Six episodes that showcase the hip beatnik brilliance of 'Route 66'
Dig into this underrated television series with a handful of episodes that capture its human, jazzy cool.
Route 66 was a misleading name. Sure, there was a cool car — a Corvette — and the open American road, but main characters Tod and Buz traveled all of the United States, from Maine to Louisiana to Oregon. The TV show's original title, The Searchers, would have been more apt, if it wasn't confused with the John Wayne film. But just as the driving duo were not on Route 66, they were not searching for anything in particular. The series, which premiered on October 7, 1960, was about something bigger.
Coming after film noir — it was a spin-off of Naked City — and the beatnik movement, and kickstarting many of the themes of the hippie 1960s, Route 66 was both groundbreaking and rich with cinematic Americana. Two men, on the road in America. It certainly sounded a bit familiar, especially to author Jack Kerouac, who had released his instant classic On the Road in 1957. In fact, Kerouac considered suing Silliphant, the network and Chevrolet.
1. "The Man on the Monkey Board"
Season 1, Episode 4
2. "Mon Petit Chou"
Season 2, Episode 9
3. "The Thin White Line"
Season 2, Episode 11
4. "Even Stones Have Eyes"
Season 2, Episode 24
Buz contemplates taking his own life after a construction accident leaves him without his sight. The episode stood out as a favorite in the mind of George Maharis. He did not just act blind, he temporarily blinded himself for the episode, wearing a pair of special opaque contact lenses to hinder his vision. At a school for the blind, Buz learns to deal with his blindness — and finds love. It was a temporary impairment and love. His vision returns to him in a tearful ending.
5. "Lizard's Leg and Owlet's Wing"
Season 3, Episode 6
While looking forward, Route 66 also paid tribute to Hollywood past. This wonderful Halloween episode brought horror icons Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Lon Cheney Jr. back to the screen — in monster makeup! Weeks earlier, silent film genius Buster Keaton appeared in "Journey to Nineveh," one of his meatier late roles.
6. "Hey Moth, Come Eat the Flame"
Season 3, Episode 11
Bonus: "I'm Here to Kill a King"
Season 4, Episode 10