(hoopla/Prime/tubi/VOD/Vudu) While this show was always on this month’s slate, I wanted to recommend it on the day of SUPERNATURAL’s (WB/CW, 2005-2020) series finale. SUPERNATURAL is a show that’s been a bit of a lingering constant in my life since I glommed onto it around the third season. I haven’t watched every season, but I drop in from time to time — usually for any episode that Ben Edlund has penned, or any of the obviously meta eps — and I’m looking forward to seeing how everything ends.*
But I’m supposed to discuss ROUTE 66! Here’s what you need to know about ROUTE 66:
1) It’s one of the first road trip shows, and the creator of the show (Stirling Silliphant, who previously pioneered shot-on-location TV with THE NAKED CITY) insisted on shooting in every location detailed on the page. He wanted the show to explore America, hence the title.
2) ROUTE 66 is fundamentally about two drifters, one sensitive (Tod, played by Martin Milner), one more callous and randy (Buz, played by George Maharis), and they drive from town-to-town solving mysteries and soothing community wounds in a Chevrolet Corvette. Sound familiar? They often come to blows with how to deal with a situation, with one wanting to drive off while the other wanting to stay and help those in need. Each week ended up with everything neatly tied up, and they’d drive off to another town, slightly satisfied. Also, just take a look at ‘em! 60s versions of Sam and Dean if you ever saw ‘em.
It’s a fine case-of-the week strategy, which is exactly why SUPERNATURAL stole it. SUPERNATURAL creator Eric Kripke’s elevator pitch for the show was ‘X-FILES meets ROUTE 66’.** SUPERNATURAL became something completely different — and rarely ever shot on location — but you could still see the ROUTE 66 roots showing even in the final season.
By today’s eyes, ROUTE 66 is a fun, but mostly insubstantial show. It often feels like smaller scale version of the teen drifter/loner film dramas that were released around the late 50s/early 60s but, unlike those films, it showcased parts of the US that hadn’t previously been aired on TV. It boiled down to an entertainingly slightly dramatic tourist show, of which I think the only comparable show on the air right now is THE AMAZING RACE (also CBS, but a reality show).
Later on in the series, when the show started flagging a bit, they started having fun some fun with it, most notably with -Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing- which features Tod and Buz working at Chicago’s O’Hare Inn, where Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney Jr. just happen to be staying, and TV-safe horror antics ensue. (If you’d like to read more about the ep, see here: https://www.classicfilmtvcafe.com/2010/10/route-66-lizards-leg-and-owlets-wing.html ) You don’t have to watch every episode of ROUTE 66, but that ep is a fine spooky treasure.
- For what it’s worth, my favorite SUPERNATURAL episode is probably the 200th ep. While it’s complete fan-service, it also cuts to the quick about all that works about the show, including the hows and whys it’s lasted fifteen years.
- (Spoilers for the …prior 199 episodes? Really, apart from one specific reference that’s a running joke throughout the series, it’s mostly benign.)
** https://twitter.com/therealKripke/status/674659951747334144 I honestly can’t believe that worked as an elevator pitch in the late 90s. I’d expect to hear back: “Route what-the-who? Like the dad song?”