ROUTE 66 TV shows Print
Written by Double Dragon
Saturday, 27 November 2010 19:32

ROUTE 66 TV shows

Writing copyright D. S. Brown. Images copyright Roxbury Entertainment, Nostalgia Cars magazine and James Rosen.

ROUTE 66 was quickly conceptualized over lunch when producer Herbert B Leonard mused about what it would be like to meet up with a friend from his poor childhood. The rich and well educated friend would have presented an interesting character contrast to street scuffler Leonard.

Writer Stirling Silliphant developed a Mini Pilot "Four Sweet Corners" as an episode of NAKED CITY. George Maharis played the poor orphan Buz Murdock. Bobby Morris played the preppy Tod Stiles. Lack of response to the episode hindered Leonard from expanding the concept. He believed in his idea strongly and invested his own money in a pilot. In the meantime, Bobby Morris had died leaving the role of Tod Stiles uncast. In a choice between Martin Milner and Robert Redford for the Stiles character, Milner won out.

The road trip TV show was named THE SEARCHERS. A movie released with the same name necessitated a title change. The new title ROUTE 66 imparted a sense of searching as well as a link with the popular highway.  Despite the show's title, Route 66 was rarely shown and the cities visited were frequently nowhere near the real Route 66. Already, back in the 1960s, the IDEA of Route 66 was more important than the reality.

The Tod Stiles character is Yale educated and privileged. His friend, street smart orphan Buz Murdock worked for Tod's father in New York. Tod's father died, leaving Tod a failed business and a Chevrolet Corvette convertible. Martin Milner played the role of Tod as a morally correct, but gregarious type. George Maharis portrayed Buz as volatile and outspoken. Tod and Buz cross the country working part time, impelled to move onwards by an inner urge to roam.

The show was mainly written by Stirling Silliphant who pitted Buz and Tod against eccentrics, good and evil characters. The catalyst for action is always a person trapped by situations stemming from their strong personalities. The repartee between Tod and Buz is light and humorous, but the dialogue quickly gets intense when they are thrust against a wide variety of characters and situations. Tod and Buz have disimilar backgrounds and occasionally have friction over how they want to handle situations. The infrequent strains between them added drama to the show without playing against the established bond.

On location shooting added a dimension to the show at the time and also preserved divergent local color that is now lost in the homogenized country we know today.

.route 66 s1 v1 dvd

The image on the DVD cover was created with a often used still of Buz and Tod crossing a river on a ferry in the premiere episode, "Black November". The road was added into the background and the entire image was colorized. Interestingly, the choice for colorization matches the actual color of the Corvette used in the pilot. In later episodes the show changed to a Beige Corvette because it made lighting easier.

route 66 s1 v1 dvd back

The first volume of Season One contains the first half of the thirty episodes in the first season of the show. The show first aired at 8:30 PM Friday night, Oct 7, 1960 on CBS.

route 66 s1 v2 dvd

route 66 s1 v2 dvd back

The show faltered when Maharis contracted hepatitis in the second season forcing him to miss a few episodes. The show carried on with Milner doing solo episodes awaiting Maharis' recovery.

route 66 2nd season dvd

route 66 2nd season dvd inner

route 66 2nd season dvd inner sleeve.

The third season began before George Maharis was fully recovered. By mid season he had to drop out, forcing the show to replace him with Glenn Corbett who played the role of Linc Case. The idea was to pair Milner with another volatile character, but Corbett didn't have the same chemistry with Milner and the show ended partway through the fourth season, in early 1964.

Glen Corbett wasn't strongly associated with ROUTE 66. His biggest fan TV base traces to his star guest appearance in the original STAR TREK series in the METAMPORPHOSIS episode. His character on STAR TREK was Zefram Cochran the inventor of the warp drive. The Cochran character was fleshed out in prequel stories in later incarnations of the STAR TREK franchise which prompted new generations of STAR TREK watchers to seek out the original Glenn Corbett characterization.

route 66 3rd season dvd

route 66 3rd season dvd back

Once ROUTE 66 went off the air it wasn't forgotten. This was a highly regarded unique series, but black and white shows were not put into the syndication cycle as often as color shows. ROUTE 66 was talked about but rarely seen.

My first exposure to the show was via a homemade VHS tape sold by a crotchety old man in suspenders hawking things at a flea market. Nostalgia TV programming finally unearthed the show again. The original audience never forgot. The two main actors from the first three seasons were in demand at conventions, but Glenn Corbett was overlooked. As time went by and the nostalgia for the original show intensified, it's possible that Corbett may have been included but he died aged 59 on Jan 16, 1993.

The last episode's shooting location served as the gathering place for a Corvette show that reunited Maharis and Milner for an autograph signing session. The event was covered by Mike Mueller for the now defunct NOSTALGIC CARS MAGAZINE, March 1988. The actors are posed with a red Corvette, even though the show cars were blue and beige. Aside from the wrong color car, Maharis' character Buz wasn't present in the final episode. No one minded that the details were wrong. The crowds were pleased to meet the two actors and autograph signing went on for hours.

route 66 reunion

The popularity and fond memories of the show combined with the revival of interest in the real life old highway itself spurred a remake of the series in 1992.

ROUTE 66 the second time around kept the title and the character's names, but little else. James Wilder portrayed Nick Lewis, the son of Buz. Nick inherits a red and white 1961 Corvette from Buz Murdoch, the father he never knew. The show decided to go with the legend of a red Corvette rather than the original blue and later beige colored Corvettes of the original series. Also confounding is the lineage of the Corvette in the sequel series. In the original series the characters drove the newest model year of Corvette. The final Buz appearances in the original series were in a 1963 Stingray, not a 1961. To get further into the nitpicking, the original series Corvettes were owned by Tod Stiles, not Buz.

So now we have the son of volatile Buz taking on the Maharis type role (owner of Corvette and more conservative) while the Buz role this time around was filled by a hitch hiker named Arthur Clark (played by Dan Cortese).

The new ROUTE 66 show debuted on NBC 8:00 PM Tuesday night, June 8, 1992 and got cancelled July 6, 1992. The new producer was pushing for good repartee between the two leads while the original ROUTE 66 producer who was involved in the sequel demanded the same quest for truth that ran through the original series.

James Rosin put together a nice history and episode guide to the original show in 2007.

route 66 the television series


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 02 May 2017 23:00 )