Season 8-10b: Mike on the Sci Fi Channel – Part 2
The SFC show Sci-Fi Buzz celebrated their 200th episode on 1/4/98 and invited Mike and the bots over for cake.
MST fans overseas finally got to see the show on SFC-Europe beginning 1/11/98 with the premiere of the Making of MST3K followed by 801 and 802. The shows would be picked up in South Africa as well.
A show called Lets Bowl debuted on KLGT-TV23 in Minneapolis on Sunday, 2/1/98 at 12:30 PM. Former MST3K editor, and Miracle Growth Baby, Tim Scott produced the show.
On 2/17/98 Rhino released Manos: the Hands of Fate and The Gunslinger on home video. They would offer the episodes in a 3-pack along with the Poopie tape previously released directly by BBI in 1995.
The February 1998 issue of Sony Playstation Underground, Vol. 2, No 1 included a game disk that featured Mike, Tom and Crow in a one minute host segment, six minutes of riffing on actual Playstation videos and some behind the scenes shots over the credits.
To help promote the new season the MST cast participated in a SFC publicity tour when they appeared 3/10/98 at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York City. Mike, Mary Jo, Kevin, Paul and Patrick all attended. They showed a preview of the upcoming Oscar special and clips from 903 and 904. During a question and answer period they divulged some upcoming merchandise, including a model kit, lithograph, greeting cards and action figures. They also announced the first MST3K comic book would be released by Acclaim Comics and would feature Mike and the bots riffing on classic Gold Key Comics.
The Projected Man (901) kicked off season 9 on 3/14/98. We find Mike and the crew circling present day earth while Pearl, Bobo and Brain Guy are moving into the Forrester ancestral castle. The episode also featured a strange echo chamber effect during all the theater segments. Although BBI said it was an intentional experiment, and some MSTies claimed to like it, no other episodes were recorded this way and eventually 901 would air with the sound corrected on 8/1/98.
At 7:30 PM on 3/19/98 MST3Ks Academy of Robots Choice Awards Special premiered. The SOL crew again took on the Oscar nominees, including that years epic, Titanic.
Throughout March Mike, Mary Jo, Kevin and Bill had been recording a Kurtis Roth radio play called Herd Mentality for the Sci-Fi Dominions Seeing Ear Theatre. Part 1debuted on 3/30/98 and introduced us to a story about cows and aliens set in 1872 Roswell, NM. Part 2 would be presented starting 4/13/98.
We learned on 4/10/98 that the recently announced MST3K comic book was being canceled due to cutbacks in staff and published titles at Acclaim Comics.
There was a Real Audio interview with Mike and Kevin posted on Entertainment Weeklys website on 4/13/98. On 4/18/98 an film by MST alumnus Wendell Jon Andersson had it's debut at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival. The movie starred Marissa Ryan and featured cameos by Trace (as Rich) and Beez (as a record store customer).
The official announcement of an upcoming MST3K model kit came on 4/22/98. The limited edition, hand-cast resin kit would be created by the Janus Company and would be a 1/8th scale model of Mike and the bots on the bridge of the Satellite of Love. Mike was being sculpted by Jeff Yagher while the base and robots would be by Tom Seiler. Gary Glover would be preparing the package design artwork.
MSTies were disappointed to learn on 4/30/98 that the SFC would not be picking up the back 9 episodes for season 9. Things seemed to be moving along so well that it was a surprise when the additional shows weren't purchased. At that time the SFC stated they wanted BBI to develop other shows.
Some other events of this time were Mikes interview in the April/ May 98 issue of the Oregon Voice and Julie Walker joined the Babylon Five fan club staff on 5/14/98.
The Satellite News got a new look in May 98. The familiar orange planet and green borders were replaced by blue borders and, eventually, a rotating planet logo.
On 5/27/98 MST3K: TM hit the stores in DVD format. The Image Entertainment release was in wonderful wide screen, but did not include the deleted scenes or other DVD features.
The SFC announced in June 98 that they had ordered 13 episodes for season 10 with an option for 9 more, thereby assuring MST3K would achieve 10 official broadcast seasons on commercial television, a milestone not reached by many shows. (BBI does not generally include the KTMA season.)
