Q & A: The Outcasts; What Really Happened to the Class of ’65?

I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me about television shows, made-for-TV movies or miniseries they remember from years or decades past. I try to answer each question as best I can. Every now and then I like to dig through my inbox and pull out a few choice e-mails to answer here at Television Obscurities for everyone to read. Keep reading for today’s questions and answers.

I am trying to find a show that was a WESTERN called “The Outcast.” I don’t remember who else starred in it but I know one of the stars was Otis Young.
Lisa

Otis Young was indeed one of the stars of ABC’s The Outcasts, along with Don Murray. The series was set after the Civil War and followed the adventures of a Virginia plantation owner and former slaveholder Earl Corey (played by Murray) and freed slave turned bounty hunter, Jemal David (played by Young). Following the end of the Civil War, Earl became something of a drifter. When Jemal asked him for help in tracking down a fugitive, an unlikely partnership was born.

The show premiered on September 23rd, 1968. It competed with Mayberry R.F.D. and Family Affair on CBS as well as the first half of The NBC Monday Night Movie. It did not do well in the ratings but managed to hang on for a full season. The series finale aired on May 5th, 1969.

I remember a show called something like “Class of 1965″ or something like that. Specifically, I remember an episode with Don Johnson as a wounded war veteran from the south. I can’t find any evidence that it ever existed. Do you have any info?
Marie

NBC’s anthology series, What Really Happened to the Class of ’65?, premiered on Thursday, December 8th, 1977. Tony Bill played teacher Sam Ashley, who graduated from Bret Harte High School in 1965 only to return 12 years later as a teacher. Each episode focused on the current status of one or two students who graduated alongside Ashley. There was the class clown, the class misfit, the class poet, the class dreamers and so on and so forth.

The series was based, loosely, on a 1976 non-fiction book written by written by Michael Medved and David Wallechinsky in which the two interviewed 30 members of Medved’s 1965 high school class (many had earlier been featured in a TIME cover story in 1965). According to Cecil Smith, Universal Television wanted to produce a miniseries based on the book, one that would actually adapt the real stories to the small screen [1]. John J. O’Connor explained that NBC paid the authors $200,000 before realizing that reality of the book was “too downbeat” and deciding instead to dramatize fictional stories [2].

Here’s what O’Connor had to say about the first episode (which starred Annette O’Toole as the most promiscuous girl in class): “All of this drivel is fleshed out with passing references to Vietnam and popular songs of the period. The music track may be the most irritating ever devised for a series, sounding as if some stereo freak had happened to wander onto the sets with a blaring portable radio” [3].

A total of fourteen episodes (two of which were two hours in length) were broadcast, the last of which aired on May 25th, 1978 (more than two months after the previous episode). The January 12th episode, “The Class Crusadar,” starred Laura Prange as the idealistic class valedictorian who travels to Appalachia to help the poor, falls in love (with Don Johnson) and learns that not everyone appreciates people like her.

Other episodes starred Jane Curtin, Vincent Van Patten, Richard Hatch, Michael Lembeck, Linda Purl, Kim Cattrall and Kristoffer Tabori. This is one series I’d love to see a few episodes of.

Works Cited:

1 Smith, Cecil. “NBC Launches Class of ’65.” Los Angeles Times. 8 Dec. 1977: H33.
2 O’Connor, John J. “TV: Low-Key Paul Simon.” New York Times. 8 Dec. 1977: 82.
3 Ibid.

3 Comments

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    I remember “…CLASS OF ’65?”. If you saw at least two episodes, you’d notice how “artificial” it was [the result of NBC's edict to stay away from "downbeat" and realistic stories, as covered in the original book]. And you’d be disappointed. There was a good reason WHY it only lasted fourteen episodes…and not just because it was in a “bad time slot”. This series was just another example of NBC’s “anything goes” approach in finding a successful “hit” series for the 1977-’78 season. NOTHING WORKED….the network was a “basket case”. And this series didn’t help them a single bit.

    John J. O’Connor was right “on the money” in his initial review.

    As for Michael Medved…he’s now a “conservative” radio talk-show host in California, currently syndicated on several radio stations across the country. In the early ’90s, while working as a movie critic for the NEW YORK POST, he often whined about a “lack of family values” in Hollywood, and wrote at least one book on the subject in order to prove his point. On the mid-’90s cartoon series “DUCKMAN”, he was caricatured as “Michael Medfly”. Take it from me, he’s actually an ass.

  • David G. says:

    I’m not sure how exactly Medved qualifies for the description you used in the last word of your final sentence … beyond the likelihood that you just disagree with his political or societal viewpoints (which, of course, isn’t on its own any reason to automatically be deserving of being called that word).

    I’m also not sure by what authority we should “take it from [you].” You’ve not shown an ability to present accurate facts; Michael Medved has broadcasted out of Seattle for years, not from California. Compared to the other names that have higher audiences on the radio, Medved is far more educated, far less rooted in “mere rhetoric”, and has an unparalleled scholarly depth of knowledge about American history and the Constitution. His ’90s book “Hollywood Vs. America” is a very well documented, multi-footnoted, research study-filled and informative work that makes a very good case for his thesis regarding how the values of Hollywood films don’t match studies documenting the general values of American people (at least those living in the 1990s). Definitely a worthwhile read if you can find it in a local library.

    And have you ever listened to Michael Medved speak in person, or personally met him? I have. So, as far as making a judgment about the type of person Michael Medved is, maybe readers should actually “take it from me”…!

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    I know that Mr. Medved is as cultivated in his writing and speaking as you say he is, David (and yes, his radio show does eminate from Seattle, Washington, my mistake). But I read his review of Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” in the POST when it first premiered, and he gave it a lukewarm review- 2 1/2 stars- adding that it “desecrated” the sacred holiday tone that, in his opinion, Christmas should be. On the other hand, the DAILY NEWS critic gave it FOUR stars, declaring it the best animated Christmas film she ever saw. It was her view (and the fact the film was a box office success) that was the majority of those who saw it. As for Medved, his show is mostly scheduled on radio stations that cater to “neo-conservatives” and the far right. And, yes, I’ve read his book. He’s certainly come a long way from those “Golden Turkey Awards” books he co-wrote with his brother Harry in the ’70s and ’80s…

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