A Very Formal Heist
Saturday April 14, 1979 8pm (Eastern)
Saturday July 14, 1979 10pm (Eastern)
Special Guest Star
and Abe Vigoda
Story by Brad Radnitz, Robert
Stambler, Jeff Wilhelm
Teleplay by Jeff Wilhelm
Directed by Dennis Donnelly
The "A Very Formal Heist"
episode features the revamped color-tinted opening credit sequence first seen on the previous "Pirouette" episode of the series.
This episode introduces Joey Aresco as Wayne Randall and Ilene Graff as Penny Whitaker and
marks the first time their names appear in the series' opening credits. A bit of an argument for the possibility of
lost or unaired "Supertrain" episodes may be found in a scene in this run of the show. The episode opens with Joey
Aresco practicing his introduction to Edward Andrews' character Harry Flood in his mirror.
Harrison Page arrives and escorts Aresco to Flood's office. On their way there, Page
and Aresco pass Ilene Graff. Page introduces Aresco's
Randall character to Graff's Penny, so we are to assume they've obviously never met. Page
goes on to provide some details about Penny and it appears that they've worked together on Supertrain before. Further
Penny makes a joking comment about Harry Flood (Edward Andrews) having the mumps. The comment is made
in a way that clearly suggests Penny is quite familiar with Harry Flood, again making her character seem something less than
brand new like Aresco's Wayne Randall. So, is there another episode that introduced Penny Whitaker (Ilene Graff)?
We may never know. And it all could simply be nothing more than sloppy scripting.
A nice collection, though somewhat tired and/or
over-the-hill in caliber, group of stars are on "Supertrain" for this episode. A rather plump Zsa
Zsa Gabor is the hostess of a society charity benefit being held during the course of the trip. Gabor
is accompanied by Peter Lawford in one of his final appearances before his death in 1984. Lawford
at the time had just finished a minor gig on NBC as the narrator of the short-lived series "Highcliffe Manor."
Former regular from CBS' "The Carol Burnett Show" Lyle Waggoner is on hand. Lyle
would have been appearing on CBS' "Wonder Woman" at this time. Abe Vigoda at this
time would have recent ended his run on the "Barney Miller" spin-off "Fish" on ABC-TV.
The episode's main plot concerns the theft of Zsa Zsa Gabor's
diamond necklace and the crew's attempts to find the thef and recover the item as the train rolls from New York to California.
Additionally, a pair of subplots are included in this seventh episode. Edward Andrews' character Harry
Flood is introduced to new crew member Wayne Randall (Joey Aresco) and then Flood spends the remainder of
the trip in the Supertrain hospital under the supervision of Robert Alda's doctor character due to a case
of the mumps. One wonders if a contagious disease breaking on Supertrain might not cause a bit of a health concern,
but it goes largely ignored in favor of the bikini charity auction event.
The other difficulty on board this trip involves engine trouble.
Here those plotting this episode truly outdid themselves. Remember that Supertrain is nuclear powered, so the engine's
blown-out valve might constitue a moving Chernobyl-like disaster. In this case though the trouble is easily fixed by
a trip to the engine's basement by Passenger Operations and new crew member Wayne Randall (Joey Aresco).
That's right, I did say Supertrain's basement. We've been shown that Supertrain's engine is a single-level
vehicle coupled to its set of bi-level passenger cars. In previous episodes, the control area has been displayed to
viewers and obviously is housed inside that single-level engine at the head of the consist. When valve trouble breaks
out, suddenly the engineer radios for help. If anybody aboard Supertrain is likely qualified to do service work,
it would make sense that they'd be among the handful of engineering people found in the Supertrain engine, right? After
a quick removal of some carpeting in the engine, we're shown a trapdoor leading down to the basement engine area. Again,
how could the single-level engine possibly have a basement? Running a close second to Supertrain's incredulous
basement is the fact that it is Joey Aresco and Harrison Page's characters that are found
doing the repair work on the nuclear engine! So, the audience is apparently suppose to assume that Harrison
Page's George Boone is Supertrain's porter and passenger relations person and does nuclear engineering work on the
side or maybe it's just a hobby-thing for him??? Even for network television of the late '70s, these situations
defy logic and require a super amount of suspension of disbelief to get through this episode.
By the journey's end, Harry as survived his case of the mumps
and the engine was repaired and the crew even caught the criminal. All in a day's work aboard Supertrain.