Mystery Science Theater 3000

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Mystery Science Theater 3000
MST3K-logo.png
The MST3K planet logo
Also known as
  • MST3K
  • MST 3000
Genre Comic science fiction
Created by Joel Hodgson
Written by
Presented by
Starring
Voices of
Theme music composer
  • Charlie Erickson (music)
  • Joel Hodgson (music and lyrics)
  • Josh Weinstein (lyrics)
  • Best Brains (lyrics)
Opening theme "Love Theme from Mystery Science Theater 3000"
Ending theme
  • "Love Theme from Mystery Science Theater 3000" (1988-89)
  • "Mighty Science Theater"
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 10
No. of episodes 197 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Jim Mallon
Joel Hodgson (1990–93)
Producer(s) Kevin Murphy
Vince Rodriguez
Location(s) Minneapolis, Minnesota
Running time 97 minutes[1]
Production company(s)
Distributor
Release
Original network
Picture format 1.33 : 1[1]
Audio format Dolby[1]
Original release November 24, 1988 (1988-11-24) – August 8, 1999 (1999-08-08)
Chronology
Related shows RiffTrax
Cinematic Titanic
External links
MST3k Official Site

Mystery Science Theater 3000, abbreviated MST3K, is an American television comedy series created by Joel Hodgson and produced by Best Brains, Inc. The show premiered on KTMA in Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 24, 1988. It later aired on The Comedy Channel/Comedy Central for another six seasons until its cancellation in 1997. Through a fan-driven write-in campaign, the show was picked up by The Sci-Fi Channel and aired for another three seasons until its final cancellation in August 1999. The series ran for eleven years, with 197 episodes, and one feature film. The show also spun off The Mystery Science Theater Hour, a sixty-episode syndication package created by dividing selected episodes into halves.

The show initially starred Hodgson as Joel Robinson, a janitor trapped against his will by two mad scientists on the Satellite of Love and forced to watch a series of B-movies as a part of the scientists' plot to take over the world. To keep his sanity, Joel crafts a number of robot companions — including Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot, and Gypsy — to keep him company and help him humorously comment on each movie as it plays, a process known as riffing. Each two-hour episode would feature a single movie in its entirety — with Joel, Tom, and Crow watching in silhouette from a row of theater seats at the bottom of the screen — and also included interstitial sketches. The show's cast changed over its duration; most notably, Joel was replaced by Mike Nelson (played by Michael J. Nelson) in the show's fifth season. Other cast members, most of whom were also writers for the show, include Trace Beaulieu, Josh Weinstein, Jim Mallon, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff, Mary Jo Pehl, Bill Corbett, Paul Chaplin, and Bridget Jones Nelson.

MST3K was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All" in 2007. The show won a Peabody Award in 1993, was also nominated for two Emmy Awards in the category of Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing for a Variety or Music Program in 1994 and 1995, and was nominated from 1992 to 1997 for a CableACE Award. The show was considered highly influential, and partially contributing towards the practice of social television, while also bringing to light movies that had not received public attention and subsequently identified as some of the worst movies ever made, most notably Manos: The Hands of Fate. A large fanbase for the show grew during the onset of Internet growth in the 1990s, with fans calling themselves "MSTies".

Following the show's cancellation, various crew members launched separate projects in the same theme as MST3K, including RiffTrax (which continues to be ongoing) and Cinematic Titanic. A plan to revive the series was launched in 2015 by Hodgson and Shout! Factory, who has helped to secure licensing rights for the MST3K brand and for past MST3K episodes for home media and online streaming. The revival, based on crowd-sourced Kickstarter funding, is expected to include fourteen new episodes, featuring Jonah Ray as the new human test subject aboard the Satellite of Love, with Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt as the new Mads.

Premise[edit]

MST3K is set in the "not-too-distant future." Two mad scientists, Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu) and his sidekick Dr. Laurence Erhardt (Josh Weinstein), launch Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgson), a janitor working for Gizmonic Institute, into space aboard the orbiting dogbone-shaped Satellite of Love. Forrester and Erhardt — collectively referred as "The Mads" on the show — operate the Satellite of Love from their secret Deep 13 underground base, and force Joel to watch a series of B-movies in order to pinpoint the perfect B-movie to use as a weapon in Dr. Forrester's scheme of world domination.

To keep his sanity, Joel builds several sentient robots collectively named "the 'bots": Tom Servo; Crow T. Robot; Gypsy, who is in charge of running the satellite's operations; Cambot, the silent recorder of the experiments; Magic Voice, a disembodied female voice offering various announcements during segments of the show; and Rocket Number Nine, an camera-bot external to the Satellite. Joel has no control over when the movies start, because he used the parts that would have allowed him to do so to build the robots. He must enter the theater when the movie is sent up, because the Mads have numerous ways to punish Joel for non-compliance, including shutting off the oxygen supply to the rest of the ship and electric shocks. As the movie plays, Joel, Tom Servo, and Crow wisecrack and mock the movie — a practice they often referred to as "riffing" — to prevent themselves from going mad.

