Friday, August 14, 2015

Inspiration: Acknowledging Route 66

I didn't create Route 69 without inspiration. Some of you might recognize the source. I'm guessing most of you will not. It likely depends on your age and/or love of classic television.

Route 69 is heavily influenced by the 1960's TV show Route 66. Longtime readers have heard all this before, but with this new Blogger platform, I felt like I should acknowledge Route 66 again.

Now, I wasn’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye when it ran in the early 60’s, but with the surge of oldies TV channels, Route 66 is a show that I’ve “discovered” in the past few years. When I say surge, I mean it … I’ve got MeTV, MeToo, Antenna, Cozi, Retro and now Decades, which just ran a binge marathon of every Route 66 episode ever.

Buz, Tod and the Corvette
Route 66 is about two guys driving around, trying to find where they “fit”. Just like Ben and Jeff do in Route 69. In their promos, Decades TV described it as about “two young drifters driving across a changing America”. Sound familiar?

The drifters are Tod Stiles (Martin Milner) and Buz Murdock (George Maharis), with Buz being replaced by the inferior Lincoln Case (Glenn Corbett) near the end. Now, from what I’ve read, George Maharis left the show for one (or more) of three reasons … he couldn’t handle the workload due to hepatitis, or he wanted more money, or he was fired because producers were afraid the fact that he’s gay would come out.

Tod is Yale-educated and comes from a privileged upbringing. After his father’s death, he’s forced to pay off debts that wipe everything out. All he has left is the Corvette, his last remaining possession. He is very much Ben, except I kept Ben rich, because I didn’t want money or jobs to be part of the storyline.

Buz grew up as an orphan, abandoned and self-taught in the ways of the world. He’s streetwise, tough and quick to anger. Although I named Ben’s pal/riding companion Jeff similarly to Lincoln Case (Jefferson Case), that’s because Buz was too hard to mirror. In terms of personality, Jeff is definitely a combination of Buz and a bisexual friend of mine.

Linc is … I don’t care. I never liked Linc. Cute, but so dull and wooden.

Anyway, so Tod and Buz drive the country in Tod’s Corvette (which changes each season without explanation to reflect the latest model). They find odd jobs in every town to make their way, always searching for something they can’t identify. Of course, they get into adventures in each place.

The shows are inconsistent in tone and approach, but that makes it more watchable. I tend to prefer the lighter episodes. The show features a lot of long speeches and monologues, which are usually entertaining.

The amazing thing about the show is that they actually shot it on location. It wasn’t LA posing as Dallas, Chicago, Toronto or any of the other great locations.

They’re very careful to have a lot of women and a lot of fighting, so you know these are “real men, grrrr.” After all, we have two hot guys driving around, staying together and professing their love for each other (as Buz does when Tod is accidentally given an experimental drug that makes him somewhat psychotic).

And fighting does play a huge role in the show. It feels like Buz and/or Tod get into fistfights almost every episode, usually driven by Buz’s quick temper. Tod's more cerebral side drives far fewer episodes than Buz's street tough, fists first approach.

My favorite episodes include my absolute favorite, "Goodnight Sweet Blues, as well as “The Thin White Line”, "The Mud Nest" and “Some of the People, Some of the Time”.

They brought the show back in 1993, but it flopped right away.

Now some people say Supernatural is a modern day Route 66, but I’ve never watched it, so I’m not sure. It seems like it might be superficially similar, but I can’t see it having the social commentary of Route 66.

Have you ever seen the show? Any thoughts? Please share them in the comments!



  1. I was 6 when the show began, 10 when it ended, so I was more than a gleam. These guys were among my first crushes. I was masturbating to wrestling fantasies practically every night and they were stars in my bedroom. I'm 61 and if I could watch those nostalgia channels, I'd probably be at it again!

