Outlaws (1986 TV series)

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Created byNicholas J. Corea
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes12
Executive producer(s)Nicholas Corea
Running time60 minutes
Production company(s)Mad Dog Productions
Universal Television
DistributorNBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original networkCBS
Original releaseDecember 28, 1986 –
May 30, 1987

Outlaws is an American western television series which aired Saturday nights on CBS from December 28, 1986 until May 30, 1987. The original series began as a 2-hour pilot movie, and was followed by eleven one-hour episodes.


The story begins in Houston, Texas in 1899, as Sheriff Jonathan Grail tried to round up the villainous four-man Pike Gang, of which he had once been a member. After cornering the gang in a stormy Native American graveyard, a bolt of lightning struck all five men - transporting them 87 years forward in time to 1986. With no way to get back to their original time, the five men agreed to a truce, and started a private investigation/detective agency to pay their bills.

The five men, now working as the "Double Eagle Detection Agency," helped right wrongs, protected the downtrodden, and fought off drug lords and gang leaders, all while continuing to operate with 19th-century weaponry, including revolvers and shotguns. Several of the episodes dealt with problems the men faced in the 1880s that had to be resolved in the 1980s. No one knew their real identities, and most people assumed that their old-style clothing and weapons were an affectation. During their first case they met Lt. Maggie Randall, a Houston detective, who became romantically involved with Grail and often helped them in their cases.

The series featured crime drama and shootouts, although the heroes never killed anyone, thanks to their superior marksmanship. The show also featured humorous moments. The humor derived primarily from the outlaws' unfamiliarity with 20th-century technology, as well as the contrast between their 19th-century mores and those of the 20th century. Most episodes featured flashbacks, which were done in a sepia tone.

Although the pilot episode was one of the most-watched shows that week, future episodes drew fewer and fewer fans. The series' final episode, in fact, featured a "flashback" scene from another television show, The Oregon Trail, in which Outlaws actors Rod Taylor and Charles Napier both starred.[1]


Character Actor
Sheriff Jonathan Grail, former member of the Pike Gang and now leader of the Double Eagle Detection Agency Rod Taylor
Harland Pike, who took over the gang when Grail left William Lucking
Billy Pike, Jr., Harland Pike's younger brother Patrick Houser
Wolfson Lucas, a born-again half-breed Native American scout Charles Napier
Isaiah "Ice" McAdams, an escaped slave from New Orleans who rode with the Pike Gang Richard Roundtree
Deputy Maggie Randall, who assisted the Double Eagle Detection Agency on several of their cases Christina Belford


No. Title Directed by Written by Original release date
1"Outlaws (pilot episode)"TBATBADecember 28, 1986 (1986-12-28)
Sheriff Jonathan Grail corners the villainous Pike Gang in a Native American graveyard; as all five men braced for a showdown, a bolt of lightning struck the cemetery - and all five men - hurtling them 100 years into the future. Several of the Outlaws run afoul of a drug lord, and it's up to the rest of the Outlaws, working together in an unfamiliar era, to stop the drug lord. Shannen Doherty, in an early role, appears in this episode.
2"Tintype"TBATBAJanuary 3, 1987 (1987-01-03)
While working security for a wealthy client, Harland Pike discovers that the client's wife is a mirror image of his long-lost love from the 19th century. When the woman shows signs of physical abuse, the Outlaws rescue her and her son, only to discover her husband has an evil streak in him and wants to take it out on the Outlaws.
3"Primer"TBABruce CerviJanuary 10, 1987 (1987-01-10)
While trying to stop a protection racket that preys on shopkeepers, Billy Pike joins an adult education class (he never learned to read in the 19th century), where he comes face to face with the leader of the protection racket, whose followers are also terrorizing the adult education class.
4"Orleans"Phil BondelliNicholas CoreaJanuary 17, 1987 (1987-01-17)
Running short on cash, Ice McAdams leads the Outlaws to a treasure of buried gold coins he once stole from his slave overseer; it leads him to participate in a duel with his master's great-grandson.
5"Hymn"TBATBAJanuary 31, 1987 (1987-01-31)
The Outlaws travel to New York City to protect a female televangelist from a murderous stalker. During the episode, Wolfson Lucas and the televangelist battle over each other's view of faith and worship.
6"Madrid"TBATBAFebruary 7, 1987 (1987-02-07)
Jonathan Grail and the Outlaws are hired to watch over the ghost town of Madril, which has been purchased by a man to build a new shopping center. Unbeknownst to the Outlaws, the owner's wife is plotting to steal the town for her own uses - and compounding matters is the town's oldest living resident, who remembers the day Jonathan Grail (in the 19th century, and as a villain) shot down his father.
7"Potboiler"TBATBAFebruary 28, 1987 (1987-02-28)
A Western historian has discovered that the Double Eagle Detection Agency's members look remarkably like his archival photograph of the Pike Gang from 1885. Meanwhile, the Outlaws have to stop a crime lord - and keep the inquisitive historian at bay.
8"Pursued"TBATBAMarch 7, 1987 (1987-03-07)
The Outlaws must find the estranged daughter of a dying mob leader - only to discover that not only does the daughter not want to see her father, but that there are several members of the mob who want to find her father - even if it means abducting the daughter.
9"Independents"TBATBAMarch 21, 1987 (1987-03-21)
The Outlaws work as taxi drivers to protect an independent cab fleet from the vicious competition.
10"Hardcase"TBATBAMarch 28, 1987 (1987-03-28)
After the Outlaws take in a troubled youth who is on the run from a murderous crime lord, Billy Pike realizes the teen's rebellious attitude was the same attitude that turned Pike to a life of crime - and now must be diverted to a path of good.
11"Jackpot"TBATBAApril 4, 1987 (1987-04-04)
After another successful job completed, the Outlaws are rewarded with a trip to Las Vegas - where they must protect an accountant who has valuable information that could put a mob family away for good.
12"Birthday"TBATBAMay 2, 1987 (1987-05-02)
After the Outlaws take some time to prepare a birthday party for Detective Maggie Randall, the Double Eagle Detection Agency ranch comes under siege from sharpshooters. During the episode, thinking it might be their last moments together, Grail confides a story about how he and Wolfson Lucas first met - featuring film footage from a television series, The Oregon Trail, in which both actors starred.

Low ratings and cancellation[edit]

Outlaws was considered a "high concept" series, mixing three separate genres - time travel, the Western, and a detective series. After very high ratings for the series pilot, Outlaws aired its regular episodes on Saturday nights, which at that time was the lowest watched night of broadcast television. Eventually the series was taken off the air for weeks at a time, and its final episode aired with virtually no promotion at all.[1]


  1. ^ a b Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood (Bear Manor Media, 2010) p213-217

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