Over the course of the show's run, there were several cast changes, with the show's narrative often adjusted to match. When Weinstein left the series after the first national season, Kevin Murphy replaced him as the voice of Tom Servo while TV's Frank (Frank Conniff) replaced Weinstein's Dr. Erhardt as Dr. Forrester's lackey. Hodgson departed the series halfway through the fifth season; head writer Michael J. Nelson (playing a new character, Mike Nelson) replaced him as the show's human host until the end of the series. When Conniff left following the sixth season, Dr. Forrester was paired with his mother Pearl Forrester (Mary Jo Pehl) for the seventh season. Bealieu left MST3K following the seventh season; when the show returned on the Sci-Fi Channel, Bill Corbett took over as Crow, while Pearl Forrester was promoted to lead "Mad", aided by the alien Observer (Corbett) and the anthropomorphic ape Professor Bobo (Murphy).

Format[edit]

Episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are generally 90 minutes in running time, or 2 hours with broadcast advertisement breaks. Each episode primarily features the riffing of the movie, with these theater segmented wrapped with live-action skits performed by the cast. The introductory sketch is typically unrelated to the remainder of the episode, and followed by an introduction to the movie by the Mads. During Hodgson's period on the show, the introductory skits would typically involve an "Invention Exchange," where Joel would present a new invention to the Mads, and vice versa. This was an extension of Hodgson's own prop comedy aspects, and while they were continued into the Nelson era, they were ultimately dropped as, according to Murphy in The Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, "Joel was the gizmocrat, the one who brought that invention exchange spirit on board," while "Mike is many things, but he is not a tinkerer." The introductory segments would end with lights flashing and sirens blaring on the bridge of the Satellite of Love, and the crew running around in a panic and announcing that "We've got movie sign!" The scene would transition from the bridge to the theater on the opposite side of the Satellite via a "door sequence," where the camera would pass through six doors before the theater was revealed; similarly, the reverse of this shot was used to transition from the theater back to the bridge.

In the theater, Joel or Mike, Crow, and Tom would sit in silhouette in a row of theater seats and watch the movie, often with Joel or Mike using their hands to point and mock the movie in addition to their verbal riffing. Infrequently, the silhouette format was used for jokes, including as a means of unobtrusive censor bars for certain films. In many episodes featuring movies too short to fill the show's running time, the movie would be preceded by one or more shorts, educational films, newsreels, or similar material in the public domain. In other cases, longer movies were trimmed to fit the running time.

Interstitial skits would be used around commercial breaks, and a final skit ended the show. Skits would often, but not always, be related to the shorts or movies being shown. Many skits would feature "guest characters" (often from or inspired by the movie being featured, or from a past featured movie), often by way of the Satellite of Love's "Hexfield Viewscreen" or through Rocket Number Nine. While these were generally played by the Best Brains crew in makeup (such as Nelson as Torgo from Manos: The Hands of Fate), both Minnesota Vikings running back Robert Smith and film critic Leonard Maltin have appeared as guests.

The final skit in Hodgson's period usually included reading fan mail and advertising the MST3K Info Club. This was phased out near the end of the Comedy Central run for the show. Shows with Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank would nearly always end with Dr. Forrester telling Frank to "push the button" to terminate the transmission. Almost all shows feature a stinger following the end credits of the show, typically a short humorous clip taken out of context from the film.

A limited selection of episodes were redeveloped into an hour-long Mystery Science Theater Hour, which enabled Best Brains to offer the show in syndication. In these, the episode was split into two parts, with new skits leading and ending each hour of Nelson portraying television host Jack Perkins in a parody of Perkins' Biography series.[3]

Production[edit]

Influences[edit]

Prior to MST3K's 1988 debut, the nationally syndicated TV series Mad Movies with the L.A. Connection and The Canned Film Festival similarly made fun of many of the same movies. Each show lasted a single season, in 1985 and 1986, respectively.

Hodgson is credited for devising the show's concept. Prior to the show, Hodgson was an upcoming comedian having moved to Los Angeles and made appearances on Late Night with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live. He had been invited to be on a sit-com co-starring Michael J. Fox, but Hodgson felt the material was not funny and declined, and further became dissatisfied with the Hollywood attitudes when they tried to double their offer, earning what he called a "healthy disrespect" of the industry.[4] He moved back to Minneapolis-St Paul, taking a job in a T-shirt printing factory that allowed him to conceive of new comedy ideas while he was bored. One such idea was the basis of MST3K, a show to riff on movies and that would also allow him to showcase his own prop comedy-style humor.[5]

The illustration for the song "I've Seen That Movie Too" in the liner notes of Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which Hodgson took inspiration for MST3K's theme and approach

Hodgson said that part of the idea for MST3K came from the illustration for the song "I've Seen That Movie Too" (drawn by Mike Ross) in the liner notes from Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, showing silhouettes of two people in a theater watching a movie.[5] Hodgson also likened the show's setting to the idea of a pirate radio station broadcasting from space.[6] Hodgson credits Silent Running, a 1972 science-fiction film directed by Douglas Trumbull, as being perhaps the biggest direct influence on the show's concept. The film is set in the future and centers on a human, Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern), who is the last crew member of a spaceship containing Earth's last surviving forests. His remaining companions consist only of three robot drones. MST3K and the Joel Robinson character occasionally reflected Lowell's hippie-like nature.[5][7] Hodgson wanted the feel of the show to appear homemade, and cited the example of a crude mountain prop used during the Saturday Night Live sketch "Night on Freak Mountain" that received a humorous reaction from the studio audience as the type of aesthetic he wanted for the show.[7]

Both old movies and music inspired several of the show's character names as developed by Hodgson. The show's name came from the promotional phrase "Mystery Scientist" used by magician Harlan Tarbell and a play on the name of Sun Ra's band, the Myth Science Arkestra.[7] The "3000" was added to spoof the common practice of adding "2000" to show and product names in light of the upcoming 21st century, and Hodgson thought it would set his show apart to make it "3000".[7] Dr. Forrester was named after the character of the main character of The War of the Worlds. The Satellite of Love was named after the song of the same name by Lou Reed.[6] Crow T. Robot was inspired by the song "Crow" from Jim Carroll's Catholic Boy,[6] while Rocket Number 9's name was inspired by the original name of Sun Ra's album Interstellar Low Ways.[6]

Writing[edit]

The 'bots of MST3k as they appeared through the majority of its run: Gypsy (left), Crow T. Robot, and Tom Servo. The 'bots were created by Hodgson and fashioned out of common household objects.

