Friday, May 15, 2009

Supertrain

The first pilot we wrote and produced was for NBC in 1979. It did not get on the schedule. We got beat out by PINK LADY AND JEFF. Also that season, Fred Silverman -- once the golden boy of CBS and ABC -- premiered his big budget sure fire new smash hit, SUPERTRAIN. It proved to be one of the most colossal failures in the history of television.

Here are the first ten minutes of the pilot. Television at its worst but cheese at its very best.

22 comments:

Tim W. said...

So, it's Love Boat, but on a train, right? Special guest stars every week! They even got the token black guy to add some fake urban flavour! And he says things like "Alright! Yes, Sir!" and "Put that back in the jug, Mama. I'll be back for it later." Apparently drinking on the job isn't frowned upon in the railroad industry.

No offense, Ken, but how can you compete with that?

J Johnston Jacob said...

It's a wonderful mess. One of the shows I would have remembered from my childhood. Pure gold.

RAB said...

Phrases like "Television at its worst" are often thrown around with reckless abandon...but I swear it has never been used more aptly than it is here.

David J. Loehr said...

I do remember this, and remember watching it regularly. What I didn't remember is some of the names involved behind it.

Dan Curtis? The "Dark Shadows" and "Winds of War" Dan Curtis? Really?

And Earl W. Wallace who, if I'm not mistaken, wrote "Witness," among other things.

And a story by Donald Westlake? That's when I fell out of my chair.

Wow. Just wow.

Yeah, 1979 on NBC was an amazing year.

Kevin Paul Shaw Broden said...

I remember watching Supertrain. I even have a vague memory of looking forward to it. But my memory is a a TV movie then a series. How long did it run after the pilot?

blogward said...

Wow - Dick Cheney doing a guest spot too.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Wow. Mr. Root just plain don't like black people.

Billy said...

I remember watching a couple of episodes of this because I was a fan of Ed Andrews. I remember that in one of the bumpers you could hear Mr Andrews as the conductor yelling out " 'Board" and thinking, "I sure am".

bevo said...

I vaguely remember this show being on the air as a kid. However, IIRC, it was one of those shows my father banned me from watching.

Two thoughts: One, 30 years later, and the old coot could still deliver the same speech about the state of passenger train service in this country. Is the president's fixation on high speed rail service a result from watching this pilot?

Two, the logic of the show is completely nonexistent. How big are these rooms and how could you generate any profit? Who would travel on a train where there was adventure every week? Atom powered train? Do you mean nuclear?

I am done braying like a jackass.

Jack Ruttan said...

I love 70s big budget Sci-fi-ish stuff. Not enough to watch it all the way through, but still, thanks!

That guy had quite a goatee at the opening.

Nat G said...

On the short-lived sitcom The Duck Factory, the writer character (played by Jay Tarses) wore a Supertrain crew jacket. Damn, I wanted that thing!

Rinaldo said...

I remember when this was about to debut: massive publicity on all sides, this is going to be next Big New Thing! Really! and then seeing it (I don't think I made it all the way through the pilot either) and the reaction, "Is that it?"

I love the lineup of Guest Passengers too, such a picture of the second- or third-string choices of the era. (No offense to hardworking pros, but Vickie Lawrence isn't going to make the blood race. And there's a whole subgenre of movies and pilots in that period that tried to convince themselves they'd scored big by signing Steve Lawrence as their dramatic lead.)

Actually the thing is reminds me of most is a movie called The Big Bus. It was about giving a new lease on life to a neglected mode of travel by created a new nuclear-powered version that could make the trip in record time while providing unique luxuries and comfort. Except that was a parody! (A very funny one; well worth seeing.) And it PRECEDED Supertrain by 3 years.

Kevin Paul Shaw Broden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Paul Shaw Broden said...

Yes, The Big Bus. I remember that one too. The antaganistis who wanted to destroy the bus was trapped in an Iron Lung I believe.

samuel.x.killer said...

hard to compete with donald westlake...

any thoughts on this year's pilots?

A. Buck Short said...

“Next stops: Greenwich, Darien, Manimal….” Sure it was spectacular, Ken, but as Silverman goes, still no “Pink Lady and Jeff.”

Thanks for pointing out Dick Cheney as the conductor -- uh wouldn’t that be “Water-board, for Stamford, Norwalk, and New Haven?”

I thought Steve Lawrence as Brandon Tartikoff trying to place an emergency phone call to Big Ed to hall his ass over to the corner office and Grant Tinker a reprieve was prescient. I know like Michael Douglas, Vicki Lawrence always wanted to work with her dad Steve, but this was literally the wrong vehicle. (Yes I know, but without the misinformation I got no bit. Actually just realized even with the misinformatino, I still got no bit.) Hey, “Love Boat” had Jack Jones singing the theme -- quick, Jack Jones is to Alan Jones as Love Boat is to Donkey Serenade, as Keenan Wynn is to Ed Wynn, as Alan Alda is to____. Shouldn’t this at least have had Edie Gorme singing “Blame it on the Boss ‘o Network?” I do, however, think Vicki and Don Stroud nailed it as Barbara Nichols and Reni Santoni. The line, “You think I want somebody to recognize me???” Priceless.

You knew an atom powered steam turbine was the state-of-the-art, when they unveil the train --- and it’s and oil painting. Incidentally it’s approximately 4,900 miles between NY and LA; at 36 hrs. that mean the train averaged about 136 mph. Hell, Lucy Liu was clocked at that in her hybrid, and Lindsay Lohan by the time she was 17. The bullet trains in France, Japan and China average between 150-200 mph. But of course they’re powered by something even more state of the art – electricity.

Charles Jurries said...

They spend a fortune making a luxury ride, complete with a swimming pool and large rooms with expensive furnishings, for a 36-hour trip? I'd rather spend that money on those amenities for the regular trek from New York to Calif., rather than a day and a half.

Anonymous said...

Who needs to attend the on board discotheque when disco is oozing out every second of this trainwreck?

A. Buck Short said...

OT but WTF. Yesterday's NYT -- Jack Kerouac freaked on fantasy baseball. Go figure. Well, at least two of us may be interested.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/16/books/16kero.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Dave Mackey said...

How the hell wide was that track? It couldn't have been the standard 4 feet, 8-1/2 inches.

What you didn't mention is that the OTHER NINE PARTS of that pilot are on YouTube, too. But one commenter mentioned that as the chapters dragged on from 1 to 10, the number of views went down.

Dan Curtis brought his favorite theme composer on board - Bob Cobert - and some of his disco-soaked cues in the pilot wound up as game show theme songs.

Roger Owen Green said...

According to Brooks & Marsh, Supertrain ran from February 7 to July 28, 1979. Pink Lady ran from March 1 to April 4, 1980.

Sean said...

Going through some old stuff at my parents I found where I had cut out some TV Guide ads for shows and Supertrain was in there along with the Ebersol "stacked deck" season of SNL. Good times...mediocre viewing. :)

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