Satellite News - The Almost But Not Quite Complete History of MST3K - Epilogue


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Part 20: Aftermath (2000 and beyond)

As the year 2000 began, the cast and crew of MST3K were getting on with their lives, sometimes alone, sometimes together.

Best Brains Inc. became a company whose only business was the sales of MST3K merchandise and memorabilia. Fans continued to receive merchandise catalogs, and the online prop auction continued to offer what seemed to be a never-ending array of props, costumes and set pieces. But Jim Mallon dropped out of public view. He opened a company called Go Pictures, a business where the public could pay a fee to use professional editing equipment to edit their videos--a savvy way to make money with the expensive editing equipment he'd purchased for BBI.

Mary Jo Pehl finally ended her world travels, and in the spring of 2000 she moved to New York City and began freelance writing. Her work appeared in the online journal Ironminds, in the Minnesota Women's Press, and Funny Times. She has been a commentator on Savvy Traveler on Public Radio International, and on KTCA-TV's Almanac. She also was been as a consultant for the PBS show Mental Engineering. In 2001, she began working on several independent film projects, as well as lending her talents to the CD-ROM project Darkstar. (see below).

Beth "Beez" McKeever worked as wardrobe assistant on the movie Here on Earth, and also was a crew member for several music videos, among her many other projects.

For much of the year, MSTies in the U.S. were excited by the appearance of the NBC series "Freaks and Geeks," where Josh Weinstein was a producer, and where Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu had been hired to make several guest starring appearances. Unfortunately, MSTies and the rest of the show's fans were not numerous, and the series was cancelled by mid-year.

Josh was also busy elsewhere. He was acting as manager for his wife, blues-rock singer Allison MacLeod; and performed with her as part of a backup band that also included actors Dave Allen and Paul Fieg, both of whom were also involved in Freaks and Geeks. The group released a new album (executive produced by Josh). He later moved on briefly to the WB series Dead Last, and in 2001 was at work on a series called "A Young Person's Guide to Being A Rock Star."

In the spring of 2000, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett, Paul Chaplin and Patrick Brantseg teamed up to launch a new humor web site at Launched April 1st, the site featured original humor that was updated every day for several months. Then, as their ardor for internet publishing seemed to cool, updates slowed to weekly frequency and eventually settled into a casual "whenever we feel like it" sort of routine. Ultimately, it became clear to them that the site was not going to be a way to make money, and interest in the project faded, and updates slowed to a trickle. In the spring of 2001, the site was officially closed. An attempt was made to sell the entire site and all its content on E-bay, but nothing came of it. While not ruling out working together on other projects in the future, the "Unifil" group that had produced Timmybighands went in separate directions.

There was also bad news from overseas. In 2000, what had been "Sci-Fi Channel UK" became independent of its former parent in the U.S., renaming itself "Sci*fi." But fans there were growing restless. The channel had only purchased the eighth season episodes, and the first few episodes of the ninth season, and had run that small group of episodes over and over. Viewers were beginning to clamor for the rest of season nine and season ten. Officials there had bad news for them: The intricate copyright laws of the U.K. dictated that they negotiate the rights for each episode individually, a laborious process that they claimed they were attempting, but which seemed to bear no fruit as month after month went by. In the fall of 2000, feeling that the episodes they could show had been played too many times, the channel dropped the show from its schedule, and acknowledged that there was little likelihood that it would return.

In July 2000, Mike released a collection of essays, titled Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese, and got a rather notable flurry of press coverage. The book went to at least three printings and got a number of positive reviews. Its success was good for Mike: He signed with the company to write two more books, an all-new collection of essays and a novel.

A few weeks later, at Gateway2, a science fiction convention in St. Louis, Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett appeared, joined by the con's surprise additional guest, Mary Jo Pehl. At the event, the guests were asked several times if there was any chance that they would return to the series. They seemed to try to bring these fans down to Earth as gently as possible. They said they could not rule out a return to the characters they loved, on some occasion in the future, but they always added that they could not foresee any way in which that would happen. It was also clear to those who attended that the cast members were not dwelling in the past. One audience member asked Pehl to perform the "Pearl laugh" and Pehl blankly admitted that she had no idea what the questioner was referring to, and could not recall it. It was ultimately up to a fellow audience member, who was dressed as Pearl, to provide an imitation.

