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 have it stuck in my cerebral matter that there was a videotaped television movie about a successful black man who returns to the ghetto where he grew up. The movie was entitled “Man in the Middle” and featured a young Morgan Freeman as a street hustler. I guess the time period as anywhere from 1968 to 1972….DOES ANYONE REMEMBER THIS TV MOVIE???
Amy was close with the title. It was called “Caught in the Middle” and aired locally in New York City on WCBS-TV on Wednesday, December 16th, 1970 from 7:30-9PM. The station commissioned Gordon Watkins to write and produce the drama. Here’s a brief summary from the day’s television listings in The New York Times:
Drama, taped on location in Harlem, about the frustrations of a welfare worker torn between urgent needs of the community and limitations imposed on him by rules and regulates. The cast is headed by Lawrence Cook, Morgan Freeman, Dorothi Fox, Camille Yarbrough [sic]. 
Lawrence Cook starred as William “Bear” Walker, the aforementioned welfare worker who returned to the ghetto where he grew up in the hopes of doing some good. Fred Ferretti, in a lengthy review published December 17th, called the drama an anomaly, “less than professional as a structured dramatic piece, it is, nevertheless, shot through with brutal, raw strength. On paper it is a badly drawn play, but on videotape last night it charted with considerable success and honesty, to me, the why of black rage.” Ferretti praised the cast:
Dorothi Fox as the cynical Mrs. Thomas who has slept around some is excellent, as is Camille Yarborough as the young mother of a brain-damaged, illegitimate child, who might, in some other time, have loved Bear Walker. Lawrence Cook as Bear grew in intensity as the play progressed, with his final desperate assault on the police both dramatically believable and incredibly chilling. But to me, Morgan Freeman as Cuz towered as the silk-suited operator who sold his soul and subsequently his people, his neighborhood and finally his friend, Bear.
Ferretti also liked the look of the drama, writing that “the play looks, even feels, as if it were breaking news, or a documentary.” It was videotaped in Harlem over the course of ten days in May of 1970. This location shooting, said Ferretti, added “a dimension to the play that would be lost in a studio production.” The first 25 minutes of “Caught in the Middle” were uploaded to YouTube in 2009. Hopefully the remaining hour of “Caught in the Middle” also exists somewhere. I wonder if Morgan Freeman has a copy.