This past Friday I covered Lou Cameron’s original novel based on The Outsider. Today I thought to post on the pilot for the series. Written by Roy Huggins, best known for Maverick, 77 Subset Strip, The Fugitive, and The Rockford Files. For my money anyway, THE OUTSIDER ranks among the top three P.I. series. Most agree, though not always in the same order. The character’s name is David Ross.
The pilot, which appeared in 1967, opens with L. A. at night, a mass of car headlights moving, then to a pair sailing along on a lonely road, the forward with blinking headlights. A bit of voice over narration by McGavin informs us he’s in the one with the blinkers on. The car stops and a man gets out. We only see him from the waist down. “That’s not me,” McGavin says as the back car door open and him half fall out, unconscious. “That’s me.”
The man and a woman from the trailing car wrestle him into the front seat and push the car off a hillside. Ross comes to and begins steering as best he can, but the car flips and roll numerous times, coming to a rest at the bottom on it’s side, then catching fire. McGavin’s narration continues with “You’re probably wondering how I got into this situation.”
From there the story flashes back to tell us.
Ross had been hired by Marvin Bishop to check out one of his employees, Carol, on the quiet. He’d heard rumors that she was spending more than she earned and he wanted proof before he blew the whistle. We got the idea there was more to the story. So did Ross. Bishop visits him the morning after he trails Carol around. She met with a man, Colin, who hasn’t much history other than shaking down homosexuals.
Ross figures what’s really, Bishop is having an affair with Carol and wants to know if she’s stepping out on him. Ross can’t figure Colin though and keeps following the couple, though not good at the job as he thought. That’s brought violently to him when he suddenly has piano wire tight around his throat and Colin wanting to know why he’s following them. The only thing that saves him is Carol screaming and running off, Colin dropping him to follow. Ross rolls under a car before they return.
He heads first to Colin’s place, empty, then heads to Carol’s where he finds her dead on her bed. It’s only been fifteen minutes or so since the piano wire incident. Ross calls the cops, gives his name ans explains, letting them know he won’t be there. His voice is a little rough, his throat bleeding, and he has a date with a few stitches. Before he can leave, the phone rings, he picks it up, and recognizes Colin, the background full of dance music.
Hitting the clubs with his sometime girl friend, rich Honora, he finds him in one with another girl. A fight in the parking lot soon follows and he leaves Colin for the police. Unfortunately he has an alibi that Ross unwittingly corroborates. He was in a club at the time of the murder. Not satisfied, Ross is out to prove the alibi is faked and goes to the club asking around. There he sees Colin come in with Bishop’s personal secretary, a pretty blonde.
Now he really wants to find out what’s going on.
In the course of the film, Ross is nearly garroted, is drugged, slugged in back of the head, shot at, and returns fire, killing the shooter. By the time the pilot was okayed for series, NBC was screaming for changes. Robert Kennedy had been assassinated in June of 1968. They wanted his gun gone and the violence toned down.
The show lasted one season, twenty-six one hour episodes, and was highlighted by fine writing. A pity it could have lasted more seasons.
As always on Tuesdays, drop in on Todd Mason at SWEET FREEDOM for all the latestr overlooked movies, TV, and other related items.