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Weekly Alibi Idiot Box

By Devin D. O'Leary

APRIL 19, 1999:  If you spot me walking around these days--lumbering sadly through the mall, perhaps, sipping mournfully on an Orange Julius--you'll notice that I'm wearing a black armband. Why? Because after 10 seasons of hanging on by its fingernails, cable's kitschiest cult show, "Mystery Science Theater 3000," is going off the air.

I couldn't be more depressed. The Vast Wasteland has just gotten a little more vast. TV without Mike and the 'bots is like tomato soup without those little oyster crackers. Who will we turn to now for clever insults of cheesy science fiction movies?

"Mystery Science Theater" began its decade of renegade film critique in 1988 on Minneapolis UHF station KTMA. From those humble roots, the twisted puppet show made its way to the big time--basic cable. Way back in the day when "MST3K" was on Comedy Central, those 24-hour "Turkey Day" marathons made high school just a little bit more bearable. When the bigwigs at CC decided they had to make way for more Gallagher specials, "MST3K" was unceremoniously dumped. Fortunately, thanks to some far-sighted programming execs and a whole bunch of fanatically dedicated Misties, the show was resurrected over on the Sci-Fi Channel.

Now, it seems, the evil corporate overlords have returned to pass their cruel sentence of "bottom line" gloom and doom over the Satellite of Love. According to the folks at Best Brains (the Wisconsin-based production company behind "MST3K"), the current 10th season of "MST3K" will be the show's swan song. Seems the slick new Sci-Fi 2.0 just doesn't have room for quirky little "MST3K." Curse you, Sci-Fi Channel! Curse you and your digitally restored "Star Trek!"

The long farewell began on April 11 with the broadcast of the Season X opener featuring 1990's horror bomb Soultaker. Series creator Joel Hodgson returned in his rumpled red jumpsuit for a cameo. Former evil sidekick TV's Frank came back to offer a little villain advice to head nasty Pearl Forrester. The movie starred Joe Estevez. It was all enough to bring tears to my eyes.

A last-ditch effort to pull "MST3K" from its fatal nose-dive has been mounted in cyberspace. Visit the Save "Mystery Science Theater" ... Again! Web site (plummco.simplenet.com/savemstagain/) to find out how you can send a polite but irate letter to the evil overlords at Sci-Fi Channel. With only 12 episodes left, though, chances seem slim for a death row reprieve.

All that remains is to enjoy what little we have left and speculate on the show's final episode. Will Mike and his robot pals escape to the Satellite of Love? Will Pearl Forrester finally take over the world? Will we ever learn to love again?

"Mystery Science Theater" shows (almost) every Sunday at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on the Sci-Fi Channel.

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