Outsiders is a gem of Australian television that has so far escaped
the attention it deserves. Made in 1976, it was buried in an obscure 9:00
PM timeslot and received very little publicity. Although having been
repeated several times since, and in better timeslots, it remains
The series was created
by Michael Craig and Don Barkham. Michael Craig had an extensive career as
both an actor and writer in England, appearing in over 30 films and
writing several screenplays, before settling in Australia in 1973. Don
Barkham had a host of acting credits in both England and Australia,
including lead roles in the 1974 adventure serial The Castaways
and the 1976 Grundy police series King's Men.
The Outsiders was packaged by Portman Productions
for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, with financial support from
Britain and Germany. Consequently, the two lead roles were played by
overseas actors: Andrew Keir, a Scotsman, had the part of Charlie Cole,
and Sascha Hehn, a German actor well-known for a role in his homeland soap
opera Black Forest Clinic, played Pete Jarrett. Hehn's voice was
dubbed by Australian actor Andrew Harwood because his English was too heavily
accented. The producer was an
Englishman, James Gatward, who had previously worked on the ABC serial
Some guest roles were
played by German actors, and most of their voices were also dubbed because
of heavy accents. The rest of the cast and crew were
Australian, and many guest roles were filled with well-known actors,
including Leonard Teale, Wendy Hughes, Ray Barrett, John Meillon and Judy
Morris. Writers and Directors included such renowned names as Peter
Yeldham, Colin Free, Igor Auzins and Peter Maxwell.
Thirteen episodes were
made, in colour on film, and were set in various locations around the
country, ranging from Canberra to Queensland and Sydney to South
Australia. Although mostly shot outside Sydney, filming did take place up
north in sugar cane country, as well as in Canberra, Lightning Ridge and the
Hunter Valley. The realistic feel of the series is heightened by the total
lack of studio footage, all the filming taking place on location. It is
one of the few series to have been filmed outside of Sydney and Melbourne.
The theme and
incidental music was especially composed for the series, the man
responsible being Patrick Aulton, well-known in the trade for a prolific
output of advertising jingles. The opening and closing themes were sung by
The Outsiders is
the story of Charlie Cole and his grandson Pete Jarrett as they travel
around Australia from place to place, job to job, and adventure to
adventure. Charlie has been on the road for most of his life - ever since
he migrated from Scotland in his youth. Charlie thinks Australia is too
big a country to waste your life in one place and one job, and, as he
tells Pete in one episode, he is "more Aussie than most people who just
happen to be born here".
Thus the setting
changes in each episode, the only constants being Charlie and Pete
themselves and their transport, an 'old bomb' Holden ute. However, there is more to
The Outsiders than just a travelling adventure series.
questions the values of our society. In the opening episode, Charlie Cole
arrives in Sydney to see his grandson Pete Jarrett on his 21st birthday.
Pete's father Harry is a wealthy car dealer, and is expecting Pete to
follow in his footsteps. Pete is quite happy to do so - joining the 'rat
race' and slotting into domestic suburban bliss.
Charlie's nomadic lifestyle
presents a challenge to Pete. "The sky's wider, the stars are bigger - and
you can breathe," Charlie tells him. The viewer is also challenged - 'the
sky is wider, the stars are bigger' is not just a comment on the pace, noise and
pollution of city life, but suggests there are alternatives to the
mindless existence so many people are trapped in.
Pete does some
soul-searching, and decides to leave his safe, secure, well-planned future
and join his grandfather, much to Harry's chagrin. Harry thinks Pete is
throwing his life away, but the reverse is actually true - Pete is trying
to find his life, rejecting the world's superficial and materialistic
ideas of success and fulfilment, and searching for something more
substantial to replace them. Harry, of course, can't see this, as he is a
product of the society that Pete is trying to escape from.
and Pete’s drop-out lifestyle is not some trendy sub-culture existence in
which one type of conformity is exchanged for another. They are not
following any fads. Rather, they are living within the framework of
society, yet choosing to be outside it - in a sense they are going
‘against the flow’.
Andrew Keir commented
on the characters: "Charlie is the result of a very tough life and the
story comes out how he has managed to cope with it. Although he's a
grandfather he is willing to learn, even through his grandson who irks him
at times. They are both drop-outs searching for their freedom."1
The final episode finds
Pete and Charlie involved in the affairs of Black Mountain, a small
country town. A subtle undercurrent of romance has been developing between
Pete and Wendy Ryder, daughter of the local newspaper editor (played by
Lisa Peers). Just as he and Charlie are about to leave, Pete tells Wendy
that he is thinking of placing an ad in her paper. She asks, "Permanent job
wanted?", hoping that he is thinking of settling down, and he replies, "Something in hatches, matches..." (referring to
birth and wedding notices), implying their engagement. Wendy: "Time you
were on your way, Pete. It was a nice thought, but I'm afraid you're a bit
too much like your grandfather to settle down for long". She realises that
he cannot just slot back into her world - Pete has truly become an
In most episodes,
The Outsiders has a storyline that is effective in its simplicity.
There is plenty of action and stunt work, but it's the interplay between the characters
and the understated atmosphere of the series which gives it depth.
Technically the series is excellent, with superb camera work, skilful
writing, good direction and competent acting. The only minor criticism is
the dubbed voices of the German actors.
A TV Week
editorial stated: "The Outsiders is a good series. I just hope
enough of you, the viewers, have seen enough of it to make its production
The Outsiders theme song
I thought I had the easy life when I
I was misled
I found a wise old man whose eyes had seen it all
And then he said
"Where have you been my little man?
Can't you see the master plan?
You must fit in if you can
Or youre going to be an outsider"
There are those who see the riches in the sky
But some see clouds there
But it is wisdom to remember that the sun
Is shining somewhere
God knows the world is yours and mine
We can make our own design
You and I will do just fine
We're going to be the outsiders.
THE OUTSIDERS EPISODE DETAILS
1. TV Times, July 3, 1976.
2. TV Week, Dec 25, 1976.