In the initial KTMA days, Mallon would present the writers with selections of movies from the station's archive to work from. In subsequent seasons, movie options were provided by the cable network.[5] To assure that they would be able to produce a funny episode, at least one member of the staff would watch the suggested films completely, generally assuring that the movie would be prime for jokes throughout; Conniff stated that he often would have to watch twenty films in their entity before selecting one to use for the show.[8] In one specific case, the second season episode with the film Sidehackers, they had only skimmed the first part of the movie before making the decision to use it, and only later discovering that it contained a rape scene. They decided to stay committed to the film, but cut out the offending scene and had to explain the sudden absence of the affected character to the audience.[8] Since that point, they carefully scrutinized entire films, and once one was selected and assured the rights, committed to completing the episode with that film.[5] Obtaining the rights was handled by the cable networks. Some licensing required buying film rights in packages, with the selected bad movies included in a catalog of otherwise good films, making the negotiations odd since the network was only interested in the bad film. Other times, the actual rights to the film were poorly documented, and the network would follow the chain of custody to locate the copyright owner as to secure broadcast rights.[5]

During the KTMA era, the riffs during the movies were ad-libbed after making preliminary notes on the film's contents. In subsequent seasons, riffs were scripted by the writers.[5][9] An average episode (approximately 90 minutes running time) would contain more than 600 such riffs,[9] and some with upwards of 800 riffs.[10] Riffs were developed with the entire writing staff watching the film together several times through, giving off-the-cuff quips and jokes as the film went along, or identifying where additional material would be helpful for the comedy. The best jokes were polished into the script for the show.[5] Riffs were developed to keep in line with the characterization of Joel, Mike, and the 'bots.[5] Further, the writers tried to maintain respect for the films and avoided making negative riffs about them, taking into consideration that Joel, Mike, and the 'bots were companions to the audience while watching the movie, and they did not want to come off sounding like jerks even if the negative riff would be funny.[5][11] Hodgson stated that their goal in writing riffs is not to ridicule films as some often mistaken, and instead consider what they are doing as "a variety show built on the back of a movie".[12]

Filming[edit]

An example of MST3K's "Shadowrama" effect used as the central motif for the show. Here, Tom Servo (left), Joel Robinson, and Crow T. Robot, in silhouette, are watching the short Mr. B Natural in the 1991 episode featuring War of the Colossal Beast

Production of an average episode of MST3K took about five to nine days once the movie was selected and its rights secured.[10][13] The first few days were generally used for watching the film and scripting out the riffs and live action segments. The subsequent days were then generally used to start construction of any props or sets that would be needed for the live action segments while the writers honed the script. A full dress rehearsal would then be held, making sure the segments and props worked and fine tuning the script. The host segments would then be filmed on one day, and the theater segments on the next. A final day was used to review the completed work and correct any major flaws they caught before considering the episode complete.[13] Live scenes used only practical special effects, and there was minimal post-editing once filming was completed.[14]

The theater shots, the primary component of an episode, is filmed in "Shadowrama", a term trademarked by Best Brains; this appears as a row of theater seats with silhouettes of Joel or Mike, Crow, and Tom to one side, appearing to watch the movie on a big theater screen. In reality, the "seats" are a black-painted foamcore board sitting behind the seat (towards the camera) for Joel or Mike, and stages for the Crow and Tom puppets. The human host wore black clothing while the robot puppets were painted black; the screen they watched was a white luma key screen as to create the appearance of silhouettes. The actors would follow the movie and the script through television monitors located in front of them, as to create the overall theater illusion.[15]

To transition from skit segments to the theater segments, they created the "door sequence", which Hodgson took inspiration from the Mickey Mouse Club, noting that the commonality to the title credits of Get Smart were coincidental.[7] In devising this sequence, this also led to Beaulieu creating the dogbone-like shape of the Satellite of Love with additional inspiration taken from the bone-to-ship transition in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.[7]

The show's theme song, the "Love Theme from Mystery Science Theater 3000", was written by Hodgson and Weinstein, which helped to cement some of the broader narrative elements of the show, such as the Mads and Joel being part of an experiment.[6] The song was composed by Charlie Erickson with help from Hodgson in the style of Devo, The Replacements, and The Rivieras (particularly their cover of the song "California Sun") and sung by Hodgson.[6][7] Initial shows used foam letters to make the show's title, but they later created the spinning-moon logo out of a 2 feet (0.61 m) diameter fiberglass ball, covered with foam insulation and the lettering cut from additional foam pieces. Hodgson felt they needed a filmed logo with the rotating effect as opposed to a flat 2D image, and though they had envisioned a more detailed prop, with the letters being the tops of buildings on this moon, they had no time or budget for a project of that complexity and went with what they had available.[16] Musical numbers would also be used as part of the host segments, which Hodgson said came out naturally from the riffing process; they would find themselves at times singing along with the movie instead of just riffing at it, and took that to extend songs into the host segments.[6]