A few weeks later, there was news from Frank Conniff. "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," cancelled at ABC, was picked up by the WB network for Fall, 2000. However, Frank announced that he would not be moving with it. Instead he was taking a position as the head writer of a new animated show on Nickelodeon called Invader Zim, created by comic book artist Jhonen Vasquez. Frank would eventually work on the first seven episodes of the series before moving on. In 2001, he was at work on an amiated series for MTV called Motor City.

In the fall of 2000, the BBI E-bay auction came to an end after selling hundreds of props, set pieces and costumes to fans, everything from the "movie sign" doors, to the "spaghetti ball" logo, to SOL desk, to the movie theater "seats" cutout.

In November, Kevin Murphy began writing a column, entitled "The Bottom Shelf," for Total Movie Magazine, but the magazine folded several months later. Still, the columns caught the eye of HarperCollins Books, the publishing company that was already having success with Mike Nelson's book. He signed a HarperCollins Books to write a book called A Year at the Movies. It's gimmick: Kevin would see one movie per day every day, at a different theater each day, for all of 2001, and report on the experience. The project took him to the Cannes Film Festival, the Midnight Sun Film Festival in Scandinavia and many other colorful locales.

The year 2000 wound down, and the twelfth anniversary of the series' birth came and went with little notice.

There was little news from the cast in the early part of 2001, other than word from the Gateway Convention folks: They'd snared Frank Conniff to appear at their convention in July.

But in late Spring, with little fanfare, The Toyota Comedy Festival, an annual event held in New York City, announced that one of its events would be an "MST3K reunion." Any fan that could get to The Big Apple began to make plans. Some flew in from around the country. As excitement about that event was growing, news came from St. Louis: Trace Beaulieu would be joining Frank at Gateway3.

On a warm June evening on the Columbia University campus, a block-long line appeared in front of the colleges Alfred Lerner Hall, puzzling passersby. When the crowd was seated, on to the stage strode, Joel Hodgson, Josh Weinstein, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff and Mary Jo Pehl. Mike Nelson, on deadline for the completion of his second book for HarperCollins, could not attend. Moderator Lizz Winstead hosted about an hour and 20 minutes of conversation, most of which focused on the early days of the show. Some of the cast members had new projects to report. Topping the list, Joel said he was working on a film project with Sam Simon of "The Simpsons," but offered no more details.

Beyond that, the evening was essentially made up of jovial reminiscences and offbeat observations. Each cast member offered their favorite movie from the show, their least favorite movie, and shared the derivations of obscure riffs. Josh and Frank seemed to be the most talkative; Trace was the quietest of the group, and sometimes seemed unable to get a word in edgewise. The evening ended with a live rendition of the MST3K theme song with Joel singing (the KTMA lyrics) and Josh accompanying him on guitar--with the audience supplying the "la-la-las."

Time Magazine's resident MSTie Richard Corliss was in the audience that night, and a couple of weeks later a marvelous piece appeared on the, paying tribute to the series in addition to reporting on the event.

About a month later, three cast members once again came to public attention. Sharp-eyed viewers of the new comedy gameshow "You Don't Know Jack" noticed that, listed in the writing credits, was a familiar name: Joel Hodgson. And Trace and Frank presented two Q&A sessions at the sparsely attended Gateway3 convention in St. Louis. At the event, Trace revealed that he is at work on a CD-ROM game. Also contributing to the project are Frank, Mary Jo and Beez McKeever. Trace said it would be "sort of a comedy murder mystery thing." (The comedy angle was subsequently toned down considerably, and the CD-ROM, entitled "Darkstar," is now more of a dark, sci-fi murdery mystery thing. Also later added to the cast were Joel and Josh.). Trace also stated that he recently completed "a batch" of new America's Funniest Home Videos specials.

In the fall, regular visitors to Joel's website noticed that it was suddently unreachable. A few days later it reappeared as the gateway to a pornography site, and stunned fans who looked into the matter learned that Joel was no longer the owner of the URL. Feeling that the appearance at Columbia earlier in the year was an appropriate coda to the MST3K portion of his life, he had decided to let the URL lapse.

At about the same time, fans learned that Mike, Kevin, Bill, Mary Jo and Patrick were to provide the voices for an "illustrated series" (essentially still drawings with narration and dialog) on the Sci-Fi Channel's Web site. Capitalizing on the excitement surrounding the upcoming first installment of the three-part "Lord of the Rings" film, the series was a loose parody of Tolkien's works called "The Adventures of Eward the Less." When the series began to appear in installments on the site, Kevin and Bill even took part in IRC chats with fans, harkening back to those halcyion days of '97 and '98, when chats with MST castmembers were regular occurances. Bill had also been at work on a new play, "Heckler." Performances in Minneapolis was praised by critics and well-attended.

