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TODAY

Sunday, September 22

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Airbags

My latest guilty pleasure is the WB's Supernatural. Its premise: Dean and Sam Winchester, two brothers whose mother was killed in a freak paranormal accident, crisscross the United States fighting demons and various other nasties. Or, as Canada's CityTV succinctly promotes, "It's like your worst nightmare... but with hot guys." Tall drinks of Texan water Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, special effects and classic cock rock soundtrack aside, the real attraction of the series is the black 1967 Chevy Impala the fellas drive from "Wisconsin" to "St. Louis" to "California" (the series is shot in and around Vancouver).

In high school, I sometimes drove my mom's red 1969 Mercury Cougar convertible. Its engine was audible several blocks away, and the brakes were touchy; I had to start standing on them several yards before my desired stopping point. Everything about that car was solid... except for the undercarriage, which started rusting through a few years after we bought it. When the Winchester boys swing open those heavy doors, the characteristic squeak takes me right back. Every time. And the loud swingback thunk when they close? Ahhh, yeah. That's the stuff. The Impala got me thinking about other TV cars I've known and loved.

(Note: I am not going to discuss automobiles that actually "communicate," like KITT from Knight Rider, Herbie the Love Bug from various Disney movies, or My Mother the Car. Mostly because I think talking cars are dumb, but also because they're not sexy. Hot rides should be seen and not heard, yeah?) One of the most well-known television vehicles is The Dukes of Hazzard's General Lee. A Dukes fansite declares, "The General Lee is the greatest automobile on the face of the Earth." I wouldn't go that far, but 8-year-old me thought it was pretty cool. The 1969 Dodge Charger was painted a fetching shade of eyebleeding orange with the numbers 01 on each door and a Confederate flag on the roof. The doors were welded shut to make it more like a NASCAR automobile. Bo and Luke Duke (John Schneider and Tom Wopat) drove the General Lee like bats out of hell, running moonshine or running from the law. They made crazy jumps — Bo was usually behind the wheel — and could skid to stop on a dime.

In a recent Smallville episode — "Exposed" — Schneider, patriarch Jonathan Kent on the Superman series, was reunited with his former costar Wopat for the first time onscreen since their Dukes days. Wopat played an old friend... who happened to drive a Dodge Charger, although his car was blue. At one point, Wopat jumped in through the open window of the closed passenger door, even if he didn't slide across the hood. The plentiful Dukes shout-outs had little or nothing to do with the actual plot, but fans of the '80s show were delighted nonetheless.

Schneider, who owns one of the few remaining original General Lees, was undoubtedly less thrilled with WGN reporter Dean Richards during a recent visit to Schneider's home. Schneider showed Dean how to jump through the driver's side window. Richards tried and failed to get into the car, which wasn't that surprising. What was surprising was the dent along the driver's side caused by Richards' microphone pack. The repair bill was $7500. Oops!

I wasn't allowed to watch Dukes when I was a kid (I did sneak in an episode at a sleep over or two), so my first real car love was Thomas Magnum's Ferrari. Or Robin Masters' Ferrari. Doesn't matter. That fast car caught my eye, even as a 9-year-old. Star Tom Selleck was too tall for the 308 GTS, which provided some genuinely hilarious moments on the show. Apparently, the car received its own fan mail. I'm sure I would have written a letter had I known it was an option. "Dear Ferrari, I love you. You're fast and red and your roof comes off. I like the silver horsie on your trunk. Can you and Magnum drive over and play? I have the Fisher Price Garage! Love, Dee."

Finally, I admit I drooled over Brandon Walsh's 1965 Mustang on Beverly Hills 90210, even if it did break down more often than not and got stolen at least twice (but that's not the car's fault). I didn't like the pale yellow color, but everything else worked.

And I lied. The Impala isn't the only reason I watch Supernatural. But somehow, I think most of y'all knew that.

Supernatural, WB, Tuesdays 8pm
Dukes of Hazzard, Seasons 14 on DVD (Season 5 available on December 13, 2005)
Magnum, P.I., Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD (Season 3 available on January 31, 2006)
Beverly Hills 90210, Pilot episode on DVD

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About the Author(s)

As a child, Dee Stiffler was only allowed to watch one hour of television a day. She usually chose Sesame Street. Today, she overcompensates by knowing far too much about the WB's lineup as well as pop culture in general. Email her at pop@gapersblock.com.

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