Update of the early-’60s on-the-road series has the promising format of two guys blasting around America in a Corvette, intersecting with the lives of colorful characters along the way. Despite fine cinematography by Peter Lyons Collister, good direction by Ken Kwapis and an intriguing perf by guest star Stacy Haiduk, the weak script and generally stumbling performances make this a trip worth missing.
Nick Lewis (James Wilder, from “Equal Justice”) is the son of Buz Murdock, George Maharis’ character in the original series (the surname difference is never explained). When he learns of the death of his father, whom he never knew, Lewis returns to claim his inheritance, which in his fantasy is a big mansion on a hill. Instead, he discovers the estate is virtually bankrupt, and claims its one tangible asset: a mint-condition red-and-white classic Corvette.
Heading back to Allentown, Pa., the dying steel town he left, Lewis picks up hitchhiker Arthur Clark (Dan Cortese, of “MTV Sports”), a wisecracking, jiving wanderer.
After an adventure with a girl in a roadhouse tavern who ends up stealing their car and leading them on a wild-goose chase to New Orleans, Clark convinces Lewis to forget about returning home and join him on an endless journey around the country.
The original series, which starred Maharis and Martin Milner and was created by Stirling Silliphant and executive producer Herbert Leonard, ran from 1960-64 and has been heralded as a classic. It is best remembered for the free and adventurous spirit of a new generation that it embodied.
Unlike the original, the current incarnation seems instantly dated and unintentionally nostalgic, right down to the choice of the classic Corvette as the centerpiece vehicle for the series. While writer/co-exec producer Harley Peyton tries to inject a contemporary feel with the pseudo-hip dialogue of Clark , his efforts for the most part fall flat.
Wilder is taciturn, almost wooden, and the script gives him no help as his character makes the bewildering decision to hit the road with Clark. Cortese makes an energetic effort, although he annoyingly punctuates virtually every line with “I mean” or “you know.” The tone of his character is so different from everybody else in the show that it feels like he’s been dropped from outer space.
Chemistry between the two principals is also a problem; however, that could be ironed out as the series progresses.
Unfortunately, the creators of this remake have opted to split the difference between an edgy Generation X outing and a blast of nostalgia. The result is a muddled mix of the two.