Sci-Fi Channel continued air the series early on Saturday mornings, but the five-year contract it signed to air the episodes BBI made for them was to expire on Jan. 31, 2002. Though it was hardly the sort of groundswell the show had commanded in years past, a number of fans did contact the channel, asking that reruns continue. To nearly everyone's surprise, it appears to have worked. Recognizing that reruns of the series were still steady ratings getters, the channel and Jim Mallon and eventually signed a deal that allowed the channel to continue reruns of the series for another two years. By this time, nearly half of the 48 episodes produced for the channel could no longer be shown because of rights problems. Still, the surviving episodes would remain in rotation a while longer. If reruns lasted to November of 2003, MST3K will have completed its 15th year on television.

2002 began with fans looking foreward to the prospect of books by Mike and Kevin hitting the bookstores. In March, it was announced that Mike and Kevin would be appearing at Dragon*Con in Atlanta later in the year. Mike's book, "Mike Nelson's Mind Over Matters," went on sale March 5. Another book, an anthology of work by women writers featuring material by Mary Jo, was also due. Mike began contributing a monthly column to TV Guide and joined the writing staff of Tim Scott's Comedy Central series "Let's Bowl," but the series disappeared from Comedy Centeral after its second season. In California, Josh's series, "My Guide to Becoming a Rock Star," premiered on the WB Network on March 14, and was cancelled after only a few episodes. Josh also rejoined Trace to work on a new season of AFV. Meanwhile, Trace hosted "People Traps," a pilot for a possible series on Animal Planet, but the channel did not take the show to series.

Mike and Kevin were official "Masters of Ceremonies" at DragonCon over the Labor Day weekend; Kevin's book "A Year at the Movies: One Man's Moviegoing Odyssey," had just been published and he took every opportunity to promote it. That continued in the following weeks, during which it seemed Kevin was almost everywhere, making numerous TV and radio appearances and even a few bookstore signings. Also at DragonCon, fans learned that Mike's next book, a novel called "Death Rat," was due out in the Spring of 2003.

As fall arrived Frank's latest project arrived: a parody of women's lifestyle programming for the Oxygen Network called "O2Be," starring Liz Winstead. At about the same time both Mike and Kevin officially inaugurated their own respective Web sites: featured a regularly updated section featuring essays by Mike. provided the latest information about Kevin's doings.

At the same time, Mary Jo was working on two books, a collection of essays, and a novel. She also became an occasional contributor of humor pieces to National Public Radio. In addition to his work on AFV, Josh was, meanwhile working on four different TV pilots in different stages of development: Two animated shows, a "reality" show and an hour-long dramedy. He also continued to performing semi-regularly with his wife, singer Allison MacLeod, as well as working on songs for her next album. Joel, as always, was hatching new ideas, as well as working on the writing staff of the "Jimmy Kimmel Live" show.

The beginning of 2004 found the cast working on even more projects. Mike was contributing audio commentary for the Legend Films DVD rereleases of "Reefer Madness" and "Carnival of Souls." He was also seen in the VH1 series "Super Secret Movie Rules." And at SF SketchFest: The San Francisco Comedy Sketch Festival, Mike, Kevin and Bill announced that they were working on a book together, as well as talking to Legend about contributing audio commentary to DVD releases of Three Stooges episodes. Plan Nine Publishing announced that one of Mary Jo's books, I Lived with My Parents, would be released in April. A DVD collection of "Freaks and Geeks" was also to be released in April, including commentary by Josh on the episode "Beers and Weirs." Frank had moved to New York City to be a writer for the fledgling "liberal" radio network, Air America. And there was still the "Darkstar" CD-ROM project starring Trace, Joel, Frank, Mary Jo, Josh and Beez waiting to be released later in the year.

Alone and together, the former cast of MST3K was making its way in the world.

| Welcome! | 1984-87 | 1988 | 1988-89 | 1989-90 | 1990-91 |
1991-92 | 1992-93 | 1993, part 1 | 1993, part 2 | 1994, part 1 |
1994, part 2 | 1995, part 1 | 1995, part 2 | 1996, part 1 |
1996, part 2 | 1996-97 | 1997 | 1997-98 | 1999 | 2000 | Epilogue |