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The Fugitive in Flight: Faith, Liberalism, and Law in a Classic TV Show (Personal Takes) [Hardcover]

Stanley Fish

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Book Description

14 Oct 2010 Personal Takes
"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.

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About the Author

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.

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Psychological/Sociological Analysis of a TV Classic! 15 Dec 2010
By Michael OConnor - Published on Amazon.com
If you're a hardcore FUGITIVE fan looking for an episode-by-episode guide to that fondly-remembered '60s show, look elsewhere...'cause this ain't it! For one thing, the sub-title of Stanley Fish's THE FUGITIVE IN FLIGHT is FAITH, LIBERALISM AND LAW IN A CLASSIC TV SHOW; does that tell you something? Secondly, Fish is a Humanities and Law professor at UI-Chicago and college profs tend to produce scholarly, analytical treatises rather than popular histories. Having said that, THE FUGITIVE IN FLIGHT is an interesting take on David Janssen, Barry Morse & Company.

THE FUGITIVE series was unique in several aspects. Because of the 'fugitive-on-the-run' theme, the show always has an underlying tension missing from other, contemporary shows. Just as importantly, the main character - Richard Kimble - never changed during the course of the show. He was a change agent but he himself never changed, never evolved. He came into some situation wherein others needed to change. He helped them and moved on. Lastly, the show existed in a social vacuum, Kimble's adventures taking no heed of the momentous events going on in real-life America. His quest to redeem his name and reputation by finding the one-armed man who killed his wife while avoiding his relentless pursuer, Lt. Gerard, was the center of an alternative world bereft of battles over civil rights, the escalating Vietnam War, etc.

Fish's text therefore concerns itself with the series' moral structure, issues of law, freedom, evidence, liberalism, belief/faith, judgement, etc. rather behind-the-scenes details of the show, the actors, etc. He does examine various episodes but only to show how they mirrored the world view fashioned by Roy Huggins, its creator, and his writing staff.

I'm not sure THE FUGITIVE IN FLIGHT will appeal to all FUGITIVE fans. Fish labels Kimble "basically a dull person" at one point! Yet I enjoyed reading it. Fish's comments were thought-provoking although sometimes pretty dry. It's certainly worth a look-see. Recommended.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stillness and Seriality 23 April 2011
By K. N. - Published on Amazon.com
Contrary to the previous reviewer's title for his post, The Fugitive in Flight is most certainly NOT a "sociological" analysis of the famous television series. Fish is explicit on this point: the show didn't bother representing the social flux of the 1960s because its central concern was to elucidate Kimble's moral psychology in a number of situations. That psychology, according to Fish, was grounded in inner virtue and guided by a near-unfailing repellence of "external" concerns (Fish calls them "attachments"). One could say that the series' great achievement was to dramatize how Kimble "stood still" (not literally [he's in flight] but morally [he remains true to himself) in a world characterized by whimsy and distraction.

Fish's analysis of the series is astute for several reasons. First, it explains the essentially "'50s" feel of The Fugitive, which is well-nigh undeniable after reading this book. Second, it links Kimble's moral psychology to the ethos cultivated by (secular) faith and (negative) liberty -- key components, Fish explains, of a rational, middle-class, and ideologically "liberal" (see Isaiah Berlin) worldview. (This is the part of his argument I expect will receive criticism by those who see it as abetting Fish's well-known adherence to liberal pragmatism.) But, perhaps most important, the analysis presented in The Fugitive in Flight sheds light on the show's enduring paradox. That is, it was a popular '60s serial whose protagonist, despite being on the run, was absolutely committed to imparting the same message week after week: follow your moral compass and reject all external claims to your inner sense of freedom.

Conversations about the philosophical validity of liberal pragmatism should be put aside when reading this book. For, whatever one's critique of that worldview may be, Fish's analysis of The Fugitive is entirely persuasive as an unfolding of the show's own logic. In this regard, the book admirably reflects the show's central concern: it seeks not to impose "external" readings onto the series (e.g., criticizing it for its silence on matters of war, race, and civil strife) but dwells within its "internal" virtues.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Values that stimulate thinking 8 May 2013
By Lynda Busbee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the scholar's view of the book and found it thought provoking. I love the old series and find it so superior to television today that passes for art. Thanks for writing and thinking that stimulates values instead of the puff pieces that pass for entertainment today.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Boring!!! 11 Jun 2013
By Shigglemop - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Stanley Fish could have said what he said in much less print. And...he left out any discussion about the incredibly ironic episode entitled: "Corner of Hell"! That episode alone deserved a whole Chapter.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Fish, When are You Going to Finish This Book? 9 May 2011
By Mark C. Miller - Published on Amazon.com
I thoroughly enjoyed your analysis of the original 1963-67 Fugitive tv series. I recommend your book for this. However, I immensely liked the 1993 Harrison Ford movie and the 2000 Tim Daly tv remake. In fact I have become a student of all three dramatizations and each one is worthy of a full exposition. I felt gravely disappointed that you related only enough of the movie to let me know that you saw it and only enough of the remake tv series to let me know that you saw two or three episodes. If you especially look at the entire tv remake you will find it has many of the same themes as the original series. The movie is readily available for you to see a few more times in the comfort of your own home and perhaps one of your former students recorded a video or DVD set of the entire tv series in 2000 and would be willing to lend it to you to watch two or three times. I can't recommend your book for your paltry treatments of the Ford and Daly versions. With a little more digging your book could really have been satisfying. Second edition?
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