What happened?

This is a post from a Brit. In 1980 this show was - briefly - notorious because the BBC bought it from NBC for a pot of money before it was broadcast in the US. When it turned into the flop of all time the 'Beeb' was left with a lot of questions to answer because it is funded by taxation; in the UK we pay for a 'licence' to have a TV in the house, even if we only watch DVD's or cable channels. A lot of taxpayers' money went down the toilet. I never heard why it failed so badly, after all 'Love Boat' ran for 10 years.

In 1984 or 1985 the pilot was shown on the rival Independent TV network. I watched out of curiosity but now don't remember a great deal, except Keenan Wynn was dying and committed his company to building the Supertrain knowing he wouldn't live to service the cost, and there was a manic looking engineer who seemed to think he was driving trans-continental in about 1875. Oh yeah, and the bad guy came crashing through the observation car window when he tried to escape by climbing on to the outside of the fastest train in the world.

Hmm, maybe I just answered my own question...


Just wanted to mention that I enjoyed reading your posting! I liked your punchline at the end! Very clever!


I remember seeing this turkey when it was first broadcast(I was 17) and after the first 2 episodes I gave up on it because it was so awful. After looking at the list of stars that were on this show, it reminds me of another show that was hyped as the next big thing. Sadly, when "fish police" finely got on the air, it was so awful it only lasted 3 episodes. It too had a huge list of big name talent, but it was so bad, the cast could'nt save it. In both cases, I have to think the only thing to say about shows like this is the saying we used at the car dealership where I worked which said---- If you put earrings and make-up on a pig you still have a pig. In other words, even if you cast great names, they can't always save a bad concept, the same as cleaning a junk car is a wasted effort.


...but I can usually tell when a
show turns into a lemon or is one
already. there are certain TV shows
I watch and when they are over, they
have gone into my subconscious mind
without stopping first at Brain Central.
I watched one episode of 'Supertrain'
and found myself totally unable to
remember anything about the show when
it ended and the closing credits began
to roll. I never had this problem with
CHiPS, BJ & The Bear or any number of
series around at that time. When a
series left me feeling like I'd
seen nothing memorable about itself
during the viewing, it meant that the
show was a sure flop and a lot of 'em
ended up just like that. They gave me
nothing because they were nothing.


In the industry, "Supertrain" is almost a byword now for overproduced, expensive, misconceived TV shows. I remember watching this show and even as a kid thinking that it was very poorly written and poorly paced. I remember one episode tried to push Dick Van Dyke as a psycho killer! "Supertrain" was one of the symptoms of how NBC has lost its way in the late 70s and early 80s, and it took Cosby and Cheers to get things back on track again...

Autobiography in six words: "Baby, you ain't seen nothin' yet!"


Supertrain was NBC's answer to Love Boat..... and it was horrible.


"Supertrain was NBC's answer to Love Boat." Who was asking?


Love Boat [pardon the pun] floated to the top of ratings because nothing else was there to rival it on Saturday nights. Supertrain as NBC's self-rescue seemed to be a show thought-up by committee of executives rather than creative talents. Someone researched Love Boat and assumed they could throw together a platform based on revolving famous named stars around a platform of supporting casts. A major drawback to the show's success was the really dismal state of passenger service in USA and dominance of airlines. It took tremendous stretch of imagination to believe a "super-train" full of restaurants and whatever (which could fit onto a floating ship would glide at jetliner speeds) over a rail system which was in reality sending several major railroading companies into bankruptcy and dumping passenger and freight service into nationalization.



I vaguely remember the Dick Van Dyke thing. Just a fuzzy memory of not being able to look at him and take it seriously. So that's two memories I have of the show. I have no idea why this stuck in my head, but I remember an appearance by Skip Stevenson from Real People. He played a waiter who brought something to someone's room. One of his lines was, "I'm only a waiter to pay the bills. I'm a comedian." And the response was, "Not so far."


To be fair, Van Dyke made a very GOOD murderer a few years earlier in Columbo's "Negative Reaction"...


I never watched this show, but I remember it. What I recall most was it was being sold on Robert Alda being the train's doctor, as he was the real life father of Alan Alda on MASH, which was big back then.

I'm astonished to see who appeared on here and am trying to figure out what was going on.

At best, it seems like, as someone else said, a cross between The Big Bus and Love boat.

Edward Andrews, who played the conductor-engineer? was best known for bumbling comedic roles, so your train isn't in good hands with him at the helm.

Two other castmembers were better known for portraying incompetents, so again, what is that saying about your train? I do get the idea it wanted to be a satire of sorts, but unless the train wrecked every week, it isn't going to be parodying anything.

And the gym? Again, this looks like Big Bus, but it was an amusing sight gag to see the bowling alley and the swimming pool on the bus (tho I thought the pool scene was cool) but nothing seems to be coming from the gym on the Supertrain.

And in watching the opening scenes, I couldn't help but notice two people . . . . wiping the windshields. You want to offer up everything about your program being complex and futuristic and intelligent, you don't focus on clean windshields!

This reminded me of the scene out of the old tv show Lost In Space, when we see Maureen and Judy wiping down those tubes they were in suspended animation in.

You're on another planet, your not worried about clean tubes!

You got a fast train, you need to be showing other things behind the train being so fast and efficient besides clean windshields!

It all just went full-circle for me.

And as others have noted, Dick Van Dyke as a killer. Again, this sounds like a parody. Don't know if it was done seriously or as dark humor, but again, it seems like the show didn't know what direction it was going in.

Hence why it never worked.