The finale episode of the series “The Fugitive” that originally aired in 1967 still remains one of the most watched television shows in history based on its share of the viewing audience. Nearly half of all television sets in America were tuned to the channel showing Dr. Richard Kimble finally catching up to the one-armed man who murdered his wife and left Kimble to take the rap. For a great many Americans, any one-armed man showing up in a TV show is bound to spur memories of the murderer who certainly wasn’t the first one-armed character on TV, but remains the most iconic. And, indeed, many a one-armed man who has show up on TV in the wake of “The Fugitive” can be expected to pay tribute or homage in some way to the unnamed one-armed killer of Mrs. Richard Kimble.
For those born too late to watch the final episode of “The Fugitive” and witness the long-delayed showdown between Dr. Kimble and the One-Armed Man, the most memorable one-armed man may well be Mike from “Twin Peaks.” Although he appears as a one-armed, within the mythology of “Twin Peaks” Mike is a spirit not terribly far removed from the uber-creepy Killer BOB. Indeed, in his visualization as a one-armed man, Mike becomes the star of the some of the most disturbing moments in “Twin Peaks” not allocated to Killer BOB.
Special Agent 7
One of the lesser known one-armed men in TV history is still worthy of mention as memorable precisely he was one of the first. “Special Agent 7” may be one of the lost and unknown crime dramas of the 1950s, but it definitely stood out from the pack. In the first place, Special Agent 7 Philip Conroy was not a cop or even an FBI agent, but a Treasury Agent. And in the second place, not many other of the abundant crime dramas of the 1950s dared to feature a one-armed man as the obstacle standing between the able-bodied hero of the series of whatever he was after. In the case of the interestingly titled “The One-Armed Paperhanger” episode, the one-armed man was standing between Agent Conroy and priceless government printing plates.
The League of Gentlemen
Very rarely in TV history has the one-armed man been used to provoke laughter. And even fewer of those times can compare to the utter irreverent handling of the situation in the magnificently dark British series “The League of Gentlemen.” The ultimate bad joke (and some would argue joke in bad taste) that is played on the one-armed character of Lance may be a bit less offensive considering that the buildup to the what certainly would be the greatest nightmare possible for some one-armed men out there comes after the show has already established Lance as a character who does mind getting a laugh for himself at the emotional expense of others. The climax of Lance’s story in “The League of Gentlemen” his him finally undergoing an arm transplant only to wake up and discover that his additional appendage originally belonged to a lady, In the true spirit of the cosmic noir that permeates “The League of the Gentlemen” this matter is made all the worse by virtue of the fact that his new lady arm seems to have a mind of its own. And that mind forces Lance, for the first time since we’ve met him, to do good deeds.