On 7/6/98 Trace announced he was working on another comic called Middleton, USA for a company called 137 Inc.
Gorgo (909) aired on 7/18/98 and included the second guest star to appear in an episode. (Remember Robert Smith was in 805). Famed film critic Leonard Maltin appeared as himself and helped Pearl decide the film for that weeks episode.
MSTies took note when MST supporter Barry Schulman resigned as vice-president of programming for the SFC. He would be replaced on 7/28/98 by the USA Networks Bonnie Hammer who quickly made it clear she had her own ideas about programming.
Rhino was continuing to release videos. On 7/21/98 they put out Angels Revenge, Shorts and a 3-pack that included a pair of designer boxers. In August Rhino opened their MST3K web page where fans and collectors could get news about upcoming releases.
Mary Jo performed in another radio play for Seeing Ear Theatre called The First (and Last) Musical on Mars. Part 1 premiered on 7/17/98 followed by part 2 on 7/24.
Penn & Teller's Sin City Spectacular debuted 8/10/98 on FX. The magic and variety show had been taped in June and July 98 at the Luxor Theatre in Las Vegas. Joel had helped with props and effects.
Another BBI produced special aired at 11:30 AM and 6 PM on 9/4/98. The Second Annual Mystery Science Theater 3000 Summer Blockbuster Review had lots of prime movies to roast including Armageddon, Saving Private Ryan and "Goshzilla".
On 9/16/98 BBI posted in the Satellite News that they had run short of tupperware floraliers and offered a signed poster to MSTies who would send them one. Within a month they had enough to last for years, if necessary.
Joel had continued to keep his eye on the comedy scene and even had a one week engagement at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, CA from 9/21-27.
Also in September Rhino decided to release the Poopie tape separately from the 3-pack it had originally sold starting in February 98.
When 9/26/98 rolled around it was time for the last episode of season 9. Quest for the Delta Knights (913) presented a lovely madrigal chorus by multiple Tom Servos and the final scene included 22 extras, the most of any episode. The pancake breakfast segment included many friends and family members of the BBI staff.
Word came out on 10/2/98 that there would be no Thanksgiving Day marathon this year. Fans were beginning to take notice of a new, yet eerily familiar, lack of attention being paid to the show by the SFC. There was some very good news, however, when it was announced that Joel and Frank would have some part in the first episode of season 10.
The 10/16/98 issue of Entertainment Weekly included the Galaxys Top 100 Sci-Fi movies. Not only did MST3K: TM come in at #67, but the BBI writing staff got to list their own top ten worst sci-fi- movies of all time.
The SFC Dominion hosted Sci-Fi.Con 3.0, an on-line convention, Halloween weekend 10/30-11/1. The Satellite News posted their Almost But Not Quite Complete History of MST3K and Shorts and Manos were available using Real Player throughout the con. There was a Satellite News chat 10/30, a Caption This Challenge of Puppetmaster 3 on 10/31 that received 1500 entries (and was won by someone named nastinkers) and a live IRC chat with Kevin on 11/1. A SFC sponsored charity auction ended 11/3 that included a signed nanite and SFC cast poster.
nastinkers: Draw! No, wait, I'm clay!
In early November Moore Creations announced they would have Tom and Crow figures available early in 1999. There was some delay in their release because they forgot to get BBIs final approval.
Mike and Kevin were the media guests of honor at Exoticon One held near New Orleans, LA 11/20-22/98. Staged at the Airport Radisson Hotel in Kenner, LA, Mike and Kevin drew funny if not-too-flattering caricatures during a question and answer session. Then after signing some autographs they went upstairs to the New Orleans Worst Film Festival (NOWFF).
11/24/98 marked the 10th anniversary of MST3ks original debut on KTMA. Most fans acknowledge this as the shows true birth date.
Casey Silver, who had been instrumental in helping get MST3K: TM into theaters, resigned as Universal Pictures chief on 11/30/98. Recent poor performance at the box office lead to his demise.
Variety noted on 10/21/98 that Joel was in discussing with UPN to develop some new ideas for shows, but no details were given.
