful device in the hands of an underdog/reluctant hero/fugitive.
The log line (“The Fugitive” meets “Quantum Leap”) virtually wrote itself and financing to produce a high-quality 12-minute pilot presentation came quickly. Michael Brewer was brought on as director along with Madeleine Liebert as producer. Original music was created by award-winning composer Bruce Hanifan whose TV work includes themes for Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” and “Ice Road Truckers” on History.