History[edit]

KTMA era (1988–1989)[edit]

Hodgson approached Jim Mallon, at the time the production manager of KTMA, a low-budget local television station, with his idea of a show based on riffing on movies, using robots that were created out of common objects.[5] Mallon agreed to help produce a pilot episode, and Hodgson hired on local area comedians J. Elvis Weinstein (initially going by Josh Weinstein but later changed to J. Elvis as to distinguish himself from Josh Weinstein, a well-known writer for The Simpsons)[9] and Trace Beaulieu to develop the pilot show.[5] By September 1988, Hodgson, Mallon, Weinstein, and Beaulieu shot a 30-minute pilot episode, using segments from the 1968 science-fiction film The Green Slime.[5] The robots and the set were built by Hodgson in an all-nighter. Joel watched the movie by himself, and was aided during the host segments by his robots, Crow (Beaulieu), Beeper, and Gypsy (Weinstein). Hodgson used the narrative that his character named "Joel Hodgson" (not yet using his character name of Robinson) had built the Satellite of Love and launched himself into space.[17] Camera work was by Kevin Murphy, who worked at television station KTMA. Murphy also created the first "doorway sequence" and theater seat design. These initial episodes were recorded at the since-defunct Paragon Cable studios and customer service center in Hopkins, Minnesota.

Mallon met with KTMA station manager Donald O'Conner the next month and managed to get signed up for thirteen episodes. Show production was generally done on a 24-hour cycle, starting with Mallon offering a few films from KTMA's library for the writers to select from.[5] The show had some slight alterations — the set was lit differently, the robots (now Crow, Servo and Gypsy) joined Joel in the theater, and a new doorway countdown sequence between the host and theater segments was shot. The puppeteers worked personalities into their robots: Crow (Beaulieu) was considered a robotic Groucho Marx, Tom Servo (Weinstein) as a "smarmy AM radio DJ", and Gypsy (Mallon) modeled after Mallon's mother had a "heart of gold" but would become disoriented when confronted with a difficult task.[5] The development of the show's theme song would lead to establishing elements for the show's ongoing premise.[7]

Mystery Science Theater 3000 premiered at 6:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1988 with its first episode, Invaders from the Deep, followed by a second episode, Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars at 8:00 p.m. Initially, the show's response was unknown, until Mallon set up a phone line for viewers to call in.[5] Response was so great that the initial run of 13 episodes was extended to 21, with the show running to May 1989. Hodgson and Mallon negotiated to secure the rights for the show for themselves, creating Best Brains, Inc., agreeing to split ownership of the idea equally.[5] During this time a fan club was set up and the show held its first live show at Scott Hansen's Comedy Gallery in Minneapolis, to a crowd of over 600. Despite the show's success, the station's overall declining fortunes forced it to close, subsequently cancelling MST3K.[18]

Comedy Central era (1989–1996)[edit]

MST3K cast and crew Pehl (left), Beaulieu, Hodgson, Weinstein, and Conniff, as part of the post-show project, Cinematic Titanic in 2011

Just as MST3K's run at KTMA was ending, HBO, looking to build a stable of shows for their new Comedy Channel cable network, approached Best Brains and requested a sample of their material.[5] Hodgson and Mallon provided a seven-minute demo reel, which led to the network greenlighting MST3K as one of the first two shows picked up by the network. The network offered Best Brains a relatively small figure, $35,000 per episode, for the show, but allowed Best Brains to retain the show's rights.[4]

Though the Comedy Channel executives wanted the show to be filmed in New York City, Best Brains insisted on keeping the production in Minnesota setting up an office and warehouse space in Eden Prairie for filming.[5][19] With an expanded but still limited budget, they were able to hire more writers, including Mike Nelson, Mary Jo Pehl, and Frank Conniff, and build more expansive sets and robot puppets.[5] They created the characters of Dr. Forrester (Beaulieu) and Dr. Erhardt (Weinstein) and crafted the larger narrative of each episode being an "experiment" they test on Joel. The cable network was able to give them a larger library of films to select from with the network chasing down any rights negotiations that were needed. Instead of ad-lib riffs in the theater, each show was carefully scripted ahead of time, with Nelson serving as head writer.[9]

MST3K was considered Comedy Channel's signature program, generated positive press about the show despite the limited availability of the cable channel nationwide.[5] After the second season, The Comedy Channel and rival comedy cable network HA! merged to become Comedy Central. During this period, MST3K became the cable channel's signature series, expanding from 13 to 24 episodes a year. To take advantage of the show's status, Comedy Central ran "Turkey Day," a 30-hour marathon of MST3K episodes during Thanksgiving, 1991. This tradition would be continued through the rest of the Comedy Central era. Though the show did not draw large audience numbers compared to other programming on Comedy Central, such as reruns of Saturday Night Live, the dedicated fans and attention kept the show on the network.[4]

Weinstein left the show after the first Comedy Channel season and Murphy replaced him as the voice of Tom Servo, portraying the 'bot as a cultured individual.[5] The Dr. Erhardt character was replaced by Conniff as "TV's Frank." Despite the fact that Frank was a lackey and not a "mad scientist," he and Forrester were collectively referred to as "The Mads."

