Thinking about what TV shows I would like to bring back if I could, my immediate answer was: “The Outcasts.”
This was THE SHOW! No ifs or buts about it. A good friend of mine and I still talk and reminisce about the show, and the impact it had on us as young kids.
Once, as I was speaking to another friend on the phone, when, somehow, “The Outcasts.” came up. And when I hung up, a white guy sitting next to me who overheard what I was talking about, said to me: “You were talking about ‘The Outcasts’?? God, I LOVED that show!”
When a program made over 40 years ago still has that kind of impact, then you know it was something really special.
The western series aired on ABC starting in the fall of 1968, with a premise that was deadly simple and effective. It dealt with two bounty hunters; white Southerner and former slave owner, Earl Corey, played by Don Murray, who had lost everything during the Civil War and was reduced to being a bounty hunter for a living. And his partner, a former slave named Jamal David, played by Otis Young (who passed away in 2001), who worked as a bounty hunter with his newly won freedom. However this was no love-thy-brother, “why-can’t-we-all-get-along” sappy relationship. Suffice it to say, David and Corey despised each other, but they were forced to stay and work together for survival, in a cold, brutal and unforgiving environment.
The show was blunt about racial tension. There were episodes, for example, in which David got into trouble, and Corey had to decide whether he should side with the white guys, or to defend his partner, despite the fact that he hated his guts.
David, on the other hand, was angry. I mean, he was one pissed off brother. I still remember one particular episode during which the pair wound up on an old former plantation, where there was an ex-slave played by Roscoe Lee Browne, still rooting for the Confederacy. The hate and contempt David had for Browne burned a hole through the screen.
Needless to say, the show only lasted ONE season and was canceled after 30 episodes. It was all-too real, and too raw for audiences at the time to take. And, considering it premiered just months after the assassinations of Marin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, as this country was boiling over with riots, watching American soldiers being killed in Vietnam every night on the network news, “The Outcasts” was not the show that people wanted to see at the time.
However, audiences are even more timid today, and there’s NO WAY a network would ever consider making a show like that again. Not even perhaps HBO. It was a hard reflection of the turbulent times that this country was going through. People today would rather watch NeNe Leakes than something that would really challenge them. And that’s our loss.
But “The Outcasts” is a show that begs to be released on DVD, or, at least syndicated on some cable network for people to discover it again. You don’t know what you’re missing.
Here’s an opening sequence from the show with Otis Young and I dare you to tell me that you don’t want to see the rest of this episode.