DADDY-O'S DRIVE-IN DIRT
SCI FI ARCHIVES
Issue #21 of Too Much Coffee Man magazine features a four-page interview with Kevin Murphy. But there's more to the interview than what appears in print, and we've got it. Satellite News proudly presents:
Patrick Keller, Too Much Coffee Man magazine: I wanted to ask a little bit
about the show. It's been a while since it's been over. I know you must be asked a lot which is your favorite show,
but I'm curious as to whether you have a favorite season.
When we moved to the Sci-Fi Channel we had a couple of great seasons there, too. Again, flying us out to Hollywood, taking us on the up-fronts, and we'd get a little bit of that star treatment every now and again. They didn't leave us alone nearly as much. I think the quality of the writing that we did at that time was really good, though. We had a great, very tight group of writers and performers. It was the people who decided to stay with the show. Trace, Frank, and Joel had gone to Los Angeles. We were the ones who really said, "We really like the show and we think there's more life to it." We had probably the tightest group of writers at that time, and we just had a ball making the show.
The business that surrounds making a TV show for me is always the most unpleasant part. I was involved in the business since pretty close to the beginning and I would really rather have a root canal. It's always miserable. You're dealing with bland, humorless people whose jobs have to do with spreadsheets and bottom lines, and production executives who are the most horrid people on the face of the planet.
TMCM: I have to say that, for me, my favorite season is the seventh, maybe because it's so abbreviated. Every single one hits it out of the park. Maybe part of that is that you were practiced and knew what you were doing, but there was also a certain amount of turmoil at the time, right? Do you think that people who are almost a big on edge that way can produce better work?
Murphy: Well a lot of people would say that anxiety makes for better humor. Part of it was, we got a six show order so we knew this was it, we were going to get nothing else out of Comedy Central. So we really didn't give a damn. I think that was helpful. We knew it was coming to an end, so we fired all of our guns and had as much fun as we could as this thing was coming to an end. I think there's some truth to that. I'm trying to remember what the hell shows we did. I'll have to reach up to my bookshelf and pull out my Amazing Colossal Episode Guide.
TMCM: The ones that pop to mind are The Incredible Melting Man, Blood Beast and The Brute Man. The Melting Man just kills me every time. Isn't that the one where you guys were doing the focus group for "Earth vs. Soup?"
Murphy: That was really delightful because it was our chance to vent our spleens over the experience of making a motion picture with Universal. I'm not ashamed of what we put out, but I know we could have done so much better of a film if they hadn't fucked with us so much. We were assigned two production executives, and they were both horrid, horrid, hateful, awful people with not a creative bone between them. And they were telling us how to make our film!
They would lie to us. We caught this one woman in a lie, and she was telling us how to make our film. We got so much of that. I think the riffs in the movie, This Island Earth, are pretty damn funny. But the frustration around how we wanted to frame the host segments in the film and how we ended up having to frame them were entirely two different things. The first thing we pitched to Universal was a musical: all-singing all-dancing Mystery Science Theater. At that time James L. Brooks had just made I'll Do Anything as a musical, and it previewed so badly that they pulled all the music out of it. So the word around Hollywood at that time was, "Musicals don't work, don't do that." We had some great songs lined up. Mike had penned some amazing things, but they wouldn't let us make the film that we wanted to make. We were sort of stuck because we knew that were coming to an end on the TV series and we thought this is our one and only chance to make a movie. The lesson for me was don't make a movie just because you can, because there are too many people who want to piss in all of your little corners and tell you how to make it.
TMCM: The movie is out of print now. Is there any chance that that's going to come out and maybe you could get some bonus features on there that talk about the ordeal?
Murphy: I don't think so, unless Rhino wanted to do something like that. Rhino's been very successful at marketing the show on DVD. I believe I heard they are even going to discontinue the VHS and concentrate more on doing these DVD things over at Rhino. I love Rhino. They do a fantastic job of packaging products and I think they've done a really nice job with Mystery Science Theater. It would be kind of odd to put a commentary track on Mystery Science Theater, though. It really doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
TMCM: I know there were deleted scenes from the movie. There's all sorts of stuff out there that could probably go on there. And there's a lot of demand for it. I mean, I've got a copy of the DVD, but I know that there are people out there who are just dying for their own copy but can't find it.
Murphy: It's freaky. It's worth a fortune now. I was thinking I should sell my copy on eBay. But then I wouldn't have one.
TMCM: It was a $10 DVD at one point.
Murphy: It was a cheapo knock-off. It's a pretty good transfer, though not great. The sound is pretty darn good on it. Honestly, though, I still don't think that the movie is our best work. Not by far. I'm happy to see that the TV series continues to get picked up and licensed for DVD. I'm really glad to see that Rhino is continuing to do that.
TMCM: So, we can expect more sets from them?
Murphy: I think so. It sort of trickles in because what they've done so far, I think, is to get all of the films that are either public domain or otherwise are very easy to acquire, and that's why it seems sort of erratic. But it's been successful for them. It's great to see… it's one of those things that gives me a kick in the ass every time I go into a video store and there it is in the rack. I'm in the rack! Sure, I'm in the rack with a lot of shitty films, but I'm also in the rack with a lot of good films.
TMCM: Mostly shitty TV these days.
Murphy: It's true.
TMCM: Is there a certain kind of humor that came from one writer than another? Or did it sort of mold together when you were all in the writer's room?
TMCM: It has to be tremendously gratifying, I'm sure, to know that there are people worldwide who still continue to love your work. I got my nephew to watch it when we were younger and now it's a little shared experience for my family.
Murphy: The show started in '89 and now there are kids when the show started who are seeing it because their parents turned them onto it, kids who are in college now who were just little kids at the time. I'm amazed at it whenever I've had the opportunity to talk at a college campus. I was in San Francisco last year at this time, and I was amazed at how many of the youngsters were out there and that's great. That's great. That means that there's still some life in it for people who have never seen it before, suddenly they've become fans. Even though the show's not on the air there's still a growing fan base out there.