Hodgson decided to leave the series halfway through Season Five due to his dislike of being on-camera and his disagreements with producer Mallon for creative control of the program.[20][21] Hodgson also stated that Mallon's insistence to produce a feature film version of the show led to his departure, giving up his rights on the MST3K property to Mallon.[22] Hodgson later told an interviewer: "If I had the presence of mind to try and work it out, I would rather have stayed. 'Cause I didn't want to go, it just seemed like I needed to."[16] Though they held casting calls for a replacement for Hodgson on camera, the crew found that none of the potential actors really fit the role; instead, having reviewed a test run that Nelson had done with the 'bots, the crew agreed that having Nelson (who had already appeared in guest roles on the show) replace Hodgson would be the least jarring approach.[5] In his final episode, Joel was forced to sit through the Joe Don Baker movie Mitchell before escaping the Satellite of Love and returning to Earth with help from Gypsy and "Mike Nelson" (played by Nelson), a temp worker hired by Dr. Forrester to help prepare for an audit from the Fraternal Order of Mad Science. To replace Joel and continue his experiment, Dr. Forrester sent Mike up in his place. The replacement of Joel by Mike would lead to an oft-jokingly "Joel vs Mike flame war" in the MST3K fandom at the nascent period of Internet availability, debating endlessly about who was the better host in the same manner as "Kirk vs Picard" discussions in the Star Trek fandom.[23]

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie was produced during the later half of the Comedy Central era and had a very limited theatrical release in 1996 through Universal Pictures. It featured Mike and the bots subjected to the film This Island Earth by Dr. Forrester. Though well-received by critics and fans, the film was considered a flop due to its limited distribution.[22]

Conniff left the show after Season Six, looking to get into showwriting in Hollywood.[19] [5] Within Season Seven, the show introduced Dr. Forrester's mother, Pearl (played by writer Mary Jo Pehl). By this time under new leadership of Doug Herzog, Comedy Central had started creating an identity for its network, which would lead to successful shows like Politically Incorrect, The Daily Show and South Park, leaving MST3K as an oddity on the network taking up limited program space. Herzog, though stating that MST3K "helped put the network on the map" and that its fans were "passionate", believed it was necessary to change things around due to the show's declining and lackluster ratings.[24][25] The network cancelled MST3K after its seventh season.[5] In the last show of the seventh season, Laserblast, Dr. Forrester detaches the SOL from Deep 13 after his funding runs out, casting the satellite adrift in space. Parodying 2001: A Space Odyssey, they reach the edge of the Universe and become entities of pure consciousness, as Forrester sees a monolith-like giant videotape, and then turns into a star-baby.

Sci-Fi Channel era (1997–1999)[edit]

Nelson, Corbett, and Murphy, the primary actors in the Sci-Fi channel area, as part of their Rifftrax panel in 2009

When Comedy Central dropped the show after a six-episode seventh season, MST3K's fan base staged a write-in campaign to keep the show alive.[18] This effort led the Sci-Fi Channel, a subsidiary of USA Networks to pick up the series, where it ran for three more seasons. At this point, Beaulieu opted to leave the show, feeling that anything creative that would be produced by Best Brains would belong to Mallon, and wanted to have more creative ownership himself.[5] To replace Dr. Forrester, Pearl Forrester was given two new sidekicks: the idiotic, Planet of the Apes-inspired Professor Bobo (played by Murphy) and the highly evolved, supposedly omniscient, yet equally idiotic Observer (a.k.a. "Brain Guy"), played by writer Corbett. In addition, Corbett took over Crow's voice and puppetry and Best Brains staffer Patrick Brantseg took over Gypsy in the middle of Season Eight.[26] In the overarcing narrative, Mike and the 'bots return to corporeal form, and then are chased down by Pearl in the Widowmaker, a modified VW Van, before they return to Earth, after which Pearl sends movies to the Satellite of Love from Castle Forrester. With this replacement, the series' entire original cast had been turned over.

During the Sci-Fi era, Best Brains found themselves more limited by the network: the pool of available films was smaller and more focused on science fiction, and the USA network executives managing the show wanted to see a story arc and had more demands on how the show should be produced.[5] Conflict between Best Brains and the network executives would eventually lead to the show's cancellation.[5] The series finale, Danger: Diabolik, premiered on August 8, 1999, during which, in the show's narrative, Pearl Forrester sent the Satellite of Love out of orbit, with Mike and the 'bots escaping and taking up residence in an apartment near Minnesota. A "lost" episode produced earlier in the season but delayed due to rights, Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders, was the last new episode of MST3K, broadcast on September 12, 1999.[18]

Reruns continued to air on the Sci Fi Channel for several years, ending with The Screaming Skull on January 31, 2004. Another campaign to save the show was mounted, including several MST3K fans taking contributions for a full-page ad in the trade publication Daily Variety magazine, but was unsuccessful.[27] The shows later moved to syndication.

