Unlike this release, Judge Mike Rubino did not replace his score with a cheesier synth version to save money.
Our reviews of The Fugitive (published November 7th, 1999), The Fugitive: Season One, Volume One (published August 15th, 2007), The Fugitive: Season One, Volume Two (published March 5th, 2008), The Fugitive: Season Two, Volume Two (published March 23rd, 2009), The Fugitive: Season Three, Volume One (published October 27th, 2009), The Fugitive (Blu-Ray) (published March 26th, 2007), The Fugitive (HD DVD) (published June 5th, 2006), The Fugitive: The Fourth And Final Season, Volume One (published November 18th, 2010), and The Fugitive: The Fourth And Final Season, Volume Two (published February 15th, 2011) are also available.
Narrator: Another dreary town, another shabby street. Another weary pause on Richard Kimble's search for the one-armed man, his only real hope for escaping a life of fear.
The first half of The Fugitive: Season Two is every bit as taught and exciting as the first season, which I also had the pleasure of reviewing. But now something is different. The show, while written and performed as well as before, is tainted with the fowl stench of inauthenticity…allow me to explain.
Facts of the Case
Dr. Richard Kimble has been on the run from the law for over two years now. He's a man who has been reduced to an animal, scavenging for his life while hunting the only thing that will free him: the one-armed man.
Kimble (David Janssen) was falsely convicted of murdering his wife. Lucky for him, he was able to escape his execution. He can't, however, escape his determined shadow: Lt. Gerard (Barry Morse), who will stop at nothing to see Kimble brought to justice.
Season Two, Part One contains the following 15 episodes:
The formula for The Fugitive doesn't change much from season to season. Dr. Kimble is working some odd job, he is on the verge of catching the one-armed man, he falls into a bit of trouble with the locals, the cops get really close to catching him, and he escapes. Yet despite the episodic nature of the show, The Fugitive continues to be an extremely entertaining series to this day. Part of the show's success can be attributed to the excellent production values, acting, and writing, which make each episode feel almost like a 50-minute feature film. Season Two, Part One continues this tradition, for the most part.
The Season Two of The Fugitive begins in the second year of Kimble's run from the law. The first episode brings everyone up to speed in a very inventive instance of exposition. In "Man in a Chariot," Ed Begley (12 Angry Men) guest stars as a law professor who has his students present a mock trial of the Kimble case in hopes of helping the good doctor find a loop-hole for appeal. This first episode is also helpful because the show's opening is greatly shortened from the first season and now includes a weird summary of the episode you're about to watch.
This season, Kimble's adventures bring him closer than ever before to catching the one-armed man. He's reconnecting with old friends, showing a bit more of his character, and getting in plenty of close scraps with Lt. Gerard. In one episode, "Nemesis," he accidentally kidnaps Lt. Gerard's son (played by a plucky young Kurt Russell), and in another, "Escape into Black," he loses his memory after an accident just as he's about to close in on the real murderer. It's these instances that feature the show at its finest, and force the writers to create an even deeper Kimble character.
Janssen plays the role of Richard Kimble with greater resonance this season. It's clear that he's become more comfortable in the role, which he plays with a carefully balanced combination of awkwardness and anger. Kimble is a socially inept individual who doesn't know how to talk to people, or how to be outwardly friendly. This, of course, adds to people's suspicions of him and makes his job that much harder. He also, at times, blurs the lines of his innocence by becoming easily frustrated or violent.
While this release continues the excellent track record of the show from the previous two DVD outings (Season One, Part One and Part Two), it unfortunately takes a major step backward that might just be a deal breaker for most fans out there: the show's music, with the exception of the theme song, has been completely stripped out and replaced. For a show that featured an excellent and very dramatic underscore, this is an irreparable shame. According to a press release issued by Paramount, the music was replaced by brand new "restored" music due to copyright issues. The Fugitive, like many shows of the time, featured plenty of sampled tunes from other sources. Paramount thought it would be easier to just re-score the whole show rather than track down the owners to the music.
The new underscore is an anachronistic mess of synthetic instruments and super cheesy riffs. Because the show's iconic theme song remains unedited, the new music is painfully out of place—especially because it usually intros the episode immediately after the theme ends. The score sounds like a MIDI rip-off of the real thing and at times is so over-the-top that it's unbearable. Thankfully, after watching a few episodes I was able to forget about the score, but that isn't the sort of attitude one should have watching this show. The first season had some excellent musical cues and some great extensions of the theme. This new season is a horrid misstep on the part of Paramount. I can only hope that they correct the mistake in future releases.
Soundtrack issues aside, the rest of the DVD's package is just as good as before. The picture quality is about as good as it can be, having been mastered from the show's original negatives. The black levels are solid and the amount of grain isn't excessive, especially for a show this old. Not surprisingly, there aren't any special features accompanying the release.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
So the soundtrack is different, is that so bad? If Paramount did take the time to hunt down the copyright holder for every bit of music in the show, the release schedule could be completely thrown off, or worse yet, the price of each set could be unreasonably high.
Whatever their reason for replacing the music, part of me is just happy to have shows like this out there on DVD. If this is the only possible way a studio is going to release an older series like this, then I guess I'll have to make do.
The Fugitive: Season Two, Part One is another exciting and well-made release of the classic television show. There are plenty of excellent episodes in this first half of the season, and David Janssen is on the top of his game. Sadly, the entire release is marred by Paramount's decision to replace the show's original score with a new, fake-sounding imitation. It's a poor substitute that, once you notice it, dampens the show's dramatic weight and piles on the melodrama.
If you are a fan of the show, this is likely the only release you'll see any time soon…so you don't have much of a choice. The good news is that after a few episodes, you begin to train your ear to ignore most of the music. At any rate, the rest of the show is still great, so be thankful it's out there at all.
GUILTY of a disappointing musical bait and switch!
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