Meteorite Men: The End of the Beginningby Logical Lizard on Mar. 10, 2010, under Meteorite Men TV Diary, Musings, My TV Shows, Technology
One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Winston Churchill. Following a stunning and almost inexplicable defeat of the German Luftwaffe by the diminutive but determined Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain during the summer of 1941, Churchill knew years of warfare lay ahead and therefore tempered the joy he must have felt with caution: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
When the final episode of Meteorite Men Season One aired, and the future of our show remained a mystery to me, I could not help but be reminded of Churchill. A personal hero, I often visited his home of Chartwell while a young lad living in England. My late mother, who always fervently encouraged my obsessive love of science and the arts, adored the walled gardens of his home, and his swans. I was fascinated by his silent painting studio—unfinished oils still on easels, and tubes of paint on the tables, as if Winston had just stepped out for a cigar.
Our one-hour pilot was filmed during the fall of 2008 and premiered in May of 2009. The ratings were higher than expected and we waited anxiously to hear, from our colleagues at Science Channel, if a series would be ordered. There was no news for some time, and then in August we received a personal phone call from Debbie Myers, the president of Science Channel, and a dedicated proponent of quality television and science education in schools. Science Channel was ordering six new one-hour episodes, and being a thoughtful executive with a gracious personal touch, Debbie wanted to deliver the news herself.
While creating the pilot, seventeen months elapsed from idea to premiere. When the good news arrived from Science, we we informed that the new series was to commence airing in January. “January of 2011?” I asked. “No, January of 2010.” So, after enjoying over a year and half to ponder, develop and film the pilot, we had to scramble to produce six new episodes in seven months. And scramble we did. It was tiring, exciting, sometimes exacting, but always rewarding. The final episode, in which my co-host Steve Arnold and I visit—sometimes independently, sometimes together—sites in Arizona, California, Texas and Virginia, was still being recut and edited less than a week before its premiere date. Just a little pressure.
But it was all worth it. Meteorite Men Season One enjoyed very good ratings. Recent traffic on our websites has been about five times the daily average and we have received a great deal of fan mail. Even a few requests for signed photos! For each of the six weekly premieres (the first of which was January 20) I held a screening party at Tucson’s fabulous new night spot—Sky Bar. Owner Tony Vaccaro was wonderfully accommodating, allowing us to show each new episode on three widescreen high definition TVs. Each screening party was preceded by an open mic and by the end of the run of programs we were quite familiar with a new group of local musicians, and they seemed pleasantly amused by “The two guys who look for space rocks.” Two of the screenings fell during the annual Tucson gem and mineral shows, and those screenings were attended by so many colleagues from around the world—in for the gem show—that it was overwhelming.
A few friends attended every one of the six screenings. It was a treat to share the premieres with people I care about, and my father made it all the way from Dublin, Ireland for the final show (a student of classical music, he predictably complained about the open mic). Before the assembled crowd I gently admonished Dad: “It’s all his fault. He’s the one who first got me interested in astronomy by waking me up in he middle of the night to look through his telescope at the moons of Jupiter.”
When the final screening rolled around I almost felt as if I”d been back on tour with my rock ‘n’ roll band from the old days. “See you here next week! Meteorite Men on tour every Wednesday at Sky Bar.” And, in fact, to keep the rock ‘n’ roll theme current I even designed a Meteorite Men t-shirt, with the help of my company illustrator, Tim Arbon. On the front is a stark black silhouette of Steve and myself, holding our metal detectors, with “Meteorite Men 2009 North American Tour” printed in bold, friendly letters. On the reverse is a list of the places we visited while filming Season One (along with the home towns of our network, production company, and camera crew).
So now what? Perhaps the most frequently asked question during this exciting period of my life has been: “When do you find out about Season Two?” Well, we don’t quite know. Science Channel and LMNO Productions are the most encouraging and dedicated people we could possibly have worked with. We know how lucky we are. Everyone from production assistants, to narrators, to script supervisors, and executive producers put something of themselves into the show. The result is a feeling of collective accomplishment. Will it fly? Will there be a Season Two? I’ll let you know as soon as I know. In the meantime the show is in steady repeats on Science Channel, and you can find the Meteorite Men show time schedule here.
Just last week, I found out that Meteorite Men is also airing in the UK. Several old school friends and neighbors emailed to report: “I just saw you on the telly!” Knowing that some of my childhood pals are watching our adventures, back there in my old home country, makes me just a little wistful for those days when my mother was still alive and a little boy peered, enchanted, through his father’s telesope from the lawn of a chilly nighttime British garden.