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Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D.

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Secrets of the Very First Original Sci-Fi Program

Posted: 12/05/2012 1:54 pm

Why don't UFOs land in big cities? Is our moon possibly an artificial body? Does the phantom army of Mount Kilimanjaro materialize yearly?

These are among the intriguing questions that I posed on the very first episode of my series, Mysteries From Beyond The Other Dominion, which was one of the four original series to debut on the Sci-Fi channel when it was launched back in 1992. For the record, the other three new series were Inside Space, The Science Show and Sci-Fi Buzz.

This year, Sci-Fi (rechristened SyFy) is celebrating its 20th Anniversary with a two-hour special slated to air on December 10th with several re-runs.

For me, it was an absolutely exciting period to play an integral part in the beginning of such a channel devoted to one of my favorite topics! Each of my episodes ran 30 minutes, airing initially at 9:30 p.m. on Sundays, with re-airings at 1:30 a.m. the following morning and again the following Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m.

I packed as much material as I possibly could into each episode, covering a broad spectrum of subjects. For example, that first episode also included the following diverse topics:

  • The history of sunglasses
  • T. Rex secrets
  • The world's largest rose bush
  • How a biscuit timer foiled a robbery
  • How to get gum off of your shoe
  • Film factoids: Boris Karloff, Clayton Moore, Bela Lugosi
  • Video mailbag: phony UFO footage

I also included fascinating on-screen factoids and challenged the viewers with a trivia question.

And, at the conclusion of each episode, I invited the audience to submit questions, photos and videos, noting that, "We don't promise to use anything that you submit, but if we do, you will achieve a small measure of fame, which is a heck of a lot better than a slap on the belly with a wet trout!"

My ability to land my program on Sci-Fi was a virtual miracle! For months, I was endeavoring to promote my concept of a program presenting the scientific evidence for controversial subjects, such as UFOs and ETs, paranormal phenomena, cryptozoological entities and anything else of a bizarre and intriguing nature.

Then, one Sunday morning, I read an article about public access TV in the L.A.Times. While I had hard about it before, this article motivated me to go that route. Then, an editor I was writing UFO articles for recommended that a friend of his, the editor of L.A. Style Magazine, profile me in their "Characters" section. When that was published, a fellow, Marc Lafia, was leafing through the issue hunting for photos that a pal of his had taken when he noticed the write-up about yours truly. He and his partner, Todd Stevens, were looking for someone to produce a TV series for. We turned out a few pilots, but there were no takers.

Then, Todd joined the production team of Major Dad in its penultimate season being filmed at Universal Studios. He showed my tapes to Michael Lansbury (nephew of actress Angela Lansbury), who was head of new programming there. Again, there was no apparent interest. Then, a few months later, Universal and USA Network jointly purchased the fledgling Sci-Fi Channel whose founder lacked the wherewithal to launch it. As a result, my program was selected to premiere on the channel. This certainly represents a classic case of not what you know, but who you know!

Unfortunately, after two seasons with respectable ratings, the program was not renewed, this despite the fact that two Universal execs were arguing in front of me over who was my biggest fan!

One problem during that embryonic phase was a shortfall of cable systems airing the channel. For example, my system in Glendale, CA did not start airing Sci-Fi until 1996, four years later.

I, of course, am ready to return to the channel, having prepared a brand new contingent of episodes. I only await their call!

Now, until next time, may the power of the cosmos be with you! Yes! Yes! Yes!

Promo Preview:




The First Segment of the Very First Show:



Intermission Announcement:



FUZZY Ad:

 

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