Producer Roy Huggins, who created both "77 Sunset Strip" and "The Fugitive", sort of mixes the two concepts here.
In "The Outsider" Huggins imagines what would have happened if Richard Kimble had gone to prison for a long period and then been pardoned.
I think Huggins was looking for an actor similar to David Janssen to play ex-con private eye David Ross. Jack Lord, who was in the David Janssen mold, was first offered the role. He would have been perfect casting, but Lord astutely chose "Hawaii 5-0" instead. (When Huggins remade "The Outsider" as "The Rockford Files", he cast James Garner, who was also reminiscent of David Janssen.) Janssen and Huggins had worked together three times, the first time being way back in 1957 on "Conflict".
Huggins had written a superb and original character in David Ross, but casting the role was critical. I would have considered Robert Lansing, Pernell Roberts (without toupee), George Maharis, Stuart Whitman, John Saxon, Bradford Dillman or Rip Torn. Or maybe Huggins could even have got David Janssen with a sweet enough offer.
Darren McGavin was one of the greatest television actors of his generation, but he wasn't in peak form here. He had already brilliantly played private detective Mike Hammer, so he wasn't the freshest casting. McGavin was forced to wear a toupee as Ross, and the toupee made him less interesting looking. McGavin didn't project the great soulfulness and weariness that David Janssen might have and that could have been appropriate for a man who spent a long period in jail and was a lifetime outsider.
Huggins wasn't able to find a way to properly exploit the ex-con aspect of his hero. Maybe Ross should have been trying to find the person who committed the crime he went to jail for.
"The Outsider" made too much use of tired old Universal sets and there was little location shooting. Also Pete Ruggolo's music was way too reminiscent of Huggins' "Run For Your Life". The sets and the music were really disappointing. The cinematography didn't give a distinctive noir look to the show. There should have been more night for night shooting. And Huggins didn't seem to spend as much on each episode as Leonard Freedman did on "Hawaii 5-0" and Quinn Martin did on his shows. "The Outsider" seemed to be done on the cheap.
But Huggins' basic conception for this show was near brilliant. Huggins tried to turn all the TV private eye conventions on their head (conventions "77 Sunset Strip" helped introduce). David Ross didn't live in a magnificent apartment with a view of the city, he didn't have a leggy secretary, he didn't drive a sports car, he wasn't highly educated (actually he wasn't even a high school graduate), he didn't have a close pal on the force (the police treated him like scum), he didn't have handsome partners who were like brothers, he wasn't a great humanist who took cases for free, he wasn't rich (actually he was poor), he didn't refuse divorce cases on principle....
Even with a less than perfect execution, "The Outsider" is one of television's finest examples of the private eye genre.
The hit private eye movie "Harper" (1966), where Paul Newman played a version of Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer, also appears to have been a strong influence on "The Outsider". I think Huggins got the name of his hero David Ross by combining the first names of David Janssen and Ross Macdonald.
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