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Three for the Road

By frontrowcentre

Three for the Road is now but a footnote to TV history. It lasted just 12 weeks and has seldom been seen since it went off the air in November 1975. 

Starting in 1975 the FCC allowed the networks to add the Sunday 7:00 PM hour to their national schedules, providing the hour was used either for family friendly programming or news. All three networks decided to try family programs: NBC already had The Wonderful World of Disney in their Sunday line-up. ABC tried a series based on Swiss Family Robinson. CBS offered Three for the Road.

The show cast Alex Rocco as a widowed free-lance photographer traveling the country with his two teen-aged sons in an oversized motorhome dubbed Zebec. Wherever they stopped they found an hour's worth of drama and adventure.

The series ran into problems even before it began: CBS had positioned its popular news magazine 60 Minutes in the 6PM hour. Local stations, however needed time for their own new and public affairs shows. Approximately 40 CBS stations opted not to show Three for the Road. The day of its premiere, the New York Times ran a feature story explaining the situation and predicting an early cancellation.

Indeed, when the ratings for the first week of the new season came out Three for the Road was the lowest rated of all 66 network prime time shows. The show had its fans and several TV critics felt that it was the best attempt at a family show: one that could be enjoyed by adults and children.

CBS realized that no matter what replaced Three for the Road, the program would face the same opposition from the local channels. The only solution was to move 60 Minutes into the 7 PM slot and returning the 6:00 hour to the locals. The change was effected in early December 1975. 60 Minutes went straight to the top of the Neilson charts and remains in the Sunday 7PM timeslot to this day.

Three for the Road starred Alex Rocco as Pete Karras, Vincent Van Patten as his son John (age 16) and Leif Garrett as his son Endy (age 13). It premiered with a 90-minute pilot film that was shown as a CBS Thursday Night Movie on September 4th, 1975, the series debuted in its regular Sunday time slot on September 14th. The final episode was broadcast on Sunday November 30th. Several of the broadcast episodes were joined in progress due to football games going over their allotted time, and some episodes were flat out pre-empted.

Here is a mini episode guide:
PILOT: Pete Karras and his sons meet an attractive newscaster whose boyfriend has a violent streak.
Episode One: John has to overcome his fear of heights to take part in a hang-gliding competition.
Episode Two: John competes in a tennis match against an opponent whose parents will go to any lengths to ensure he wins.
Episode Three: A woman hires Pete to photograph her sister&'s ghost.
Episode Four: An old friend of Pete&'s (played by Larry Hagman) is a balloonist who uses his alcoholism to keep his college-aged daughter at home.
Episode Five: Endy befriends a girl whose father is a doctor on the lam
Episode Six: A teen runaway and her boyfriend try to steal the Karras motor home.
Episode Seven: (not aired)
Episode Eight: (not aired)
Episode Nine: At a home for troubled boys, Endy befriends one of the charges.
Episode Ten: En route to an assignment, Pete and the boys meet an single mother whose neglects her son to pursue a love life.
Episode Eleven: The daughter of an industrial magnate is kidnapped. Pete and the boys attempt to help.
Episode Twelve: A horse riding accident lands Pete in the hospital leaving John to deal with young Endy's fright and confusion.


Share Your Memories In Our Forums!

Check out our Three for the Road forum! Do you have a favorite episode of the show? What do you remember about the series? Do you have any questions about it or its stars? Now you can post comments and questions directly to our TV forums! Click here to see what other Three for the Road viewers have said or to post your own comments about the show!

Your Memories Shared!

I am 35 and I remember watching this as a child. For some reason I think about this show alot. I think the dad and his two sons rode in a camper truck. Is this right, or am I just dreaming? Would love to see a rerun to bring back childhood memories!!

--dana giovengo

Note: This is just a random sample of the Three for the Road messages in our TV forums! Click here to see what others have said or to post your own comments!



Aired: September 14, 1975 - November 30, 1975

Cast: Leif Garrett, Alex Rocco, Vincent Van Patten

Network: CBS

Genre: Adventure

Theme song

Image courtesy of CBS

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