Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Knockoffs: Supertrain

August 3rd, 2012 · 7 Comments


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.

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7 Comments so far ↓

  • scottstev

    My favorite was Street Hawk, a “Knight Rider” knockoff that involved some indestructible motorcyle fighting crime and whatnot. Not sure if it lasted a full season.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @scottstev: Seems to have lasted four episodes longer than Supertrain. I guess America wasn’t ready to accept Rex Smith as the poor man’s Hasselhoff.

  • Ian Carey

    It’s way too soon for camp value, but during the Olympics NBC has been running ads for its new “everything you love about ‘The Hunger Games’ but the name” show, “Revolution.” As my wife corrected me, “No, see, in ‘The Hunger Games’, she has a regular bow, and this girl has a CROSSbow.”

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Ian Carey: Makes sense, since crossbows are the double-necked guitars of archery. All knockoffs have to amp things up.

  • Gramsci

    How about “The Renegades,” one of Patrick Swayze’s earliest vehicles and, I would submit, a knockoff of “Warriors” drizzled with a Village People reduction.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Gramsci: Oh my. I had to look that one up–AMAZING credits sequence. Kurtwood “Bitches leave!” Smith as the tough cop? A young and vivcious Tracy Scoggins in a satin jacket? This better be on Netflix, or else.

  • Gramsci

    Wow, a childhood memory brought back to life. I didn’t even bother looking it up on YouTube– thanks(?) for that. Yes, Kurtwood “You know how to fly, Bobby?” Smith laying in the cut. And Robert Thaler’s hair– oof. This must have been third or fourth grade, but I remember competing with my friends (two black, two white) over who would be “Dragon,” which I guess was a nice sign of racial amity for the early 80’s. And a terrible surrender to TV on the part of our parents.

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