Review: The Outsiders

The Outsiders

In the UK: Tuesday, ITV1, 9pm or something. Ask my PVR.

In the US: For the sake of our national pride, no other country must be allowed to see this programme.

Ah if only all comedies were as funny as The Outsiders. What a shame The Outsiders, starring former EastEnder Nigel Harman, was supposed to be serious: an exciting escapist action drama in the same vein as The Avengers, Mission: Impossible, and Spooks. The kind of show where the Vatican has a secret police force.

Problematically though, everything about The Outsiders seemed calculated to insult the intelligence of everything larger than a single-celled organism, much like the majority of ITV1 shows.

It wasn’t so much the plot that was the problem – I’ve seen far, far worse, although this really had some choice scrapings from the bottom of the cliché barrel. The story, in fact, was very much a rip-off of Alias‘s Rambaldi plotline, which also featured shadowy organisations trying to find the secret of eternal youth by locating the work of Renaissance artists; there were even frequent trips to continental European nightclubs to avoid the authorities, a trick much beloved of Sidney Bristow. But like all British attempts to do US-style dramas, it was embarrassing in the exact same way as watching someone’s dad trying out a particularly tight pair of leather trousers at a local disco.

No, the biggest crime against humanity committed by The Outsiders was the dialogue.

Oh my. If dialogue could kill, all the nations of the world would have signed a treaty to bury The Outsiders under 100 metres of concrete. Seduction by talking about the mating habits of lobsters? WTF? Or how about:

Lady: “It must be hard”

Harman: “What?”

Lady: “Jogging.”

Harman: “It gets boring going forward all the time.”

I half-imagined Harman scuttling around like a crab in Nikes, just to get a bit of variety into his life.

I checked the credits to see who the writer was: Caleb Ranson. I tried to see if it was an anagram, but all I could get was “Can one L bras?” which isn’t very helpful. I suspect it’s his real name or just completely made up. If it’s real, I’m assuming he’s going into hiding soon, hounded by villagers with pitchforks.

If there was any light at the end of the dark, dark abyss that was The Outsiders – other than one fight scene that was actually better than any of Alias‘s kickboxing tedium – it was Brian Cox, my favourite Hannibal Lecter (or Lecktor, if you prefer the Manhunter spelling). He appeared to be the only member of the cast to understand just what an awful piece of bowel-emptyingly bad rubbish he was appearing in. Although we never got to see his feet, I suspect there was a pair of trainers on them, ready for the moment when the producers passed him the appearance money.

Unfortunately, this had all the hallmarks of a pilot; more worryingly, it beat the BBC1 opposition in the ratings, and with ITV1 desperate for anything even approaching a ratings success, there’s a possibility it might get picked up. Write to your MP, protest outside Parliament (if you can get a permit), but if it’s within your power, stop them.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.