  2. Some interesting tidbits from the Wikipedia article:

    There were subtle indications the Buz character was intended to loosely embody Jack Kerouac in appearance and attitude. Kerouac, in fact, contemplated a lawsuit against Leonard, Silliphant, and Chevrolet for misappropriating the characters and theme from his iconic novel On the Road.

    The episode "I'm Here to Kill a King," about a potential assassination, was originally scheduled to air on November 29, 1963. It was removed from the schedule because of President John F. Kennedy's assassination one week earlier, and (according to TV schedule listings published at the time) was not aired until the series went into syndication. This episode was filmed and set in Niagara Falls, New York, but also features a few shots taken from across the US border in Niagara Falls, Canada. This episode and "A Long Way from St. Louie" (which was set and filmed entirely in Toronto) are the only episodes of Route 66 featuring footage filmed outside the US.

    I loved the theme song. In those long-gone days, the music announcing that a favorite show was about to air would really get you jonesing:
    Nelson Riddle was commissioned to write the instrumental theme when CBS decided to have a new song, rather than pay royalties for the Bobby Troup song "(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66." Riddle's theme, however, offers an unmistakable homage to the latter's piano solo (as originally recorded by Nat King Cole) throughout the number. Riddle's "Route 66 Theme"[4] instrumental was one of the first television themes[5] to make Billboard magazine's Top 30,[6] following Ray Anthony's "Dragnet Theme" (in 1953) and Henry Mancini's "Mr. Lucky Theme" (in 1960). The song earned two Grammy nominations in 1962.[7] A vocal version, retitled "Open Highway" and featuring lyrics by Stanley Styne, was recorded by jazz singer Teri Thornton and reached #150 in the Music Vendor survey of October 1963.

    It's been too long, unsupported by "encore" airings for me to recall individual episodes, but it was interesting to check out those near my birthday. But I'm sure that I would recall them if I saw them. I have that kind of memory.

  3. I don't remember the 1993 series at all. But the casting is interesting. Wilder was a pro football player, 6'3", 225#; Cortese was an ex-pro wrestler. It might have been interesting to see. And speaking of wrestling, here's an episode of the original series that would also would've been interesting:

    60 30 "A Feat of Strength" May 18, 1962 Teleplay: Howard Rodman and Joseph Petracca
    Story: Everett De Baun Pacoima, California
    A Hungarian professional wrestler/political prisoner (Jack Warden) gains his freedom after his wife (Signe Hasso) makes a deal for his release, but the resulting debt relegates him to a role as a jobber. Tod visits the Pacoima hospital where Buz is staying, but neither he nor we get to actually see him.

    And there was a pilot for another version, date unknown:

  4. Daniel James "Dan" Cortese (born September 14, 1967) is an American actor, professional wrestler, director and spokesperson. He is the former WCWF Heavyweight Champion, and one of the innovators of the American hardcore wrestling style. He is known for his roles as Perry Rollins on Veronica's Closet and as Vic Meladeo on What I Like About You.

    In 2005, Cortese became the first WCWF superstar to hold the Intercontinental, Hardcore and Cruiserweight titles at once.

    1. Thanks for all the added info.

      I actually have a post scheduled that highlights "A Feat of Strength" including my first attempt at video, as I pulled three clips that are most relevant for wrestling fans. Hopefully it all works.

  5. Loved this post! I knew Route 66 WAS a show, but that was about ALL I knew. This gives me so much more insight into, and ability to appreciate Route 69. From little things, like the font used in the images, and the images themselves of the men in the car being reminiscent of the TV opening--down to the sudden replacement of my favorite character! (Thank goodness it was only temporary on Route 69, at least!) :)

    1. Thanks for the comment. That's exactly the reaction I was hoping for. It was serendipity that Retro started showing the series just when I was thinking about a Ben-focused spinoff from The Cave.

      And while Buz left Route 66 for good, I knew Jeff had to come back to Route 69. I did have him out longer in my original outline, but by the time I'd written 20 stories with him, I just couldn't do it. I think I like my characters too much, which is probably bad for a writer.