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Before 'Django Unchained' There Was 'The Outcasts'

Television
by Sergio
December 5, 2012 10:41 PM
12 Comments
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So with all the attention on Tarantino's Django Unchained (which I confess I've seen already and absoluely love - but I'll get to that soon in due time) one should keep in mind that the basic premise of a black and white team of bounty hunters isn't new at all. In fact there was a TV show based on the same premise back in 1968.

I wrote about it for the old S & A wesbite, and what better time to reprint it again. The show I'm referring to was the TV western series The Outcasts. And if you were a young, impressionable black kid back then (like me), this was simply THE SHOWThe "I-have-to-see-it-every-week-or-else-I'll-die" TV show.

A long time friend of mine and I still talk and reminisce about the show and the impact it had on us as young kids.

Even once, a few years ago, I was speaking on the phone with someone else and somehow The Outcasts came up. When I was finished, a white guy who was next to me and overheard what I was talking about said to me: “You were talking about The Outcasts?? God, I LOVED that show!” When a show made over 40 years still has that kind of impact, then you know it was something really special.

The show was on the ABC Network starting in the fall of 1968 and its premise was quite simple and effective. It dealt with two bounty hunters; a 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.

His partner was a former slave named Jemal David played by Otis Young (who passed away in 2001), who was also working as a bounty hunter with his newly won freedom. However this was no simplistic, love-thy-brother “why-can’t-we-all-get-along” sappy, uplifting show. 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, bluntly, about racial tension and conflict. There were episodes, for example,  in which David got in trouble and Corey had to decide whether he should side with the white guys or defend his partner, despite the fact that he absolutely hated his guts.

David, on the other hand, was angry. I mean he was one really pissed off brother. I still remember one particular episode where 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 too real, too raw for audiences at the time to take. And considering it premiered just a few months after the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and with this country boiling over with urban riots, college student anti-war demonstrations, The Black Panthers,  Richard Nixon as President, and watching American soldiers being killed and wounded in Vietnam, especially after the Tet Offensive (look it up), every night on the network news, The Outcasts was not the show people wanted to see.

However, audiences are even more timid today, and there’s no way a network would ever make a show like that again, except maybe HBO. It was a hard and uncomfortable 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. Personally I think it's a conspiracy to lull people to sleep, 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 are some scenes from the show:

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12 Comments

  • Miles Ellison | November 28, 2013 10:00 PMReply

    People today would rather watch NeNe Leakes than something that would really challenge them. Personally I think it's a conspiracy to lull people to sleep, and that’s our loss.

    Truer words have never been spoken.

  • Chris | November 7, 2013 4:56 AMReply

    Watched this show on TV as a kid and never forgot it. (New Zealand) It had a rawness to it. Been looking for copies of it on DVD for years. If they can put Rawhide, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, High Chaperall etc out, this show is a must, as I think it is auctually a better show. (more gritty)

  • Sara | July 2, 2013 1:14 PMReply

    THE OUTCASTS rocked...love the tension in the show which allowed for great character development. Socially responsible series, and I deeply regretted its cancellation. I wrote a lot of hand-written letters to ABC to complain! My dad actually allowed me to watch it even though it had curse words in it which were forbidden in my family! ha! One of my top three western series of all time. By the way...I miss westerns! I met Otis Young via correspondence with Don Murray in the 1990's. After extensive correspondence between us, Mr. Young graciously came to my university--Oklahoma Panhandle State University--and taught speech for a year! What a joy that was! He wrote a play that students performed. Great faculty member and gentleman he was. I'll never forget that.

  • cecil | November 29, 2013 12:30 AM

    ...trying to find the entire series of The Outcasts- TV series with Don Murray and Otis young 1968 and 1969. I hear there are 25 episodes.

  • Sly Stone | March 16, 2013 3:39 PMReply

    Man, I remember this show vividly. Westerns were beginning to fade, but this show had a different feel to it. Been looking for it on DVD for several years.

  • elmhurst1929 | January 26, 2013 4:38 PMReply

    I do remember it. It's funny that, in the same way that cop shows today are used to explore all kinds of social issues -- including race relations, westerns performed this role in those years. Although I wasn't as devoted to the show as you, I remember it was really different and interesting. By this time we had seen Woody Strode fade away as the Black Cowboy of choice in films, as Jim Brown ascended with 100 Rifles and the sex (or sex-less, if you believe reports) scene with Raquel Welch. Thanks for bringing these memories back.

  • Karl Kaefer | December 12, 2012 3:49 PMReply

    I have never heard of this show. I was 10 at the time this waired, and I remember distinctly "I Spy" and "Coronet Blue", but this show escaped me. Now I HAVE to track it down. Clip is great, and it definitely deserves a DVD release. I loved Otis Young in "The Last Detail", and I knew he was in the Hollywood Knights & Blood Beach, but I had no idea he was in a TV series.

  • MediaEagle | December 11, 2012 1:58 PMReply

    I can't believe that I never heard of this show when I was a kid. Never was a fan of the Western genre because of it's portrayal of people of color. BET or TV One should air this series!

  • eshowoman | December 9, 2012 2:45 PMReply

    ABC really embraces casting black actors for a brief period in the late 1960's - early 70s. They aired Get Christie Love and Room 222. As I child I didn't know that broadcast TV would become lily white again. It took ABC 38 years to make a successful drama with a black actor. I hope Scandal leads the way for more shows to come.

  • Stacie | December 6, 2012 11:35 AMReply

    I was getting in to the clip. Now I want to see the whole episode. Looks like a great show. I want to see it!

  • No | December 5, 2012 11:08 PMReply

    Yeah, I remember this show. I'm old enough to have seen it and do remember the disdain they had for one another. It was a very hard hitting show for the time, and the '60s -- peace and love notwithstanding-- were a hard time.

  • Cecil | November 28, 2013 7:29 PM

    ...trying to find the entire series of The Outcasts- TV series with Don Murray and Otis young 1968 and 1969. I hear there are 25 episodes.

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