Route 66 - Season 1, Vol. 1In the early ’60s, there was a show that captured the free-spirit of American’s across the country, and especially along a treasured highway that traverses most of the country: Route 66. Starring Martin Milner and George Maharis, Route 66 is the story of Yalegraduate Tod Stiles (Milner) and his friend Buz Murdock (Maharis) and their quest to find adventure and themselves, no small task for two young guys with no money and only a blue Corvette to their names.

The result of this epic tale, the brainchild of Academy Award-winning writer Stirling Silliphant and producer Herbert Leonard, is something fans still talk about, and who have most likely been waiting for this release since the reruns stopped rerunning. I know my dad’s mentioned it a few times. “The kind of show they don’t make anymore.” Well, it’s finally arrived on DVD (at least the first 15 episodes have) to see if it has stood the test of time.

In the single episode provided on the screening copy (“The Swan Bed”), it’s clear that it has. Buz and Tod, cruising into New Orleans in search of work and a good time, are just the sort of stand-up young men that are considered either painfully outdated or socially awkward by today’s standards. These are the kind of guys that can hold their own in a fight, but also speak as eloquently as any George Clooney character in a pinch. As the fellas find work and help a young girl and her mother come to an understanding, the hour-long episode packs a lot into a short span of time. From the slightly grainy black and white picture, to the hint of melodrama brooding under most of the intense scenes, it’s clear this is television and not the big screen.  

The interesting thing here, though, is that the drama is actually engaging and the slightly grown-up Hardy Boys theme that arises as the guys try to get to the bottom of the mysterious “parrot fever” and the stashed $4500 is all in good fun. The best part about watching one episode, though, is that you can see yourself wanting to see more. Where are these guys headed and what’s their plan? As Tod says early on when Buz mocks him for taking a fish-cleaning job at the pier instead of something better, “Well, what do you expect? I only had three years at Yale.” This is the kind of good-humored, adventurous spirit that kept this show running for four years.

Eventually, the show featured such illustrious guest stars as Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Walter Matthaw, Martin Sheen, James Caan, Burt Reynolds, Boris Karloff, peter Lorre, Lon Chaney Jr., Ron Howard, Lee Marvin, Ed Asner and Leslie Nielsen. With names like that showing up in the guest list, it’s no wonder the show held people’s attention. The statement “digitally remastered for the highest quality picture and audio possible” is a little misleading, unless you know what the highest quality “possible” is. It’s still grainy ’60s quality, but the content is what’s important here. And that’s got more going for it than a fully-loaded Corvette.

Zach’s Rating: A-
Perfect For: Revisiting a simpler time
Stay Away if: You can’t stand black and white, even if it’s a classic

To purchase Route 66, Seasone One, Volume One, visit Amazon
Fore more information on Route 66, visit Wikipedia

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