A Very Formal Heist

Broadcast History
Episode Guide
Express To Terror
And A Cup Of Kindness, Too
The Queen And The Improbable Knight
Hail To The Chief
A Very Formal Heist
The Green Girl
Where Have You Been Billy Boy
Unproduced Episodes
Lost Episodes
Creative Team
Route Map
Building Supertrain
Grand Central Set
In Action
NBC in 1979
Fred Silverman
Side Tracked
Home Video
TV Guide Review
NBC Publicity
Publicity Stills Collection
Super Stuff
About The Author
Sources and Links

Episode Seven
A Very Formal Heist
Saturday April 14, 1979 8pm (Eastern)
Saturday July 14, 1979 10pm (Eastern)

Zsa Zsa Gabor
Lyle Waggoner
Special Guest Star
Peter Lawford
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 GraffPage 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.

TV Guide April 14-20, 1979

-TV Guide April 14-20, 1979 featured John S. Ragin and Jack Klugman of NBC's "Quincy"
TV Guide "A Very Formal Heist" Episode Synopsis:

Supertrain's newest crew members (Joey Aresco and Ilene Graff)
attempt to track down a jewel thief who has stolen a socialite's necklace.
"Very Formal" Competition:

ABC boasts an "All-Star Cast Launches A Special 2-Hour Love Cruise!" on "The Love Boat" that night, according to the network's TV Guide advertisment.  This double length voyage on "The Love Boat" had Edie Adams; Barbi Benton; David Birney; Norm Crosby; Laraine Day; Lola Falana; Audra Lindley; Dick Martin; Donna Mills; and Avery Schreiber as guests. 
CBS wasn't short of glitz this night either with its LIVE broadcast of "America's Junior Miss Pageant."