Satellite News - The Almost But Not Quite Complete History of MST3K - Part 7


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Part 7: Differing Directions (1992-93)

Comedy Central's This is MST3K hit the airwaves, and it marked a turning point for relations between the network and the show's fans. In the internet discussion forums now springing up, fans gave the special a mixed review. Despite many good clips and some insightful comments by industry executives, critics and fans, viewers publicly wondered at the inclusion of comments from semi-celebrities such as Neil Patrick Harris. Some grumbled about CC spokesman Penn Jillette having been chosen to host the special (Jillette's bullhorn voice was heard incessantly on the channel, so much so that he had begun to wear out his welcome). Many observers felt a sense that the people making the special did not understand what they were reporting on.

Fans did not suspect it at the time, but that feeling was also growing at BBI.

And internally, all was not well at BBI, either. With the series up and running smoothly, Hodgson, true to his nature, began to tire of the routine and longed to try new creative projects, and tried to make Jim Mallon see how important it was for his creative health. Mallon, also true to his nature, longed to bring the entertainment concept the team had carved out to fullest flower, and already was talking about a feature film and other MST3K-related projects. He, in turn, tried to make Hodgson see his duty, as the series' star, to focus primarily on the MST3K concept. Though both Mallon and Hodgson kept this disagreement on a friendly and professional level, it was hard for anybody to see how it was going to be resolved.

Inevitably, word of this disagreement (jumbled together with unrelated incidents of disputes of the type likely to occur among any team of creative individuals) leaked out to fans. It was with this situation that BBI began to discover the power of the internet to spread and amplify rumors: By the time the rumors got back to them, it was being reported that Mallon and Hodgson were practically at each other's throats.

In reality, BBI was running reasonably smoothly, busily cranking out a season that some fans point to as their most consistent and memorable. Beginning with Marooned (retitled SPACE TRAVELERS by its distributors), the team would then tackle a total of three "sword-and-sandal" Hercules movies, black and white potboilers like THE KILLER SHREWS, ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES, INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN and TORMENTED, two Rocky Jones adventures, and more.

The "shorts" would also be a continuing feature, but BBI decided to return to the episodic material, presenting two episodes of the Crash Corrigan serial Undersea Kingdom and three short segments from 1960s-era episodes of the ABC soap opera General Hospital. At the end of the season, the team hit their most tasty pay dirt with the two-part Chevrolet industrial short, Hired!

As fall approached, BBI again agreed to do Turkey Day marathon bumpers: This time, in each bumper, Dr. F. cruelly force-fed Frank a whole turkey, which had been decorated to represent the movie being presented. The bumpers were funny, but it was perhaps impossible to live up to the bumpers of a year earlier. Also, the novelty of a Thanksgiving Day marathon was perhaps wearing off. Whatever the reason, ratings for Turkey Day dropped substantially.

MANOSBBI finished the season with a flourish, producing four of their most memorable episodes in a row: the gut-wrenching MONSTER-A-GO-GO, the dazzling and bizarre DAY THE EARTH FROZE, Ed Wood's famously incompetent BRIDE OF THE MONSTER and perhaps the most beloved MST3K episode ever, MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE.

As 1993 began, tensions would grow between CC and BBI. The first way this became evident to fans was when the once-common BBI-made promos for the series ceased. The reason: Comedy Central declined to pay BBI to make them.

It was about this time that Microserf Julie Walker left the clutches of Bill Gates and accepted a position as marketing director at BBI. Among her dizzying array of duties was to act as a liaison between BBI and fans of the series and within a year "Juliewa" became a regular presence on the Usenet newsgroups and the MST3K forums on the several online services.

At the same time, BBI was stunned to learn that the University of Georgia had awarded the series its prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for television excellence.

By the spring of '93, Jillette's grating voice-overs during the closing credits were a popular target for on-line gripes, though these complaints were ignored by CC. The chorus grew louder in early summer, following several incidents where Penn voice-overs were played despite the fact that more than just the closing theme was playing. In one case, it was at the end of a rerun of episode 311- IT CONQUERED THE WORLD where Peter Graves' dry pronouncements about mankind were drowned out by Penn's comments. Even worse was when a Penn voice-over was played, in its entirety, during the closing of episode 307- DADDY-O--which is actually an extended host segment in which the "button" is pushed and the theme song begins, but because of a malfunction, the button refuses to stay pushed and we are returned to Deep 13 -- and a startled and confused Dr. F. and Frank -- several times

Fans were stunned that CC would be paying so little attention to the show that a voice-over would be run during an actual comedy bit, and the network was flooded with angry calls, letters and emails--and the network was excoriated in cyberspace.

In July, mentioning a heartfelt letter written by long-time fan Jonathan "El Mystico" Whitney, Jillette made an on-air apology and voice-over announcements during the closing theme ceased. Online MSTies rejoiced, declaring victory. But the battles with CC were not over.

| 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 |