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DVD Review: Route 66 – Season 3 Volume 1

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The adventures of straight-laced Yale graduate Tod Stiles (Martin Milner) and his "bad boy" friend Buz (George Maharis) continue in Route 66: Season 3 Volume 1. This time around, the pair encounters even more interesting characters as they drive cross-country in search of adventure along the iconic American Route 66.

Much like earlier seasons of the show, season three utilizes the unique, edgy anthology format that Route 66 was known for. While similar to an episodic drama, each week's show features a completely new cast and story as Tod and Buz continue their adventures across America and get swept up in the everyday lives of the people they meet along the way. Rather than focusing on the cast regulars, Route 66 takes a unique approach and centers on the guest stars in each episode, which allows them to tell their story.

In the episodes included here, Tod and Buz encounter even more fascinating characters. The pair crosses paths with an embittered Oregon fisherman who must learn how to work through his lingering war memories before enduring a series of strange events when they give a supposed local "jinx" a ride. Just when things couldn't get any stranger, Tod meets a former Prohibition-era gangster, who is convinced that demons from his past are out to get him. Also, while taking their usual string of odd jobs along the journey, Tod and Buz must work with a workaholic shark-hunting scientist, Buz deals with a strange co-worker who carries on an exclusive phone relationship with a woman he has never seen and Tod finds a new calling working for an award-winning author.

While Tod and Buz are very flat characters where the viewers learn very little about them, many of the central guest characters are fully expanded on and given complete, in-depth characterizations in highly literate scripts that viewers don't see on television anymore. While the two leads do a decent job of portraying their characters, the real gem of this show are the amazing guest talents that appear in each episode. Guest stars in this set include John Astin, Buster Keaton, Sorrell Brooke, Rod Steiger, Nina Foch, Ed Asner, Leslie Nielson, Ron Howard, Natalie Schafre, and Julie Newmar, among others, with each one bringing something stunning and original to the show. Plus, the open-ended format of each episode makes the show feel like it could continue on indefinitely, and allows the screenwriters to utilize a wide variety of plot lines and unlimited landscapes. The two lead characters simply had to be inserted into each landscape which allows for a plot that feels natural and seamless.

This three-disc set includes the first 16 episodes of season three in all of their traditional, black and white glory. Sadly there aren't any special features included, but considering the age of the series and its obscure nature, it was probably very difficult to put together much of anything of value for this release. Despite this, it still would have been nice to see a little more about this innovative, unique series.

From Chicago to Oregon, everything about this show is extraordinary, almost literary. From the catchy opening music, "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66," to images of the iconic, all-American Corvette, Route 66 captures a phenomenal view of 1960s America and the colorful stories of everyday people. Because of this, episodes range from heavily dramatic and emotional to comedic and light-hearted. Even though the show can feel dated at times, its themes and emotions still resonate with viewers.

Route 66 delivers something different with each episode that will keep viewers coming back to see what happens. This kind of television is rare these days, and it's wonderful to see this great series released on DVD.

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