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Poor Little Kangaroo Rat
Route 66 Poor Little Kangaroo Rat (1960–1964)
TV Episode
  • Director:
    Walter Grauman
  • Category:
  • Writer:
    Lester Pine,Herbert B. Leonard
  • Cast:
    Martin Milner,George Maharis,Leslie Nielsen
  • Time:
  • Year:
Tod and Buz, traveling along the California coast, go to work as "shark hunters" for a doctor using sharks as lab specimens to study the effects of cholesterol. The doctor, working under a research grant, has an unhappy jealous wife who wants him to return to private practice. Their son is caught in the middle of the turmoil.
Episode complete credited cast:
Martin Milner Martin Milner - Tod Stiles
George Maharis George Maharis - Buz Murdock
Leslie Nielsen Leslie Nielsen - Doc Duncan
Joanne Linville Joanne Linville - Helen Duncan
Maggie Pierce Maggie Pierce - Liz Penfold
Ron Howard Ron Howard - Chet Duncan (as Ronny Howard)

Route 66 Poor Little Kangaroo Rat (1960–1964)
Leslie Nielson guest stars as Doc Duncan, a marine biologist/doctor who is researching sharks in relation to improving human health. Tod and Buz sign on to assist in marine medical biology research and get more than they bargain for as the good doc is on the cusp of losing his family, wife and son, due to his absence at home and lack of income.

Another great location drama whereas Tod and Buz become involved in the personal life of the good doc, his lab assistant, and his family. When long hours spent acquiring sharks at sea and studying them in the lab result in dubious results the doctor's family, his beautiful wife and young son (played by a pre-Andy Griffith Show Ron Howard) decide to leave the poverty and uncertainty of a research scientist for stability with the wife's family. It's a great California Coast location drama with solid performances by the late Leslie Nielson and Ron Howard as the Doc's young son. Don't miss it.
Leslie Nielsen is back, again a scientist, (as he was in "A Fury Slinging Flame"), and so is the theme of women under-mining men. Nielsen is trying to find a cure for high cholesterol and the various diseases it can impact and needs the liver of a certain type of shark for his experiments. He hires Tod and Buz to collect them, (which at first puts them off). But the sharks aren't the problem- his self-centered wife, (Joanne Linville) is. Joanne puts her needs in the guise of concern for their son, (Ron Howard), but it's pretty clear she's the one starved for attention. She wants him to give his research and just set up a normal medical practice where he can be home more. He wants to have more of an impact on the world.

The boys try to stay out of it but are concerned about Ronny who gets caught in the middle. After much conversation they get the family back together and we see them smiling beatifically from a balcony while the family gets together on the beach. I did have to wonder how this family which, according to the wife is starving for funds because of Nielsen's obsession, got the money for what looks like a large and comfortable beach house.
Okay episode, with good view of pre-Jaws (1975) sharks. The guys hire on with research scientist Duncan (Nielsen), who catches sharks for research into the nature of cholesterol. Trouble is that his penniless dedication is displacing wife and son (Linville & Howard) from family life. Looks like he may have to choose between them, since the wife is getting fed up with being alone.

The last part handles a rather clichéd plot in an intelligently suggestive manner. Once again acting plays a big role in keeping viewers engaged. Now when I think research scientists, the hunky pre-farcical Leslie Nielsen doesn't come to mind. Here, he looks more like a head lifeguard, which may be why the script emphasizes his heartfelt dedication to science. Nonetheless, he brings the role off well enough. However, I'm still wondering why Duncan's wife puts up with his nubile young assistant (Pierce), who he spends majority time with. Surprisingly, there's no mention of that aspect, but then she does give Buzz someone to play with.

Anyway, there're some views of the late, lamented Marineland of the Pacific, which I believe has given way to fancy coastal housing. I still have fond memories of my visits there where I learned a lot. The entry's also notable for the presence of a very young Ron Howard showing why Andy Griffith's producers hired him onto that heartland series. All in all, it's notable that this may be the only entry where the guest star is hunkier than our two regulars.