CLASSIC AUSTRALIAN TELEVISION

THE OUTSIDERS


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THE OUTSIDERS
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The 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 virtually unknown.

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 The Castaways.

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 Doug Parkinson.

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.

The Outsiders 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.

Significantly, Charlie 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 outsider.

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 worthwhile".2


 

The Outsiders theme song
I thought I had the easy life when I discovered
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 you’re 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.


 
The two central characters of The Outsiders: Sascha Hehn as Pete Jarrett and Andrew Keir as Charlie Cole.


Leonard Teale and Andrew Keir in a scene from episode 9, ‘Sophie’s Mob’


Andrew Keir as Charlie Cole.


Guest actor David Gulpilil and Director Peter Maxwell on location for episode 9, ‘Sophie’s Mob’


The Outsiders opening titles.


A ‘one take only’ stunt as a runaway truck careers through a worksite and crashes into a river. The scene is from episode 13, with stuntman Peter Armstrong at the wheel.

 
Pete and Wendy (Lisa Peers) in a scene from the final episode.

 
Andrew Keir as Charlie Cole (left), and Sascha Hehn as Pete Jarrett.

 
The Outsiders end title.