I would take any excuse I could find to stay home from school when I was a kid. Minor sickness, emotional distress, you name it — If it planted me on the couch, rather than in the the classroom, I took it and ran with it. I loved being home when I was not supposed to. The daytime workings of my family home intrigued me as did the entertainment options. Game shows and soap operas dominated the dial, but you could also count on a third type of show, the classic tv rerun.
Cable TV was still coming into its own, so when you had only 6 TV channels, you felt lucky when you caught something you liked and had never seen before, because odds were, you might never see it again. That is how I felt when I stumbled across the TV show Route 66. I have no idea what got me home that day. I would guess minor fever, but I did remember laying on the couch and watching Bewitched. The show ended and went to commercial. I knew F-Troop was on another channel, so I decided to go get something to drink to enjoy with their frontier antics. When I returned I heard something I had never seen before, the intro to Route 66.
That theme by Nelson Riddle had me on the hook and I was intrigued. Then I spotted Martin Milner, who my family loved for his work on Adam-12 and I knew I needed to check this out. About halfway through the show, my Mother asked me what I was watching and I told her. Soon she was watching the show with me and talking about how much she loved the show when she was younger. That summer, I watched Route 66 every weekday with my Mom. Sadly that was the only year that it ran and it would be another decade before I would catch the show again.
Why was I hooked on this show? Well besides the Mother/Son bonding, the show was well made and superbly acted. Route 66 starred Martin Milner as Tod Stiles and, for two and a half seasons, George Maharis as Buz Murdock. Sadly in the third season Maharis was ill, so for much of that season Tod was shown traveling alone. At the end of season 3, Tod met Lincoln Case, played by Glenn Corbett, and traveled with him until the end of the fourth and final season.
The duo or just Milner traveled around the country in a Corvette convertible and made stops in specific places. There they would encounter trouble and or need to solve a problem. They would move on by the end of the show to the next location where the process would repeat itself. This plot device would become popular in other well know shows like The Fugitive and The Incredible Hulk. It is a great idea and in the case of Route 66, allowed for their to be another star in each episode. The location itself.
Okay so I am raving about this show because I am very happy to announce that Shout! Factory had released the show in its entirety on DVD. For the first time all 116 Episodes of this TV classic has been collected On 24 Discs In One Complete Series Set and I wasted no time in picking up a copy.
In addition to every episode of the show in as complete a format as available, you also get some nice extras like:
- A 2003 episode of the documentary series, Great Cars, featuring the Corvette
- A Vintage Commercial Collection
- The highlight reel from the 1990 Paley Center for Media festival for Route 66 with George Maharis, Leonard Goldberg and Arthur Hiller
The show is currently running in reruns on some classic TV channels and is available online, but this show is so enjoyable to me, I would prefer to now be without it and those streaming services and TV channels love to pull the rug out from under me when I am right in the middle of a re-watching marathon. I am glad I did pick it up, I have been burning through disc after disc every night and while I am well over half way through I can see myself repeating this process again next spring (or maybe next fall). The show is just that good.
Great music, great actors, great writers, great locations and a fabulous car are just a checklist of why this show should work, but you need to watch the show to see for yourself how it all comes together. It is a remarkably sophisticated product that will, by the end of episode one, have you humming along with the theme song and craving the open road. So order your copy of Route 66: The Complete Series on DVD. It is also available to stream on Amazon Prime.