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In honor of actor Andy Garcia and his (unintentionally) hilarious reaction to Sofia (Mary Corleone) Coppola's death scene in "The Godfather, Part III."
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Posted 01-31-2010 at 09:01 PM by TommyJohn
Updated 02-13-2013 at 03:49 PM by TommyJohn

"Hello, Brandon!"

"Oh, hello Mr. Silverman. How are you today?"

I'm cheerful as hell, Brandon. Because I've done it! I have really, finally done it!!!"

"Done what, Mr. Silverman?"

"Whattaya mean, done what? Don't play dumb, you were in all the pitch meetings! I have found the answer to that god damn Love Boat, that is what I have done!"

"Oh, yeah, Mr. Silverman. Well, about that show, I need to talk to you about it."

"What's to talk about? We've got a hit on our hands! Believe me, Supertrain is the next big thing!"

"I don't think..."

"Can you see it, Brandon? We'll put it on Wednesday, up against Eight Is Enough. We'll recruit guest stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood! We'll have murder mysteries and love stories. All while riding on a luxury train! Now how can it miss?"

"well, sir, for one thing it is a luxury train that runs on a track twice as wide as a normal one, has a swimming pool, a discotheque, and a ballroom. Only the super rich can take this train, which takes you from coast to coast in 36 hours."

"Yeah, so what's wrong with that?"

"Well, Mr. Silverman, I just want to know why the super rich would bother to take a 36 hour train ride from coast to coast when a plane would get them there in five hours, tops?"

"Why.....why.....why.....you little worm!!! Supertrain is going to be big! Big, I tell you! Who the hell are you to question my instincts?"

"I am your friend and protege, Mr. Silverman."

"Bull****! You question me? I'm Fred Silverman!! I am The Man with the Golden Gut! I am responsible for All In the Family, M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore and Happy Days!"

"You are also responsible for Blansky's Beauties, The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, Mr. T and Tina and the post-M*A*S*H career of MacLean Stevenson."

"Insolent little punk! How dare you question me! Supertrain will top them all! Now get out of here! Get out! I've no room on my staff for young punks who don't say 'yes, sir' every time I fart! Get out!"

"You're in my office, Mr. Silverman."

"Fine, I'm leaving! Goodbye! I don't want to see you again! And after Supertrain is a big megahit and IF I am feeling magnanimous, maybe I will look in your direction again."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Silverman. You're still my friend and mentor."

OK, so perhaps the above conversation never took place. But there are nuggets of fact in there: Fred Silverman, Director of Programming for NBC, heard the pitch for Supertrain and was convinced it would be a huge hit, NBC's answer to ABC's megahit Love Boat. Supertrain as conceived by producer Dan Curtis would have the above-mentioned disco, pool and ballroom, run on an extra-wide track, (not two tracks as I previously wrote) be nuclear-powered, and have intrigue and Love Boat-style plots every week. Everyone loved the idea except Brandon Tartikoff, who wondered why the super rich would take a train from coast to coast when it was much quicker to fly.

The show as it turned out was awful, according to Hofstede-small, cramped rooms, a sterile train station and characters that had little-to-nothing to do. The scripts featured plots that were a far cry from the cheesiness of Love Boat-they were direct ripoffs of classic films such as The Lady Vanishes and Strangers On A Train. Supertrain was on for a few weeks, then closed down for repairs. The re-tooled Uber Choo-Choo came back on Saturday; NBC scheduling it after Love Boat in hopes of pulling away viewers who wanted to switch to dry land. Didn't work-viewers stuck with Mr. Roarke, Tattoo, and the lovely, hip-shaking hula girls who inhabited Fantasy Island. Tattoo continued to hail the arrival of "de plane, de plane" while de train, de train motored its way into oblivion. Fred Silverman was so traumatized by its failure that, according to the book, he refused to go into the office where he first heard it pitched-the wall paneling was stripped and the conference table had to be replaced.

Perhaps Supertrain's biggest problem was that it took its concept too seriously. Silverman should have taken his cue from The Big Bus, a movie from the mid 70's featuring passengers going from New York to Denver on a large, nuclear-powered bus that was half the size of a football field. It also had a swimming pool and a bowling alley. The difference? The Big Bus played its premise strictly for laughs-it was a comic parody of 70s disaster films. Maybe Supertrain would have worked as a comedy. Maybe not. I'm just an internet idiot second-guessing after the fact.

Postscript: Hofstede goes on to say that Supertrain was a huge hit in France. "Feel free to insert your own Jerry Lewis joke here." OK. Is it me, or does everything that bombs in the United States become a big hit in France? Is there a knee-jerk mentality that says if Americans hate it or think that it flat out sucks, then it must be good and have some artistic merit? That must be it. Battlefield Earth was a hit there, too. I guess it would also explain all the awards that they have conferred onto Jerry Lewis.

There. Hope it was a good one.
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