As the year ended fans were becoming nervous about the shows future. They were glad to hear about Joel and Franks upcoming appearance, but it already had the feeling of a swan song. There was virtually no promotion for the show any more and it was already announced that the shows hours would be changed to 11AM Saturday and 11PM Sunday starting 1/2/99 as part of a "shake up" at the SFC. It sounded all too familiar. On 12/31/98 the Satellite News suggested it wasnt too early to start contacting the SFC supporting the show.
1999 began quietly. There was word that cameraman Jeff Stonehouse had filmed the music video for Run DMCs My Funny Valentine, which even included MSTs prop dive Beth "Beez" McKeever in a small role. There was also a contest from the SFC on-line store to win a free Dave Dorman MST3K lithograph.
On 2/24/99 MSTies greatest fears came true when a press release was posted that the SFC had canceled MST3K after its 10th season. Also disconcerting was that, unlike in the past, there was no immediate direction from Best Brains. Dumb struck fans were unable to tell if BBI wanted to continue or were satisfied with a 10-year run.
A few days later fans were struck again by the news that rights problems would cause Merlins Shop of Mystical Wonders (1003) to be held out of sequence and would actually air at some date after the shows finale.
Chat rooms swelled with disappointed and upset fans. MSTies worldwide asked for guidance and sought comfort in each others commiseration. Grown men wept openly and darkness covered the land. Well, any way, it was a really sad time.
Near the end of February the Janus model kit was finally available and began shipping to fans.
On 3/1/99 the Satellite News opened its Fan Effort To Save MST3K page. Although BBI was saying they were interested in continuing the show there still was no direction given to MSTies ready and willing to act. A few weeks later a new campaign was launched to raise funds to place an ad in Variety magazine similar to the effort in 1996. Some fans also began contacting other networks looking for a new home for the show.
On 3/6/99 a show co-created by Josh called Fast Food Films premiered on FX. The show condensed such film classics as A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell and Teenage Catgirls in Heat down to 6-minute summaries to fit three reviews in each half-hour show. Josh had no further association with the show's 22 episodes, which only lasted until 9/28/99.
Rhino released three more home videos with The Crawling Hand, Beginning of the End and the Wild World of Batwoman on 3/16/99. They again could be purchased individually or in a 3-pack.
On 3/18/99 Joels newly remodeled website was introduced. The antsite was replaced by Visual Story Tools and Expo. A fun coloring book was published to help explain Joel and his brother Jims concepts.
The next day BBI announced that the last studio tours would be conducted on Friday, 3/26/99. Two tours would be held at 10:30 AM and 1:30 PM, but would be limited to six people each. Visitors would still have to call on Thursday morning to reserve a spot. Some MSTies began rearranging their schedules and looking into flight plans. As it turned out there were three tours given on 3/26. A noon tour was added and a few extra people were allowed to join some groups. The writing staff was working on the final episode so the writing room was off limits, but many visitors got to see the staff playing catch in the parking lot during lunch.
Later that day Joel appeared from 4-7 PM on a live webcast on TalkSpot.com. On the Karen Kay Show he talked about his new website, the early days of MST and some views on the demise of the series. An interview with Joel was published in the New York Times in April 99 in which he discussed a new project he was developing called a pet cassette. The video tape cassette would be like a virtual pet that would come alive in your television. Eventually a 6.5 minute pilot tape would be completed with the help of computer graphic artist Josh Book.
About the same time Moore Creations released the approved limited edition of 5000 porcelain Tom and Crow figures. The pewter figures of Tom and Crow would come out in May 99.
Paul joined the writing staff of Wired on-line magazine in April 99. Also around this time Frank appeared in a short film called Lord of the Road directed by Holly Hester. The basic premise is that after Jesus Christ's car breaks down he has to stay in Sweetwater, Florida where a local priest challenges him to a fight. The 23 minute film was later shown at the 6th Annual Austin Film Festival on 10/8/99.
4/9/99 was the last filming day of Danger: Diabolik (1013). The event was filmed and would later be released as the Last Dance Raw video. With the impending premiere of season 10 episodes fans still held hope that the show could be saved.