Revival (2016–ongoing)[edit]

The revival will feature Ray (top) aboard the Satellite of Love, Day (bottom left) as Kinga Forrester, and Oswalt as TV's Son of TV's Frank

Since around 2010, Hodgson had been trying to bring back MST3K, with efforts increasing since 2013. Hodgson began working closely with Shout! Factory, the production company that has published many of the original MST3K episodes including securing the rights to the films contained within, to seek ways to create a revival. Hodgson felt that timing was right for the reboot: previous shows have found crowd sourced funding from its fans for continuation, and with non-traditional outlets for broadcast, such as Netflix, there is a potential for a wider audience.[28] Hodgson also considered that fans still appreciated the show and the cast and crew from it even 25 years from its premiere, and felt that a fan-enabled effort would help lead to new MST3K episodes. Hodgson had already considered that a wholly new cast would be involved in any revival project, noting that the original series had had a full cast change by the end of its run.[5][29] One obstacle towards a revival was the rights to the MST3K property, which were still held by Mallon and Best Brains. Shout! Factory worked with Hodgson, Mallon, and Best Brains as to acquire full rights to the show around August 2015.[30][14]

With the rights secured, Hodgson and Shout! Factory launched a $2 million Kickstarter campaign in November 2015 to produce at least three new episodes, with potentially up to 12 if a $5.5 million funding goal could be met.[31] Though Hodgson stated he had talked to various networks and streaming providers, he felt it was necessary to start with a crowd-sourced means to revive the show as to let the fans decide what type of show they wanted, instead of something that would be dictated by a network and may miss the mark.[32] Hodgson believed that the Kickstarter was necessary for "convincing a 'conference table full of executives' to give our show a home".[33] Hodgson, in speaking to Rolling Stone following the Kickstarter, stated that they had just been in discussion with a network that showed renewed interest in carrying the show due to the success of the fan-backed campaign.[14]

The Kickstarter campaign reached its base funding for a three-episode revival within a week of its launch.[34] On the final day of the campaign, Hodgson and Shout! ran a streaming telethon which included appearances from the newly selected cast and crew, and various celebrities that supported the revival to help exceed the target funding levels for twelve episodes.[35] The campaign ended on December 11, 2015 with total funding of $5,764,229 from 48,270 backers, with an additional $600,000 in backer add-ons, which allowed Hodgson to plan two more additional episodes, including a Christmas episode, to bring the total season to fourteen episodes.[36][37] The Kickstarter became the largest one for Film & Video, surpassing the $5.70 million raised for the Veronica Mars film.[38]

During the campaign, Hodgson announced the cast members that he had approached before the Kickstarter and was then able to confirm their involvement with the Kickstarter's success. Comedian Jonah Ray will play Jonah Heston, the new host aboard the Satellite of Love, watching and riffing on the films. Hodgson had met Ray while recording an episode of The Nerdist Podcast, and felt he would be a good fit.[34] The voices of Crow and Tom will be provided by comedians Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn, respectively, both whom Ray recommended to Hodgson. [39] Felicia Day will play Kinga Forrester, Clayton Forrester's daughter and one of the new Mads in charge of the experiments; Hodgson had seen Day's performance in shows like The Guild and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, and felt she matched his idea for the character.[39] Patton Oswalt will play Kinga's henchman, TV's Son of TV's Frank; Hodgson had initially considered bringing on Oswalt, a longtime friend and self-professed MST3K fan, as a special guest writer for an episode of the revived series, but decided after the Kickstarter had already begun that Oswalt would also be a good fit as an on-camera performer.[40]

The new show will be written by a new staff selected by Hodsgon, as well as from the new cast members and from backers of the Kickstarter campaign at specific reward levels. Hodgson has also announced plans to have guest writers for certain episodes that include Dan Harmon, Justin Roiland, Rob Schrab, Nell Scovell, Ernie Cline, Pat Rothfuss, Paul & Storm, and Dana Gould. Additionally, Robert Lopez will compose original songs for the new episodes.[41] Set and prop designers will include Wayne White, Pendleton Ward, Rebecca and Steven Sugar, and Guy Davis, while live and practical special effects will be planned out by Adam Savage.[42][14] Among other staff will include returning MST3K crew, including: Charlie Erickson, who composed the original show's theme song and will compose the new show's theme and other musical arrangements; Beez McKeever, who worked on the original show's props and will design costumes and props for the new show; Crist Ballas will continue doing hair and makeup design; and Paul Chaplin, one of the show's original writers to help write the new shows.[43] Hodgson has stated that Jack Black, Joel McHale, Bill Hader, Neil Patrick Harris, Jerry Seinfeld, and Mark Hamill have expressed interest in appearing in cameos on the new shows.[44]

Hodgson also opened up to the show any of the existing cast members to make cameo appearances or aid in the creative process. However, Nelson, Weinstein, Beaulieu, Pehl, and Corbett stated that they had declined to be involved with the MST3K reboot;[45][46] Nelson felt that "The brand does not belong to me, and I make and have made (almost) zero dollars off it since it stopped production in 1999."[46][47] Murphy recognized that as a relaunch, "a whole new group of people are brought in, and the show goes off in a new direction, and I think that's great".[48] Conniff noted on his Twitter that Shout! Factory would be "cutting [the former cast members] in, financially at least" on the profits from the series.[49]

In an interview with Paste during the Kickstarter, Hodgson said that they anticipate to start filming in early January 2016, and expects to be able to share clips at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con International in July.[32] Hodgson is also exploring the possibility of having the show on broadcast television.[14] Hodgson is aiming to follow in the pattern of what made for fan-favorite episodes from the original series, borrowing equally from the Joel and Mike eras; he noted there were about thirty episodes that he and fans universally agreed were the show's best, and expects to use these as templates as the basis of the new show.[14]

Cast[edit]

Cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000
Character KTMA
"Season 0"

(1988–89)
Comedy Channel / Comedy Central seasons (1989–1996) The Movie
(1996)
Sci-Fi seasons (1997–99)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Joel Robinson1 Joel Hodgson Joel Hodgson3
Mike Nelson Michael J. Nelson
Crow T. Robot Trace Beaulieu Bill Corbett
Tom Servo Josh Weinstein Kevin Murphy
Gypsy Josh Weinstein Jim Mallon Patrick Brantseg
Dr. Clayton Forrester Trace Beaulieu
Dr. Laurence "Larry" Erhardt Josh Weinstein
TV's Frank2 Frank Conniff Frank Conniff3
Pearl Forrester Mary Jo Pehl3 Mary Jo Pehl Mary Jo Pehl
Professor Bobo Kevin Murphy
Observer Bill Corbett
Notes
  1. ^ "Joel Hodgson" during season 0; Simply "Joel" (no last name) during Season 1.
  2. ^ Simply "Frank" during seasons 2 and 3.
  3. ^ Guest appearance only.

