"Losing Can Be Fun and Profitable
By Lawrence Laurent
The News American Weekly Magazine, Feb. 23, 1969
The Outsider is a loser and Darren McGavin, who plays the title role, is glad that he is.
McGavin has had his share of "winners" on television with such programs as Crime Photographer, Mike Hammer and Riverboat. The difference, to him, is that "the public identifies with a loser." He explains further: "President Nixon only got 43 percent of all the votes in the November elections. That makes losers out of 57 percent of the voters. (Final totals by the Associated Press give Mr. Nixon 43.40 percent of the 73,177,821 votes.)
"Besides, the country has been built by losers; guys who failed and kept on going; guys who were losers in the east and decided to move West, and, before that, guys who were losers in their native countries and decided to come to America."
The Outsider portrayed by McGavin is a private investigator named David Ross. In each episode, he is likely to be intimidated by a racketeer, embarrassed by a crooked sheriff, shot at by a hoodlum, chased by gangsters or beaten by one or more musclemen. Often, he is outwitted by some cool corporate executive, and sometimes, beautiful women take advantage of David Ross.
"He's just like most people," argues McGavin. "He's just trying to make a living. He picks up a buck here and there, enough to pay the rent and to keep gasoline in the 1957 Plymouth that he drives." (The car is sorely in need of fender repairs but losers, apparently, can't afford such a luxury.)
Like most actors, McGavin claims to have worked - always briefly - at every job. Darren insists that he once worked for a private detective agency. It wasn't the least bit glamorous.
"I learned the hard way," he says, "that life isn't all moonlight and roses for a private detective. I remember nights when I'd stand outside a building while the temperature dropped to freezing, waiting for a man to come out of a warm apartment or a good restaurant."
McGavin took the role of David Ross for the simplest of reasons: "If you're not working, you're not an actor." Even so, the character underwent several changes from the time it was conceived by Roy Huggins and when it arrived on TV last September.
First, the .38-cal. revolver Ross carried had to be removed. Then, in the changing conception, Ross stopped having a torrid love affair in each episode. "That," declaresMcGavin, "was cheap and chintzy." And he had to quit being a physical superman who won every physical or mental encounter with badmen.
Darren's so successful that he can now deny, comfortably, his own early press agentry. "I wasn't really a tailback at College of the Pacific," he said. "Actually, I was a left end on the scrub team and I wasn't on the team very long."