Also, on 4/9/99 Jim appeared at his alma mater in a conference on the history of pranks at the University of Wisconsin. He was a featured speaker with fellow Pail & Shovel member Stu Baker. The conference was partially instigated by a recent rebirth of pranks by a group calling themselves Ten Fat Tigers.
It was a bittersweet reunion when Joel reappears on the SOL in Soultaker (1001) at 9 PM 4/11/99. He returns to repair the ship, which was designed to self-destruct after 10 years or so. At the same time Frank has taken a job as a soultaker and is getting acquainted with Pearl's new lackies.
On 4/14/99 the Sci-Fi Dominion held a Mindprobe trivia challenge at 9 PM that featured MST3K questions. The winner received a Dave Dorman lithograph.
As time wore on MSTies were becoming more disheartened and their hopes took another set back when they learned the entire SOL set was dismantled by 4/22/99. There was already some talk that parts of the set and some props may be auctioned off.
The Brains were finding other work already. Mary Jo was a judge at the USA film festival in Dallas 4/22-29 before leaving on a vacation in China. She was in Beijing when the Chinese Embassy was bombed in Belgrade.
Bills play Antigravity premiered on 5/27/99 at Otterbein College on Westerville, OH. A few weeks earlier it had been announced that Bills play The Big Slam was to be published by Dramatists Play Service in New York City.
After some false starts the anticipated prop auction began on eBay on 6/8/99. The famous logo spaghetti ball was the first item offered, although it had to be relisted when the winning bidder reneged.
Also in early June BBI held an on-site auction at the studio. About 50 people attended and nearly everything not going on eBay was put on the block including shelves, couches, computers, a pinball machine, the old movie projector, godzilla movie posters, the SFC character posters and black and white MST Hour prints that decorated the studio walls. Bunches of lunch boxes were sold and even some props such as alien throw pillow pods, a suit of armor and gorilla masks. One box of old videotapes mistakenly included unedited copies of episodes 1010-1013 that had not aired yet.
An ad ran in the 6/18/99 issue of Daily Variety purchased with the funds collected by the Satellite News. 92 MSTies donated $5523.91 to the cause. Most fans realized the end had come, but still felt obligated to make every effort to save the show. Unfortunately, no new takers came forward.
With the studio basically clear BBI moved to a new office in Plymouth, MN by the first week of July. BBI was now comprised of Jim Mallon, Barb Tebben and Tim Johnson. The rest of the staff and writers had been released after the last day of filming in April. The new office also served as headquarters for Jims new company Go Pictures which made the film editing equipment that had been used for MST available to other film makers.
On 8/6/99 NPR aired a segment on MST hosted by David Bianculli, the TV critic for the NPR program Fresh Air.
Finally on 8/8/99 at 9 PM and repeated at 11 PM Danger: Diabolik (1013) aired. After Pearl mistakenly caused the SOL to come hurtling toward earth she symbolically pulls the plug at Castle Forrester. Meanwhile, the crew somehow manages to survive the crash. While Gypsy made millions by creating the internet company ConGypsCo, Mike and the bots moved into an apartment together and settle into suburban life. We are left with the image of Mike, Tom and Crow watching The Crawling Eye and noticing that it seems strangely familiar, a wonderful nod to the first episode back in season 1.
At 11PM that evening the SFC hosted an IRC chat for MSTies. Due to server problems Bill and Mike were on one line and Kevin was on another.
Life continued on while MSTies waited for 1003 to be aired. On 8/16/99 Mike, Bill and Kevin held a press conference at Stahlkes Hardware Store in Blaine, MN to announce they had formed their own enterprise called United Fulfillment, or Unifil. The partnership would be an opportunity to continue working together on creative projects.
On 8/22/99 the SFC announced it was discontinuing the Sunday evening show except for the debut of 1003.
On 8/30/99 the on-line magazine Ironminds debuted. Paul had an article in the premiere edition called Attack of the Big, Loud, White Guys.
The final original show of the series aired on 9/12/99 at 9 PM. The show was watched by MSTies across the country who now began to accept that MST3K as we knew it had ended. The over 95,000 members of the info club remained loyal and continued contacting networks and participating in lively chat rooms, but most realized all we could do is support the ex-Brains in their new endeavors and keep circulating the tapes.