THE SCI-FI CHANNEL (and Sci*fi)


Q: When did the Sci-Fi Channel pick up the series?
A: On June 24, 1996, the Sci-Fi Channel officially released a statement that said, in part:

Sci-Fi Channel has rescued the award-winning comedy series "Mystery Science Theater 3000" from cancellation, and brought it safely to its original programming lineup where the series will flourish with exclusive, original episodes...

Episodes began airing on February 1st, 1997.

Q: Were any of the CC-era episodes shown on Sci-Fi?
A: No. The deal was for new episodes only.

Q: When the series first moved to Sci-Fi, it was reported that the channel would only let BBI select movies that fit the channel's definition of "sci-fi" -- which included horror and fantasy films as well. But later they were doing all sorts of films. What happened?
A: As the channel got more comfortable with Best Brains, they loosened the reins a bit; and by season ten, they lifted the restriction completely.

Q: I've heard a rumor that BBI was told not to criticize the movies too harshly, because Channel executives feared alienating its viewers. True?
A: Of course not. BBI had as much editorial freedom during the Sci-Fi Channel era as it had during the CC days.

Q: When and how was the Sci-Fi Channel's cancellation announced?
A: On February 24, 1999, BBI released a statement which read, in part: After producing its 10th season of episodes, Best Brains Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, will close the curtain on its Peabody Award winning series, Mystery Science Theater 3000, as the Sci-Fi Channel will not be ordering any new programs.
Ten years is a great run for any series. We've had a tremendous ride and it's time for Mike Nelson and the 'Bots to come down to Earth," Executive Producer and Best Brain's President Jim Mallon said today.
"We'd like to thank our families, friends and our tremendous fans for all of their support over the years. We'd also like to thank the Sci-Fi Channel for a great run which brought us to our 10th year."

Q: Why did Sci-Fi Channel officials decide to stop ordering episodes?
A: Initially, network executives said the issue was ratings, pure and simple. Later, they also noted that the cost of acquiring the rights to movies for riffing was getting too high. Many viewers also noticed a change in the network after Barry Schulman -- MST3K's chief defender at the channel -- departed, and Bonnie Hammer -- an executive from what was then Sci-Fi's parent company, USA Networks -- took over. MST3K apparently did not fit with her vision for the network.

Q: How long did reruns of the show continue to run on the Sci-Fi Channel?
A:
 The original contract Sci-Fi Channel and BBI signed expired in early 2002. However, in late 2001, the two parties signed a two-year contract extension, allowing the Channel to continue showing reruns through the end of January, 2004. At that time, the show ended its run on Sci-Fi Channel.

Q: What happened to the idea of running an ad in Variety asking some other channel to pick up the show?
A:
 It happened, thanks to generous donations from 145 people in 36 states, Washington DC, Canada and one from New Zealand! A full-page advertisement appeared in the Friday, June 18th, 1999, issue. If you didn't have a chance to see the ad, click HERE to download a copy in Adobe Acrobat's PDF format.

Q: Was there any response to the ad from TV executives?
A: None that we know of.

Q: What's happened to the MST3K area on the Sci-Fi Channel's Web site?
A:
 It has been deleted. The content from the site survives on Satellite News.

Q: What about the "Caption This" feature on the Sci-Fi Channel Web site?
A:
 In 1999, the channel said that it would remain, stripped of its MST3K-related graphics. But ultimately it was shut down.

Q: I live in the U.K. Wasn't MST3K running on TV over here for a while?
A: Yes, MST3K ran on the British sister network of the Sci-Fi Channel, known as Sci-Fi Channel Europe (it later became independent of America's Sci-Fi Channel and changed its name to Sci*fi) from January, 1998, to September, 2000.

Q: Sci*fi only showed episodes from season eight and a few season nine episodes! Why didn't they show the rest of the episodes?
A: The channel chose to purchase the rights to only those episodes.

Q: Weren't Sci*fi executives talking about getting the rights to the other episodes?
A: Back when Sci*fi was still a sister network with America's Sci-Fi Channel, officials there publicly declared that there would be no attempt to acquire any more episodes. Then the channel became an independent operation, and channel officials changed their tune, claiming that they were going to acquire more episodes. But it never happened, and many fans came to the conclusion that this was simply a lie designed to placate the fan base.

Q: Why did Sci*fi stop showing MST3K?
A: Late in 2000, an official from the channel posted the following message on the channel's website: "One of the major problems we have in the UK is clearing and licensing these films in the first place -- the people who own the rights to the original films are often not keen, as MSK3K does tend to take the p*ss out of their product...[Also] whenever we do schedule them, they rate incredibly badly. Obviously there are not as many MST3K fans out there as you think."

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