A four-season television drama series starring Martin Milner (later of Adam-12) and George Maharis. It chronicles two heroic driftersWalking the Earth (or at least the continental United States) in a Corvette convertible. Each week Tod Stiles and Buz Murdock, and then Murdock's Suspiciously Similar Substitute Lincoln Case, stumble upon different Adventure Towns and take odd jobs to support themselves while committing random acts of kindness, chasing skirts, putting right what once went wrong, wearing skinny late-50s ties, etc.The writing, much of it by series creator, Sterling Silliphant who later wrote the classic Oscar winning film In the Heat of the Night, can be clever, nuanced, and heartfelt. In fact, the series was essentially an Anthology with two recurring characters that allowed Silliphant to explore a vast number of topics as he felt like it. However, whether due to a changed social landscape, the dawn of the cynical age, or the fact that invariably any drama will have scenes that miss their mark, it is also victim of extensive Narm. The series ran from 1960 to 1964, a period that still falls thematically into the era exemplified by The Fifties (as opposed to The Sixties). The series also heavily subverts Hollywood Atlas stereotypes, as Route 66 had a roving production set-up and episodes were filmed on location throughout Flyover Country.
Route 66 provides examples of:
Adventure Towns: Real cities across the US serve this function as the two leads take odd jobs.
Back-to-Back Badasses: Tod and Buz pull this pose when outnumbered by a gang of hoodlums, complete with the camera panning around them.
Corrupt Hick: The antagonist of the very first episode, in fact.
Criminal Doppelgänger: "I'm Here to Kill a King" features an assassin who looks exactly like Tod and is played by Martin Milner.
Department of Child Disservices: Buz's experiences, and in one episode he almost cries because Tod returns a runaway orphan to a state-run orphanage. In another episode, he himself tries to bring a child to the attention of the authorities because of the boy's alcoholic father. That episode suggests that it would be better if Social Services Did Not Exist and that everyone's alcoholism could be cured with a simple moral lesson, like "be responsible for yourself and your offspring" which is a tadidealistic.
Mr. Fanservice: Between swim trunks, lots of shirtless scenes and wet shirt scenes, almost every inch of the men gets its turn on display. Buz's tiny black Speedo gets special mention.
Family Versus Career: This is kind of the situation in "Poor Little Kangaroo Rat", where a Married to the Job scientist's wife threatens to take their son and leave him. Tod believes that family should be his first priority and finds his neglect of them disgusting. Buz solves the problem by reminding the man's wife that a woman's place is supporting her husband, no matter what financially precarious and ulcer-inducing work he may choose. He's a man, you see, and that means he's got to have an identity outside the house, outside the family sphere. Whereas...
Buz: Don't you think he has the right to do any kind of work he wants to? ... He's a man. Do you have the right to force him to be something less than a man, because all you understand is that he owes you companionship? What about the companionship that you owe him?
... she's a woman, so she should get back in the kitchen and scrape together a pie using whatever she can find in the almost-bare cupboards. That will be a comfort to him. She's utterly convinced by this, too.
Fauxlosophic Narration: Several episodes, where (usually) Tod's narrations are pseudo-Contemplate Our Navels affairs that try to make this particular run-in with a beautiful or troubled woman seem more extraordinary than usual.
In Love with Your Carnage: Mild case: when Buz comes to blows with someone, Tod likes to stop whatever he's doing and watch, often with a contented grin on his face.
Instrumental Theme Tune: Composed by Nelson Riddle (see Pop-Star Composer below) after the show's producers decided not to pony up for the rights to the Bobby Troup standard "(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66", it was released as a single and actually became a fair-sized hit.
And in fact, the producers had originally wanted Andre Previn's "Like Young" to serve as the theme tune but couldn't get it, so Riddle (who had already been signed to compose the weekly scores - executive producer Herbert B. Leonard did not like the idea of a Recycled Soundtrack, so both this and his Naked City had original scores) was asked to write a piece in the same vein.
James Bondage: Buz and Tod take their turns getting captured and tied up, and for those who are into that sort of thing, Buz spends some time struggling in his bonds while tied down in "The Beryllium Eater".
Non-Idle Rich: Tod, before the family business collapsed around his ears. His father had him working on barges every summer, under Buz's management.
Not Even Bothering with the Accent: George Maharis has a natural New York accent which carries over to Buz, but it's exaggerated in the first episode. His accent softens considerably when Maharis stops bothering.
Odd Couple: Thankfully kept low-tone for the majority of the series. Tod came from a wealthy family, was classically educated in the best private schools, attended Yale, and when drunk he has the tendency to reveal what a toffee-nosed snob he really could be if he weren't so nice. That is, he tells 'hilarious' stories about free tickets to the opera and being on the fencing team, while Buz sits stone-faced because he is an orphan from Hell's Kitchen.
In the final episode of the series, he and Linc rather casually get someone killed by an alligator. Yes.
Pop-Star Composer: Nelson Riddle, responsible for the show's jazzy theme tune, moved into television and film scores but rose to fame as a popular bandleader and musical arranger for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and Nat King Cole.
Put on a Bus: Buz. When Maharis became too ill to film his character is absent, but Tod has one-sided phonecalls with him. The character returned for a few episodes only to depart the show for good, so at one of those lonely bus stations Tod must have upgraded Buz's ticket to a Long Bus Trip.
Depending on your sensibilities, the suddenness and the Arranged Marriage aspect could make this a case of Strangled by the Red String, though it is largely keeping with Tod's tendency to fall in love very quickly and hard.
Revival: A very brief 1993 series starring James Wilder and Dan Cortese as Nick Lewis and Arthur Clark (with a Title Theme Tune by Warren Zevon). Making them....that's right.... Lewis and Clark. It starts when Nick learns about the father he's never met - Buz Murdock - and inherits the Corvette. He has an adventure with the wild stranger, Arthur, and they begin Walking the Earth themselves.
Seth Green had a significant featured role in the first episode.
The theme song was not a variation on "Route 66", but an original tune by Warren Zevon.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Lincoln Case, who does the dark and brooding to Tod's golden-haired also brooding. He pretty much picks up right where Buz left off.
Taxman Takes The Winnings: The 1993 remake starts the plot like this. Nick's estranged father dies and leaves him everything; after inheritance taxes and lawyer fees he actually owes a little money, leaving him with nothing except his dad's classic Corvette.
Television Geography: The show went a lot of places that Route 66 didn't... like anything east of Chicago.
What Beautiful Eyes: Buz's eyes are often the source of comments. It might be how they're framed by his long, black lashes, and the way that the lighting constantly reflects in them and makes them sparkle... sorry, what?
Artistic License - Biology: The most Egregious example occurs in the episode "The Newborn". A woman (presumably) bleeds to death after delivering, and the two leads are left to look after the baby. There is no attempt to get the baby to feed, thus stimulating contractions that could have helped stall the bleeding, and later Tod insists newborns are not fed "in the first 10 hours". This may have been the practice in 1960, but to modern folks with passing familiarity with first aid it sounds like whatever material he claims to have read about birth was sourced from the 50s equivalent of Uncyclopedia.
Though he is basically correct that the Prime Directive of untrained personnel assisting a normal birth is to offer reassurance and do nothing.