Did somebody say "prison break"? The thought took me back to the late 1970s, when I was waiting in the outbound immigration queue at Narita Airport, and found myself standing beside U.S. actor David Janssen (1931-80). From 1963, he'd starred in four seasons of the wildly popular ABC TV show "The Fugitive" in the role of Richard Kimble — a physician wrongly convicted of murdering his wife — who managed to escape from custody and struggled to clear his name.

While our line shuffled forward, Japanese sporadically slipped out of adjacent lines to approach Janssen and shake his hand. He modestly but graciously obliged, flashing his characteristic bittersweet smile.

"Tobosha" — the show's name in Japanese — was said to be so popular here that TV Guide magazine reported that public bathhouses would empty out on the evenings of its weekly broadcasts so bathers could rush home to watch.