Some quests are impelled by practical circumstances, others by inner longing.

In TV’s earliest decades, journeys are nothing more than physical adventures. King of the Wild Frontier Davy Crockett is moved by no crisis of faith when he kills him a b’ar when he’s only 3, or races keelboats with Mike Fink. Dr. Richard Kimble goes on the run as a fugitive not to find himself, but to nab the one-armed man who killed his wife and stay ahead of a dogged pursuer.

As America becomes more spiritually aware, so do the medium’s journeyers. Kwai Chang Caine roams America in order to practice kung fu and continue his progression from humble grasshopper to Shaolin master. “Prisoner” Number Six battles the Village in order to win both kinds of cherished freedom: psychic as well as literal.

For modern urban wanderers, there’s no contradiction in the hunt to achieve both material success and personal balance. Don Draper is the fiercest of Madison Avenue’s “Mad Men,” but always seeks to maintain moral and ethical probity. A few blocks over on Fifth, Liz Lemon struggles indefatigably to stay on top of the heap at “30 Rock,” yet her levelheadedness and warmth keep her reliably humane.

Emmy Commemorative 2012
Critic says ‘MASH’ top show of character
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