Episodes[edit]

By the conclusion of the Sci-Fi era, a total of 197 MST3K episodes, have been produced.[50] This does not include The Green Slime pilot episode, which was used to sell the concept to KTMA but otherwise was never broadcast.[51]

None of the KTMA episodes were rerun nationally or have been released onto home video due to rights issues. Some consider the first three KTMA episodes to be "missing episodes", as no fan copies are known to exist, but master copies of all these episodes still exist according to Mallon.[52] The credits in the first four seasons on Comedy Central included the phrase "Keep circulating the tapes" to encourage fans to share VHS tapings they made with others, despite the questionable copyright practice. Though the phrase was removed from the credits, the concept of "keep circulating the tapes" was held by the show's fans to continue to help introduce others to the show following its broadcast run.[50]

Turkey Day marathons[edit]

A common event in both the Comedy Central and Sci-Fi eras was a Turkey Day marathon that ran on or near the Thankgiving holiday. The marathon would show between six to twelve rebroadcasts of episodes, often with new interstitial material between the episodes from the cast and crew.

In honor of the show's 25th Anniversary in 2013, Shout! Factory ran a streaming video "Turkey Day" on Thanksgiving as had similarly been done during the show's run on Comedy Central. Fans were able to select the six episodes they wanted to see and the event was hosted by Hodgson.[53] The success of this event led Hodgson and Shout! Factory to repeat the event the following year.[54] In the final segment, Joel was joined at the dinner table by Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo. In 2014, another marathon was held. This time Crow and Tom were full participants, voiced by their original voice actors, Trace Beaulieu and Josh Weinstein, respectively.[citation needed]

The streaming Turkey Day event was run again 2015, coinciding with the Kickstarter for the planned revival of the show.

Home video and digital releases[edit]

Home video releases of MST3K are complicated by the licensing rights of the featured film and any shorts, and as such many of the nationally-televised episodes have not yet been released onto home video. Through the current distributor, Shout! Factory, over 100 of the movies have been cleared for home media distribution.[55]

Original home media releases were issued by Rhino Entertainment, initially starting with single disc releases before switching to semi-regular four-episode volume set. According to Hodgson, the people at Rhino that were involved in the distribution of MST3K eventually left Rhino and joined with Shout! Factory, helping to convince that publisher to acquire the rights from Rhino.[55] Since 2008, all releases MST3K have been through Shout! Factory, (including some reprints of the first Rhino volume set) and have typically been multi-episode volumes or themed packs.

In 2014, 80 episodes of the show were made available for purchase or rental on the video streaming site Vimeo.[56] Shout! Factory has uploaded some episodes to YouTube with annotations, as documented by The Annotated MST fansite, to explain some of the sources of the jokes in the riffs.[57] In February 2015, Shout! Factory launched its own streaming service, Shout! Factory TV, of which selected episodes of MST3K were included on the service.[58] Selected episodes were also made available on demand through Rifftrax starting in November 2015.[59]

Adaptations[edit]

Syndication[edit]

In 1993, the show's staff selected 30 episodes to split into 60 one-hour segments for The Mystery Science Theater Hour. The repackaged series' first-run airings of these half-shows ran from November 1993 to July 1994. Reruns continued through December 1994, and it was syndicated to local stations from September 1995 to September 1996, allowing stations to run the series in a one-hour slot, or the original two hour version.[60] MST3K returned to television for the first time in ten years in July 2014, when RetroTV began broadcasting the series on Saturday nights, with an encore on Sunday evenings.[61] The following year, they started showing on regular PBS affiliate networks.[62][63]

Feature film[edit]

In 1996, Universal Studios released Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, a film adaptation in which Mike and the bots riffed This Island Earth. The film was released on DVD in the United States by Image Entertainment. Universal Pictures re-released the film on DVD on May 6, 2008, with a new anamorphic widescreen transfer, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix, and the film's original trailer.[64]

Book[edit]

In 1996, the book, The Amazing Colossal Episode Guide (written by some MST3K cast members), was released, which contained a synopsis for every episode from seasons one through six, and even included some behind-the-scenes stories as well. In it, Kevin Murphy related two tales about celebrity reactions he encountered. In one, the cast went to a taping of Dennis Miller's eponymous show; when they were brought backstage to meet Miller, the comedian proceeded to criticize the MST3K cast for their choice of movie to mock in the then-recent episode "Space Travelers" (a re-branded version of the Oscar-winning film Marooned).[65] Murphy also discussed how he met Kurt Vonnegut, one of his literary heroes. When he had mentioned the show and its premise to Vonnegut, the author suggested that even people who work hard on bad films deserve some respect. Murphy then invited Vonnegut to dine with his group, which Vonnegut declined, claiming that he had other plans. When Murphy and friends ate later that night, he saw Vonnegut dining alone in the same restaurant, and remarked that he had been "faced...but nicely faced" by one of his literary heroes.[66]

