Tod and Buz are in Philadelphia visiting a friend/mentor of Buz from his New York Hell's Kitchen days. The old friend, a social worker trying to tame a quirky local gang leader, is killed ...
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Tod and Buz are in Philadelphia visiting a friend/mentor of Buz from his New York Hell's Kitchen days. The old friend, a social worker trying to tame a quirky local gang leader, is killed after playing a rooftop "chicken game". Tod and Buz run into major trouble after staying to help a girl whose boyfriend has left the gang. Written by
This is another memorable episode. I remembered it as taking place in New York but it's another Philadelphia episode. What confused me is that the boys are staying with Chuck Briner,(Milt Kamen in a good performance by a guy better known as a comedian) a guy who was a mentor to Buz and many other troubled youths when Buz was growing up in New York. This brings up this subject: Herb Leonard and Stirling Silliphant also produced "Naked City", which was on for the first three years of Route 66 and used many of the same actors, writers and directors. Why did they never have a cross-over episode? They are supposed to have gotten the idea for Route 66 from a Naked City episode called "Four Sweet Corners that starred George Maharis. Why not have the boys show up in New York and interact with the Naked City characters? This episode would have been an ideal cross- over. Maybe they didn't do it because that's where they came from and the boys are looking to see what everywhere else looks like.
It starts with the three of them laughing uproariously over a story Brennan is telling them. That's the last laughter. A young woman, Marva, (Susan Silo), bursts into the apartment to tell Chuck that a local gang, the "Missiles", is planning some kind of criminal activity. Chuck goes out to talk to them and, unwisely, accepts a challenge to compete in a game with the gang's leader, Packy, (Martin Sheen in his first television appearance), involving performing dangerous tricks along the edge of a rooftop, (which is where this gang hangs out). The result is that Chuck falls to his death. The police are called in, but to Buz's frustration, can do nothing as the incident is considered an "accident". There's a long line-up scene with a police captain and lieutenant who could have been Mike Parker and Adam Flint of "Naked City".
Buz finds out what the gang was planning: to "make an example" of their former leader, Johnny, who has left the gang to work in the building trade but who has maintained a relationship with Marva, a violation of gang rules. He goes to find Johnny, (symbolically atop a building much higher than the gang has ever been), leaving Marva with Tod back at Chuck's apartment. The gang invades the apartment, beats up Tod and chases after Marva. They corner her on a rooftop but Buz and Johnny, (James Caan in his third TV credit), show up in time to stop them.
Johnny and Packy then play the rooftop game, which Johnny invented and is better at. Packy loses his nerve as the degree of difficulty mounts and then finally chickens out and it beaten up by his own gang, who values the 'guts' to play such games more than the guts Johnny showed when he left the gang to join the adult world and work at a productive job every day.
This one is directed by Elliot Silverstein, who went on to direct "Cat Ballou" and "A Man Called Horse" but whose career then petered out for reasons that are unclear. He does a great job staging the rooftop challenges. (What these guys are doing is an extreme sport now. Check out "rooftop daredevils" on YouTube. Even Johnny would chicken out before doing what those guys do.)
Note: James Rosin's book on the series erroneously identifies Chuck Briner as "Chuck Brennan".
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