Season 2-5.5b: Joel on Comedy Central – Part 2
To kick off season 4 the Brains selected their only Academy Award winning feature. Premiering on 6/6/92 Space Tavelers (401) was a repackaged version of Marooned, which had won the 1969 Oscar for special effects. Patrick Brantseg was now one of the interns for the show. Born in Sisseton, SD, Patrick had attended the University of Minnesota where he studied art. This background would assist him when he became Jef Maynards prop assistant later in the season for Crash of the Moons (417).
Later in June 92 Mary Jo Pehl joined the writing staff. It was for Teenagers From Outer Space (404). A native of Circle Pines, MN, Mary Jo had tried nursing and had worked for the Norell Temporary Agency before deciding on her eventual career. Even after being selected Temp of the Month in March 1990 she took the leap into stand-up full time. She had actually been performing stand-up since 1987 before joining Best Brains.
Another strange addition to the show was a title slate that appeared for a few seconds at the beginning of most episodes starting with 404. A voice over gave the title and stated that this was reel one. These short intros would be used all the way up to episode 519.
From 6/29-7/3/92 Tom and Crow hosted Toon Town 29. Then on 7/4/92 Joel and the Bots hosted a 4th of July Weenie Roast on Comedy Central.
Joel and Mike appeared on the Sunday Weekend Edition NPR broadcast on 7/12/92 hosted by Lee Anne Hansen. The spot was taped during the writing of Attack of the Giant Leeches (406) and was then aired the week that episode was shown.
At midnight on Friday 7/10/92 MST Alive! Was presented at the Uptown Theatre in Minneapolis. There was also a Saturday matinee at 11:30 AM the next day. The shows were hosted by Dr. Forrester and TVs Frank and included a live MSTing of the 1955 Cinemascope classic World Without End. The breaks were filled with sing-a-longs of The Godzilla Genealogy Bop, Tibby Oh Tibby and A Patrick Swayze Christmas. The show ended with a performance of Lou Reeds Satellite of Love with appropriate changes to the lyrics. After introducing the cast there was a question and answer session and a photo opportunity.
Rumor has it that the Brains had done ten complete run throughs of the show in preparation, but there was a lot at stake. First, it would help prove if it worked well in front of a theater audience, but also if it was successful discussions were already in the works for a tour. After all, the fan club had just reached 15,000 and the shows popularity continued to grow.
Movies were still considered very easy to come by. Many filmmakers still agreed that this could be the only chance for any one to see their work and maybe to make a little money off them. This opinion would change soon and movie rights would start getting tougher to get and to hold.
In July 92 a book entitled If At All Possible Involve A Cow by Neil Steinberg was published. It recounted the history of great college pranks and included an entire chapter to Jim Mallons exploits at the University of Wisconsin. The cover even featured a picture of the flamingoes covering Bascom Hill.
September 26-27, 1992 found the Brains in Colorado at their first convention appearance. Joel, Jim, Kevin and Trace spent two days attending the Denver StarCon 92 and had lengthy question and answer sessions where they rewarded some fans with dollar bills. They brought along some early tapes, including the pilot, to show the audience. While all appeared to be fun and frivolous there were already rumors circulating of Joel getting restless.
The Holiday Issue 4.2 of The Satellite News was mailed out in October 92.
On 10/31/92 there was a special 6 PM showing of The Unearthly as part of Comedy Centrals Howl-A-Thon.
The documentary footage shot at the BBI Studio by Comedy Central back in the Fall of 1991 finally made it on the air when it was included as part of the first special dedicated entirely to the show, This Is MST3K, which premiered on 11/14/92 at 11 PM. Comedy Central began the evening by showing This Is Spinal Tap followed by a ten minute countdown to the MST special. Hosted by the ubiquitous Penn Jillette and featuring testimonials from noted personalities and fans such as Entertainment Weekly writer Ben Svetkey, Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales and of course TVs Doogie Howser, Neil Patrick Harris. Even though the special presented some rarely seen film and behind the scenes footage it was generally considered a fairly inept attempt to describe the MST mystique.
On November 21st at the Orycon convention in Portland, OR a Seattle film maker named Ryan K. Johnson presented his own version of an MST episode taking on Star Trek V. Johnson had previously been involved with the acclaimed Star Trek: The Pepsi Generation.
The second MST3K Turkey Day began at 6 PM Wednesday, 11/25/92 with the premiere of The Beatniks (415). BBI made between show bumpers again this year that now featured Dr. Forrester force feeding an entire turkey to Frank for each episode aired during the 30-hour marathon. There were a whole new set of short promos aired throughout the day featuring Joel and the bots. The marathon wrapped up at 10 PM 11/26/92 with the premiere of Fire Maidens From Outer Space (416) followed by a repeat of This Is MST3K at midnight.
Over Thanksgiving weekend (Nov 27-29) Frank attended the Visions 92 sci-fi convention held in Rosemont, IL, a suburb of Chicago. The 3rd annual convention was held at the Ramada OHare and was highlighted, for MST fans any way, by a panel discussion including Frank and Red Dwarf stars Robert Lewellyn and Craig Charles. Frank also performed at a live variety show.
1992 ended on a high note when MST faired very well in Entertainment Weeklys Rate The Critics article. The fan club had reached 20,000 and merchandise was selling rapidly, epsecially a new black cotton tee with a puffy, white planet logo. A computer-based game company, book publishers and record executives had even contacted best Brains. Things were looking brighter every day.
