Favorite TV Episodes: Route 66 - the Vicki episodes

SWC75

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Route 66: The Vicki Episodes

Julie Newmar is now primarily remembered as a Catwoman on the 60’s TV series Batman! But she played many roles in that era, using her statuesque beauty and his intelligence to create serval memorable characters, none more than Vicki, a fellow denizen of the nation’s highways who rides a motorcycle, spouts poetry and eastern philosophy, ignores all the rules and in general shows our two heroes what it really is to be a free spirit. She anticipates the counter-culture movement that began in the mid-60s and drives our heroes crazy as they both fall in love with her and try to protect her, a protection she neither needs nor wants. She even has her own jazzy, s e xy, (but also sometimes poignant), Nelson Riddle theme.

She appeared in two episodes, one in the glorious second season of the show and another in the third, when it was trying to deal with the absence of George Maharis, who had left the show for the second and last time. Here are my reviews of those two episodes:

ROUTE 66 2/9/62 “How Much a Pound is Albatross?”

“And now here comes Vicki, the most charismatic character in the series’ history and the only one besides the regulars to be in more than one episode, (that wasn’t a two-parter). Her full name is Vicki Russell and she’s very rich, ($28 million- about $216 million today), but doesn’t care about money. She lost her family in a plane crash and has been hitting the road on her motorcycle just to see how many experiences of life she can have ever since. She’s even freer than Tod and Buz, (because she has all the money she needs but needs little of it). She’s the perfect Sterling Silliphant character, as she speaks in poems and riddles. And she’s played by the amazing Julie Newmar, a statuesque blond bombshell but a “smart blonde” who dazzles with her mind as well as her looks.

There’s not much plot. Vicki spots a bored-looking policeman sitting in his patrol car and decides to give him some excitement by breaking every traffic rule in the books. The result is chaos, which includes Tod and Buz breaking an expensive shop window when they serve to avoid her. Buz confronts her about it and immediately falls in love. He winds up putting up the corvette for collateral for bail. Vicki objects at first, describing jail as “a new experience”. (Certainly it’s not the right one for her.) Tod takes longer to fall for her but after a night on the town winds up going out into the desert, (they are in Tucson, Arizona), with Vicki on her motorcycle until she runs out of gas. She can’t make it to a hearing on her case, (there goes the corvette!) and a search party is organized. But do they even want to be found?

Vicki has been described as “the first hippie”. She also could be said to resemble the beatniks of the 50’s. But she’s unique, her own person. It might have been interesting if this was spun off into a separate series. But it might have been hard to maintain such a character for a season of episodes. I fully agree with the other reviewers that this is Julie Newmar’s signature role, not Catwoman.

I mentioned in a previous review that after Route 66 originally went off the air, I remembered the more light-hearted episodes best. This has some heavy philosophy in it but there are no “bad guys” and some good humor as well, plus the dazzling Ms. Newmar. This is the sort of episode that defined Route 66 for me.

IMDB: "Route 66" How Much a Pound Is Albatross? (TV Episode 1962) - IMDb

You-Tube: (For free)
 

SWC75

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ROUTE 66 12/21/62 “Give an Old Cat a Tender Mouse”

Now we have three Tennessee episodes in a row, obviously filmed after the two Missouri episodes. We also have the return of free-spirited Vickie Russell from season 2’s “How Much a Pound is Albatross?”, (Julie Newmar), the most charismatic of all the characters Todd, Buz and Linc encountered on their journeys and the only one they meet twice. One wishes there had been a third time. Maybe she could have been the gal Todd married at the end and they could have gone off on her motorcycle for a new series of adventures. The problem is that the character, as wonderful as she is, is rather slight, sort of a zephyr blowing by. She’s interesting in a couple of episodes but likely couldn’t hold down a series.

Vicki is in Memphis to check out Franck Ridenbaugh, a potential husband the bank who controls her fortune has lined up for her. She now has a semi-comical private detective trailing her in a van who “fixes” the messes she gets into. Franck, (the “c” is for cotton, which his fortune is based on) is well-played by Robert Webber, fully a match for Newmar as a serious-minded businessman who nonetheless is fascinated by his potential bride. They have some adventures together, including skydiving and a brawl at a nightclub that’s more to her taste than his formal parties. Eventually he decides he’s not ready to stop being who he is and she’s not ready to stop being who she is. Franck also adds that he doesn’t want “a woman who is a contender for the title”, (after her horse jumped higher than his did). Again the recurring theme in this series of how women shouldn’t undercut men.

Todd never makes contact with Vicki except through his rear view mirror, (didn’t she recognize him?), and gets into a series of comic scrapes with a local cop that pad the episode to an hour but never really become part of the story. There’s nothing in this script that suggests the original presence of Buz. One wonders what the original version, if there was one, looked like.

IMDB: "Route 66" Give the Old Cat a Tender Mouse (TV Episode 1962) - IMDb (On Amazon Prime for 99 cents)

You-Tube: (for $1.99)
 
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