Hour-long comedy-drama series which debuted as a Midseason Replacement in 1979 on NBC. An attempt at emulating ABC's success with The Love Boat, Supertrain was essentially the same show with the Pacific Princess swapped out for the titular "Supertrain", a super-broad gauge, nuclear-powered bullet train that could cross the United States from coast to coast in 36 hours.
The show was an abject disaster for NBC, who had produced the series by itself (initially with Dan Curtis in charge) and spared no expense in building both the elaborate sets and the complex, fragile model trains (one of which crashed during production and had to be replaced at great cost). Worse yet, once the series premiered, viewers simply weren't interested; attempts to retool the series by adding more suspense elements failed, and the series left the air in July 1979 after just five months and nine episodes.
It's often been named the biggest flop in US television history, not just because of the derivative content but because it (combined with the US boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics) came so close to taking NBC down with it. It's never been released to syndication or home video, and this is unlikely to change anytime soon.
This show provides examples of:
- The '70s: The WHAT-ies? We can't hear you over the Disco Funk!
- Bigger on the Inside: Fairly obviously, and noted by several reviewers.
- Camp Gay: The train's hairstylist, right down to the hairdryer belt holsters.
- Cool Train: The main reason for the show's huge budget.
- Gratuitous Disco Sequence: The original intro showed a dance floor that clearly took its cues from Saturday Night Fever.
- Just Train Wrong: For starters, it was a broad-gauge rail that went for three thousand miles, it was Bigger on the Inside by a long shot, and despite being billed as a bullet train, a quick calculation puts its speed as less than 80 MPH. That's just the tip of the iceberg...
- As noted by The Other Wiki, the so-called "Supertrain" was much slower than the affordably-priced Amtrak Acela Express, French TGV and Japanese Shinkansen bullet trains.
- Furthermore, an onboard nuclear reactor is alarmingly dangerous (as Charles Stross once put it, "nothing makes a locomotive boiler explosion worse like adding reactor-grade uranium to the problem") and also ultimately rather pointless when you could just power the thing with a stationary power plant using overhead electrification.
- Pilot Movie: The very first episode was 2 hours long.
- Pre Cap: As appropriate for its era. Had the benefit of showcasing the numerous celebrity guest stars for each episode.
- Recycled In Space: It's The Love Boat on train tracks!
- Recycled Soundtrack: NBC would reuse a music cue for the Game Show Chain Reaction.
- "Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder: One episode featured a literal "Strangers on a Train" plot with Dick Van Dyke as the psycho who suggests a murder swap with another passenger.
- Take That!: Countering the page quote:
- Thriller on the Express: According to the poster in the page image.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: Supertrain had a top speed of 250 mph and cruised at 190 mph, but took 36 hours to cross the United States. As mentioned under Just Train Wrong, that meant Supertrain would have to move at less than 80 mph. Of course, a train that large would take so long to accelerate and decelerate that its average speed would probably be a lot lower if it stopped at any intermediate cities between New York and Los Angeles... which doesn't make any more sense, because that completely negates the whole point of building a High Speed Rail line from coast to coast in the first place.