Cave Dwellers (301) was shown on the Lifetime network on 1/16/93 as part of a CableACE Awards weekend. Even though MST lost the CableACE for Best Writing in a Comedy Series on 1/17/93 season 4 was coming to a strong finish. The Day the Earth Froze (422) included the mysterious sampo and The Bride of the Monster (423) was another Ed Wood/ Bela Lugosi tour de force. Finally on 1/30/93 Manos: The Hands of Fate (424) closed the season by introducing us to Torgo, the man-goat caretaker of the Masters summer cottage.
It even helped make up for the increasing aggravation over the seemingly mindless meddling by Comedy Central, especially the annoying voice overs of Penn Jillette that had begun in the fall of 1992 and that even obscured some of the jokes and antics that sometimes continued throughout the closing credits.
And then, as the show seemed to be reaching new heights, the bomb that many feared was dropped. On 5/11/93 Comedy Central issued a press release announcing that Joel was stepping down as the on screen host of MST3K. Joel had been thinking about this for quite a while and in fact never really felt comfortable in front of the camera. In Joels own words: "Its time for me to hang up my red jumpsuit and move behind the camera." As for being replaced by head writer and frequent guest star Mike Nelson Joel tried to ease fans fears by informing us that "I have to admit, the man looks good standing next to puppets."
Issue 5.1 of The Satellite News came out in May 93 and confirmed that Joel was moving on.
It was originally announced that Joel would continue to write and direct for the show. After completing filming his final episode in June 93, however, Joel immediately went on extended hiatus and began working as a consultant for the ill-fated Paula Poundstone Show, a "hip" talk show which debuted 10/30/93 on ABC then was cancelled after only two episodes.
Josh Weinstein officially changed his professional name to J. Elvis Weinstein in 1993 to stop the confusion between himself and another Josh Weinstein who was a writer for The Simpsons.
The show received a nice tribute when the band Man or Astroman? released their version of the MST3K Love Theme on a 7" single on Estrus Records called Amazing Thrills in 3-D.
On 7/6/93 Comedy Central added season 2-4 reruns Monday through Thursday. The schedule was now Monday through Friday at midnight and 2 AM, Saturday at 7 PM and Sunday at 10 AM. Also, in July Comedy Central finally listened to MSTies and stopped doing voice-overs. Of course this was personally announced by Penn Jillette during a voice over where he specifically mentioned a letter by on-line regular Jonathan "El Mystico" Whitney.
In a strange scheduling decision, Comedy Central aired the second season 5 episode first on 7/17/93. The episode was Hercules (502) and featured Mary Jo Pehls on screen debut as an Amazon Mom who visited the Satellite of Love along with Bridget Jones. Warrior of the Lost World (501), starring the Paper Chase Guy, aired 7/24/93. The closing credits informed us that Patrick Brantseg had been promoted to Utility Infielder, implying that his duties now covered a little bit of everything.
When discussing plans for this years Turkey Day bumpers Comedy Central made an insultingly low offer which was rejected by BBI. They would have to look elsewhere for Thanksgiving Day hosts. To begin the process Comedy Central announced a Pick the Wisecrack Contest in the early Fall. Viewers were asked to decide the correct response to a small clip from The Magic Voyage of Sinbad (505). The line was "You seem so gloomy" and the possible responses were:
- Who knew the grail wasnt dishwasher safe?
- Is it codpiece burn?
- Here, have some Prozac. (The correct answer)
The winner would get $5,000, a big screen TV and appear on the Thanksgiving Day marathon.
On a more positive note at BBI, negotiations began with Universal Pictures for making the MST movie that had been discussed for a few years. On 8/13/93 cartoonist Bill Holbrook included some familiar characters in his On The Fastrack strip.
Also in 1993 Bill Nye the Science Guy aired episode #75 on Invertebrates. During the show his own show was riffed by some invertebrate pals.
In order to gauge the reaction to the transitional episode between Joel and Mike the Brains went on a tour of colleges from October 6-22, 1993. They would show Mitchell (512) to the audience and then have a question and answer session. Jim, Kevin, Mike, Trace, Frank and Jef were filmed 10/19/93 during a stop at the University of Wisconsin. Other stops included Ohio State, Memphis State, Iowa, North Carolina State, Maryland, UCLA and University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
To help promote the upcoming show Best Brains prepared a number of short promos like they had done in previous years. The promos continued for nearly every episode after Mike took the helm.
Finally on 10/23/93 the Joe Don Baker epic Mitchell (512) aired on Comedy Central. In a scene reminiscent of HAL9000 eaves dropping on the 2001 astronauts, Gypsy overhears Dr. Forrester and Frank discussing plans to kill their new bejumpsuited fool from Happy Temps, one Mike Nelson. She mistakenly thinks they are referring to her beloved Joel and begins planning his escape. At the last moment Gypsy knocks Joel in an escape pod in Dock 14 called the Deus Ex Machina that was hidden in a box of hamdingers. Joels parting words, expressed on a plaque, are taken directly from the 1964 George Pal film The 7 faces of Dr. Lao starring Tony Randall (as all 7 faces). In order to continue their experiments the Mads reconsider killing Mike and instead conk him on the noggin and shoot him into space to replace Joel, there by ending one era of MST3K and beginning another.