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More of a drizzle than a storm July 29, 2009

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Road trips, Television.
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Kim Schneider, a travel writer for Michigan Live, poses this question about NBC-TV’s dud of a reality series on Route 66, “The Great American Road Trip”:

Has the show done more to keep people off the road than on it?

Short answer from me: I doubt it.

First off, ratings for “Road Trip” have been terrible. NBC has been languishing in a distant fourth place among the four major networks in that time slot, and fewer than 4 million people have been tuning in every week. Route 66 News has seen a meager — to be charitable — bump in traffic since the series started. Simply put, few are getting negative Route 66 vibes — if there are indeed any.

Second, I think “Road Trip” sends impressions of Route 66 that are moderately positive at best and benign at worst. Host Reno Collier noted that the families were having a good time and still wanted to continue their trip even after they were eliminated from the competition. Sure, the show’s producers have made a truckload of bone-headed decisions. But that doesn’t dampen the allure of the places that have been featured, such as the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, Meramec Caverns, Wigwam Motel, Midpoint Cafe and Meteor Crater. If nothing else, the show will intrigue viewers enough so they’ll go online and see what else the Mother Road has to offer.

Third, I think Route 66 remains terrifically durable as a must-see destination. Comments that Route 66 historian Jim Ross made in a recent documentary by Tim Steil and Jim Luning crystallized a lot of my thoughts:

“I keep waiting for this whole craze to hit a plateau, level off and reach a point where people are sick of hearing the phrase ‘Route 66.’ But it’s not happening. I now believe it’s not going to happen. I believe people today look at Route 66 or regard Route 66 as they would a national park or national monument. It’s become so ingrained in our lexicon. People (say) ‘Someday I want to go to Yellowstone’ or ‘Someday I want to do Disney World.” It’s like that with Route 66 now. I think it’s here to stay.”

The furor in the Route 66 community about the show’s obvious shortcomings will eventually been seen as more of a light drizzle than a storm. Route 66 is too big for an unpopular TV show to mess it up.

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