The Thunder Child: The Sci Fi Channel, a History of the First Two Years |
by Averil Chase
The Sci Fi Channel was launched on September 24, 1992. |
Mitchell Rubenstein and Laurie Silvers, two entrepreneurs from Boca Raton, originated the concept for The Sci-Fi Channel, but they lacked the finances to get the Channel off the ground. That's when the USA Network stepped in. They acquired the rights to the channel in March, 1991.
The USA Network continued to negotiate for exclusive rights to various TV series, and in "honing the concept, planning original programming, and promoting the fledgling cable channel."
Barry Schulman was the vice president in charge of programming. Popular series such as Lost in Space, Dark Shadows, The Invaders, and beginning in March, 1994, The Twilight Zone, were all exclusive to the Channel. (Doctor Who was shown on the Sci-Fi Channel, but also on PBS.)
From its inception, the Sci Fi Channel also included original programming, such as Sci Fi Buzz: "a behind-the-scenes look at the world of science fiction entertainment," and Inside Space, a show which "explores the fact and fantasy of space travel."
The Sci-Fi Channel also produced original made-for-TV movies, airing them in a slot entitled Planetary Premiere. In December 1992, the first one debuted: Homewrecker, starring Robby Benson as a computer genius and Kate Jackson as the voice of a computer. These Other movies included Official Denial (Parker Stevenson) and The Hidden 2.
Pilot Playhouse aired pilot episodes of many of the classic series - including the first pilot of Lost in Space, with no robot, no Dr. Smith, and a much more sombre atmosphere. That particular episode was hosted by June Lockhart, and included guest commentary from Jonathan Hrris (Dr. Smith) and Bill Mumy (Will Robinson).
In July 1993, the Sci-Fi Channel showed, for the first time ever, all three of the Star Wars movies back- to-back-to back. Carrie Fisher hosted the evening. Roddy McDowall was called in to host the Planet of the Apes marathons, Dirk Benedict hosted Battlestar Galactica marathons, and Darren McGavin hosted The Night Stalker.
Christopher Lee hosted Classic Monsters Month in October 1993. 20 classic horror movies were shown, including Bela Lugosi's Dracula.
The growth of The Sci Fi Channel was steady since its inception.
Since its early days, The Sci Fi Channel has changed hands and names multiple times. Today, it is known simply as SyFy and it's claim to fame are the original science fiction movies that it produces which are campy, filled with terrible special effects and dialogue and often feature random people like a Houston DWI attorney as the lead actor. For example, one of their biggest "hits" was Sharknado, a movie about giant sharks that get sucked up into a tornado and then fly through the air, eating helpless victims as the tornado twirls through towns.
"Cable's Rising Star: Sci-Fi Channel", by Bill Canyon, Movie Club, March 1994, No. 2
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