Saturday, November 17, 2007

Get your kicks...

I have this crazy dream.

I play it over in my head sometimes, just before the sun comes up in the mornings and I have to begin the day. I pick a direction -- it doesn't matter where -- and fill the tank up with gas. I drive around the country, stopping whenever the mood strikes, and write about the people and places I find.

If I could figure out how to get paid doing all that, I'd leave tomorrow.

Went to Best Buy tonight after dinner with the gang. Imagine my delight when I came across the first volume of the first season of "Route 66," a 1960s television series that centers around my exact scenario -- two buddies driving around the country (in a spiffy 1960 Corvette convertible, no less!).

Only difference is my traveling companion is usually some attractive brunette instead of George Maharis. But I digress.

I have only seen a handful of episodes of this classic CBS series up till now. The old Nick and Nite aired the show for a year or two around the time we purchased cable television in the mid-1980s. But I was six or seven then, couldn't appreciate the show, hadn't yet fallen in love with the open road.

"Route 66" was a unique reverse anthology series. Pals Buz Murdoch (George Maharis) and Tod Stiles (Martin Milner) would wander into a new town each week. All they had between them was Tod's Corvette, a gift from his late father.

Tod was wealthy until his dad passed away. Buz was from New York's Hell's Kitchen. Both were broke, seeking adventure, and -- per the cliche -- trying to "find themselves." Famous guest stars would show up each week and the two friends would get caught up in their stories.

What made "Route 66" unique was that the series was actually filmed on location at the various stops featured in each episode. This was before America became homogenized, with a McDonald's and Pilot gas station sitting near each interstate offramp. Heck, this was before interstates. Folks didn't travel much then and "Route 66" exposed viewers to much of the American highways and byways for the first time.

No, that famous Manhattan Transfer hit ("Get your kicks on Route 66") wasn't used as the show's theme. CBS was too cheap to buy the rights. So arranger Nelson Riddle wrote a catchy tune that became a popular song in its own right.

The DVD set is a bit of a disappointment. It's clear, pardon the pun, that these dark prints with scratchy audio haven't been digitally remastered. They don't look near as good, for example, as the recent release of another '60s TV classic, "The Fugitive."

But it's just so good to see this show resurface that I'll keep that criticism to a minimum.

Now if I could just figure out a way to hit the road myself.

"Route 66 Season 1, Volume 1" is now available on DVD.

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