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A four-season television drama series starring Martin Milner (later of Adam-12) and George Maharis. It chronicles two heroic drifters Walking 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, &c..
The writing can be clever, nuanced, and heartfelt, but 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. Of course, YMMV. 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.
- Bifauxnen: Jan in "Sleep on Four Pillows".
- Book Dumb: Buz. He claims he received a diploma without being able to spell "diploma", and in the first episode confuses the homophones "poor" and "pour": "We're P-O-U-R."
- Character Filibuster
- Contemplate Our Navels: Tod and Buz are "searching" for "something" and along the way they're going to spend a lot of time musing philosophically.
- A lot of the writing is reminiscent of Faulkner on a comprehensible day.
- Cool Car: Tod's Corvette, the last gift his wealthy father gave him before bankruptcy and death. Somehow he gets a new model every season.
- Corrupt Hick: The antagonist of the very first episode, in fact.
- 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 tad idealistic.
- Estrogen Brigade Bait: 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.
- Evil Twin: "I'm Here to Kill a King" features an assassin who looks exactly like Tod and is played by Martin Milner.
- 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.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Tod and Buz. They have a joint bank account.
- Hidden Depths: Buz is presented as a barely literate street-fighter type, but his narrations are just as poetic as Ivy League-educated Tod's.
- Ice Cream Koan: Frequent.
Mechanic: Who are you fellas?
Buz: Who're we supposed to be?
- 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.
- 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".
- Licensed Sexist:
- Buz Murdock. See the Unfortunate Implications and Family Versus Career examples on this page. To be fair to the character and writers, there's a discrepancy of half a century of changing social norms and two waves of feminism creating Values Dissonance.
- Tod once spanks a fully grown woman - and not in a kinky, fun way, but as discipline. (And no, it's not a consensual arrangement.) That is practically Tod's dethroning moment for any feminists in the audience, screw the humourless Femi Nazi stereotype.
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: "I'm not exactly a boy. There's a line of departure, and I took that step long ago."
- May-December Romance: Buz gets involved in these, because he's got a mommy complex as big as the moon.
- Mushroom Samba: "The Thin White Line". Insidious clocks!
- 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.
- ~Orphan's Ordeal~: Buz, though revenge/seeking his true origins aren't (usually) on the schedule. He can whinge with the best of them about his past, though.
- Out-of-Character Moment: The third season episode "Only By Cunning Glimpses" is one long OOC moment for Tod. The episode culminates in him physically restraining Buz from saving an elderly woman and a child from a burning barn because the resident Unhappy Medium / Phony Psychic has convinced him that is how Buz will be killed. Apparently he'd rather Buz live, forget the old woman and the kid.
- 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 jazzy Route 66 theme, moved into television and film scores but rose to fame as a popular band leader and arrangement artist for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and Nat King Cole.
- The Power of Friendship: What keeps the two together, even though sometimes ideological differences push them toward Vitriolic Best Buds.
- Product Placement: Tod's Cool Car. The Corvette logo on the hood is sometimes conspicuously center-frame. An inordinate number of guest stars drive Corvettes as well.
- 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.
- Putting on the Reich: The cult of racial purists in "To Walk with the Serpent" wear black, belted uniforms.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Tod is deep blue, Buz is fiery red. Later on this dynamic is lost, because Linc is more of a blue as well.
- Red String of Fate: At the end, Tod marries a Victorious Childhood Friend and settles down. Fate, in this case, is facilitated by a very exacting will.
- 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.
- Seth Green had a significant featured role in the first episode.
- Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness: The series slides back and forth. There is a barely-whitewashed episode about a drug addict, and a Slapstick-filled episode with Buster Keaton.
- Special Guest: The third season episode "Lizard's Leg and Owlet's Wing" is a Halloween Episode that features Peter Lorre, Lon Chaney Jr., and Boris Karloff as themselves.
- 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.
- Television Geography: The show went a lot of places that Route 66 didn't... like anything east of Chicago.
- They Fight Crime: Well, sometimes they do.
- 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?
- Written in Absence: Tod's phonecalls and letters to Buz during Maharis's hiatus.
- You Fail Biology Forever: 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.
...and no, we don't mean 8.1240384.