Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Route 66 City of Wheels 1962

From 1960 to 1964 there was a television series titled Route 66, it starred George Maharis and an up and comer by the name of Martin Milner who would go onto being in another long lasting series as Pete Malloy in Adam 12.

The series was about two young men traveling along route 66 in an attempt to discover themselves.

City of Wheels was the 17th episode in the 2nd season of the series.  In it Milner, Todd Stiles and Maharis Buz Murdock end up working at a veterans hospital.

This episode was very interesting, because this was before our full involvement in  Vietnam and it was years before shows like M*A*S*H*  or China Beach.

The episode involved Buz working as a swimming coach at the hospital and him dealing with one of the veterans there who was in a wheel chair due to a crash in his fighter.  The veteran Frank, played by Steven Hill (Dan Briggs in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE's first season) is embittered and hates his life, he can see no value in him being alive.

Buz finds himself in the midst of a one sided love story, for the Nurse, Lori Barton  played by Bethel Leslie) that Buz is attracted to is very much in love with Frank, but it is a one sided story.

There are elements that are predictable but the story is so well written and acted that you overlook the few times you see the train coming.  If anything the story keeps you involved and rooting for Frank and Lori to find a way to get together.

What is most impressive about this episode is the fact that you can tell it was filmed on location, there are many veterans in wheel chairs and using walkers that appear in crowd scenes.  The fact that these veterans are in the episode as shadow figures (Seen out of focus slightly and for only a few minutes) adds to the nature of this

What is interesting, as far as I know, few television series have revisited this story line or have been set at a V.A. hospital, maybe some up and coming producer should look into this as a series format, and maybe buy the title from Route 66 and call the series CITY OF WHEELS.  With all the veterans from the Gulf Wars and our current wars in the middle east, there have to be a million stories that could be told.

Route 66 always had stories that pulled at the heart strings and made you care about not just the principals of Todd and Buz but also the characters of the episode.

It ran from 1960 to 1964 and is currently running early morning on M.E. TV,

It is well worth staying up late or getting up early to see this well written and superbly acted series.

Milner and Maharis,  Maharis ready to turn away from the hospital because he feels unable to help Frank.  Milner giving the pep talk,

A Very young Steven Hill

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