Both the ’60s series version of “The Fugitive” and the blockbuster theatrical combined an emotional component with a simple but ever-building action storyline, and the creators of this CBS remake skein seem content to re-capture, rather than out-do, the qualities that gave those incarnations broad appeal. Familiar title, well-known lead in Tim Daly, and some heavy promotion on “Survivor” will likely assure the show strong sampling, and what’s here is plenty good enough to keep people coming back. The degree of success will depend on whether women, who have more options than men in the 8 o’clock Friday hour — “Providence” on NBC, sitcoms on ABC — will join in with regularity.
The producers here have made a solid choice in Daly. Although it’s a role he hasn’t played much, Daly can run with the best of them, either Harrison Ford or David Janssen, both of whom played Dr. Richard Kimble before him. Daly’s Kimble outfoxes his pursuers and outruns them as well, and the series, shot on location, is clearly going to put him into some wide-open spaces as opposed to the cityscape of the feature film.
There aren’t any significant surprises here. We know Kimble’s not going to be fried in the electric chair, that he’ll evade the ever-seeking clutches of Lt. Gerard (“Forrest Gump’s” Mykelti Williamson), and that the One-Armed Man (Stephen Lang) — who murdered Kimble’s wife, a crime for which the doctor has been convicted — will remain, for the moment, untouchable.
The key, as with all action series, is turning repetitive, predictable outcomes into suspenseful beats, and at this, the series seems to have a genuine flair. The stakes are high, the cause is just, and, based on the second episode which was sent for review, to air Oct. 13, the moment-to-moment execution is excellent — the acting, directing, photography, music, editing, and stuntwork all working in tandem to create the proper twists and turns.
Williamson has what could become the thankless role here — the feature version won Tommy Lee Jones an Oscar and spurred a sequel for the character — but as a weekly endeavor, it will be harder to balance Gerard’s stubborn pursuit of Kimble with a necessarily growing doubt about his guilt.
This series, like the one before it, will also bring Dr. Kimble into contact with folks in various forms of distress, sometimes forcing the protagonist to deal emotionally with the loss of his wife and the deep loneliness of his current situation.
In this second episode, a young husband (Dylan Kussman) in Savannah steals the money Kimble’s sister (Connie Britton) has sent him in order to pay for medicine for his wife (Gina Ravera), who’s suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.
To pay him back, the man offers to let Kimble stay at his home. Touched by the couple’s devotion, and knowledgeable in the political entanglements of medical research, Kimble performs the heroically superhuman act of … filling out the necessary paperwork.
The writers will have to mix in more outward action in future episodes, but there’s something rather charmingly mundane about helping people cut through bureaucracy that makes this an appropriately low-key start.
Flaws in the justice system may have started this situation, but, as in the movie, audiences should be prepared to have the medical system thoroughly excoriated on a continuing basis. After all, a doctor who makes housecalls, even one perpetually on the run, will always put HMOs to shame.