Granted, I haven’t always been great about keeping up with Microkhan series dedicated to pop culture—both Bad Movie Friday and The Ponchos have fallen by the wayside over the years. But that isn’t going to stop me from launching a whole new series, one dedicated to craven acts of imitation which reveal the cynicism behind much of the entertainment products we consume. I’m gonna call it Knockoffs.
The series’ inaugural subject, NBC’s laughably terrible Supertrain, is a perfect way to kick things off. Like all future Knockoff “honorees,” its concept is obviously copped from an earlier hit—in this case, ABC’s The Love Boat. It takes little imagination to envision the executive meeting at which Supertrain was conceived—men in suits sat around a table and thought, “Okay, let’s do Love Boat, but on some other means of transport. A truck? A dirigible?”
As you might imagine, Supertrain was not long for this world, despite its awesome title-sequence music. After a few weeks of poor ratings, NBC fired much of the production staff, blaming them for failing to give the show a “mystery-adventure” feel. The axed executive producer, Dan Curtis, volleyed back with this nice rejoinder:
You want a light, bright show with mystery and comedy and sophisticated humor and suspense? And you want it once a week? Good luck!
Once the whole Three Mile Island situation went down, there was just no saving Supertrain, which was canceled after just nine episodes. People turned rather sour on the fantasy of having an atomic-powered train roaming the country.
Ideas for Knockoffs? Leave ‘em in comments, please. I’m looking for movies, TV shows, books, or other pop-culture artifacts in which imitation was motivated not by a sincere desire to flatter, but rather base cynicism about the profits to be made.