Do you remember where you were when…?
That, of course, is an all too familiar question that seems to have established its prominent roots surrounding the events of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November of 1963 and then notably again with events surrounding the World Trade Center’s attack of September 11, 2001.
But in the late 1960’s there was a televised event that for many millions across the United States evoked that same question as time distanced itself from the event. There were several notable televisions shows airing during those years. Just to name a few, there was The Andy Griffith Show; Bonanza; The Flintstones; The Twilight Zone; The Beverly Hillbillies; Gunsmoke and The Ed Sullivan Show. But none of those shows would come close to competing for the intense drama that captivated the television viewing audiences as “The Fugitive”. And “The Fugitive” was so intensely popular and iconic in the day that it too was able to invoke the proverbial question of where were you when you watched the final episode? And to that end I submit my own personal account of the events leading up to the watching of that final episode in my life….
It was late August of 1967 and I sat down in front of my television the night of the 22nd as many other millions of viewers would do that night to watch the final 2-part episode of “The Fugitive”. The first part was to air on Tuesday evening of the 22nd and the second or final half on Tuesday evening of the 29th. As that first half of the final episode concluded on that evening of the 22nd my mind fast-forwarded to my upcoming wedding which was to take place in just 4 days. No time to ponder the fate of Dr. Kimble or the one-armed man for the moment.
I was still in the Air Force at the time and was stationed at Warner-Robbins AFB, Georgia which was near Macon, Georgia. I was about to be married for my second time and my new wife and I were planning on driving to New Orleans for our honeymoon, brief as it was to be. We were married in the afternoon on the 26th and spent our first night at a hotel in Columbus, Georgia. We drove on to Biloxi, Mississippi the morning of the 27th where we spent some time and ended up staying overnight at a motel there. Then the next morning, the 28th, we headed to New Orleans arriving late morning and stayed that evening at a hotel in the French Quarter.
Now having already mentioned it would be a brief honeymoon, when we got up early Tuesday morning the 29th we both were acutely aware that the major event unfolding that evening was to be the final conclusion to “The Fugitive”. It was an 8-hour drive straight through to Macon, Georgia where we had rented an apartment and where we had planned on watching that final episode. It would be close but we decided we were up to the challenge so we headed for home.
Some eight hours later we found ourselves pushing the deadline. We were close but depending on traffic we could end up being a little late. So as we approached Macon we decided to divert to my wife’s parent’s home which we could get to quicker than we could get to our apartment. So that’s what we did and we arrived within fifteen minutes or so of when the last episode was to air.
And so it was that within the next hour or so the fate of Dr. Kimble and the one-armed man would be revealed to us all and after some four years the fans of the fugitive could finally breathe a collective sigh of relief… it was over.
Oh, and finally just for the record, it is interesting to note for the record the subsequent data that goes some distance in documenting the popularity of that final episode…
“Part two of the finale was the most-watched television series episode up to that time. It was viewed by 25.70 million households
(45.9 percent of American households with a television set and a 72 percent share), meaning that more than 78 million people tuned in. That record was held until the November 21, 1980 episode of Dallas, (“Who Done It”), viewed by 41.47 million households
(53.3 percent of households and a 76 percent share), which was later surpassed by the series finale of M*A*S*H, (“Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”), on February 28, 1983, viewed by 50.15 million households
(60.2 percent of households and a 77 percent share).”