Other appearances[edit]

In 1996, during promotion for Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, Mike and the bots were interviewed in-character on MTV, and seen in silhouettes heckling footage from MTV News.[citation needed] Also that year, Joel Hodgson was a featured guest on Cartoon Network's Space Ghost Coast to Coast.[citation needed] In 1997, the E! network's Talk Soup show, starring John Henson, featured guest appearances from Mike, Crow, and Tom Servo.[citation needed]

In 1997, the videogame magazine PlayStation Underground (Volume 2, Number 1) included a Best Brains-produced MST3K short on one of their promotional discs. The video opened with a host segment of Mike and the Bots playing some PlayStation games, only to go into the theater to riff on some videos from the magazine's past. The feature is about seven minutes long. An Easter egg on the disc has some behind-the-scenes footage of Best Brains filming the sequences.[67] Also that year, a new online animated web series, referred to as "The Bots Are Back!", was produced by Jim Mallon. The series planned a weekly adventure featuring Crow, Tom Servo, and Gypsy, with Mallon reprising his role as Gypsy and Paul Chaplin as Crow. However, only a handful of episodes were released, and the series was abandoned due to budget issues. The internet response to the webisodes was largely negative.[68]

Reception[edit]

In 2004, the show was listed as #11 in a featured TV Guide article, "25 Top Cult Shows Ever!", and included a sidebar which read, "Mike Nelson, writer and star (replacing creator Joel Hodgson), recently addressed a college audience: "There was nobody over the age of 25. I had to ask, 'Where are you seeing this show?' I guess we have some sort of timeless quality."[69] Three years later, TV Guide rewrote the article, and bumped MST3K to #13.[70] In 2007, the show was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All".[71] In 2012, the show was listed as #3 in Entertainment Weekly's "25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years", with the comment that "MST3K taught us that snarky commentary can be way more entertaining than the actual media."[72]

Reactions by those parodied[edit]

The reactions of those parodied by MST3K has been mixed. Sandy Frank, who held the rights to several Gamera films parodied on the show, was "intensely displeased" by the mockery directed at him. (The crew once sang the "Sandy Frank Song", which said that Frank was "the source of all our pain", "thinks that people come from trees", Steven Spielberg "won't return his calls", and implied that he was too lazy to make his own films). Because of this, Frank reportedly refused to allow the shows to be rebroadcast once MST3K's rights ran out.[73] However, this may in fact be a rumor, as other rumors indicate that the Gamera films distribution rights prices were increased beyond what BBI could afford as a result of the show's success. According to Shout Factory, the Japanese movie studio Kadokawa Pictures were so horrified with MST3K's treatment of five Gamera films that they refused to let Shout release the episodes on home video. Brian Ward (one of the members of Shout Factory) explained to fans on the forums of the official Shout Factory website that they tried their best to convince them, but the Japanese take their Gamera films very seriously and do not appreciate their being mocked. However, eventually Shout was able to clear the episodes for a special 2011 release due to the rights in North America shifting away from the Japanese to another, North American entity that had no such qualms.[74] In another post on the Shout Factory message boards, Ward explained that the Godzilla films faced the same obstacle as Gamera, and explained that unless the rights shifted the way the Gamera rights have, these films would remain unreleased.[75]

Kevin Murphy had once said that Joe Don Baker wanted to beat up the writers of the show for attacking him during Mitchell.[76][77] Murphy later said Baker likely meant it in a joking manner, although Mike Nelson said he deliberately avoided Baker while the two happened to be staying at the same hotel.[78]

Director Rick Sloane was shocked at his treatment at the conclusion of Hobgoblins.[79] In a 2008 interview, however, Sloane clarified his comments, saying that "I laughed through the entire MST3K episode, until the very end. I wasn't expecting the humor to suddenly be at my own expense. I was mortified when they dragged out the cardboard cutout and pretended to do an interview with me. I was caught off guard. I had never seen them rip apart any other director before on the show." He also credits the success of the MST3K episode with inspiring him to make a sequel to Hobgoblins, released in 2009.[80]

Jeff Lieberman, director of Squirm, was also quite angry at the MST3K treatment of his film.[81]

Others have been more positive: Robert Fiveson and Myrl Schriebman, producers of Parts: The Clonus Horror, said they were "flattered" to see the film appear on MST3K.[82] Actor Miles O'Keeffe, the star of the film Cave Dwellers, called Best Brains and personally requested a copy of the MST3K treatment of the film,[78] saying he enjoyed their skewering of what he had considered to be a surreal experience. In the form of an essay and E. E. Cummings-esque poem, Mike Nelson paid tribute to O'Keeffe with a humorous mix of adulation and fear.[83]

Actor Adam West, star of the 1960s Batman TV series, co-starred in Zombie Nightmare, another film MST3K mocked. West apparently held no grudges, as he hosted the 1994 "Turkey Day" marathon in which the episode featuring Zombie Nightmare had its broadcast premiere. Mamie van Doren (who appeared in episode 112, Untamed Youth, and episode 601, Girls Town), Robert Vaughn (star of episode 315, Teenage Cave Man, which he called the worst movie ever made) and Beverly Garland (who had appeared in many MST3K-featured Roger Corman films) also hosted at the marathon.

Rex Reason, star of This Island Earth, has also appeared at several MST3K events and credits MST3K with introducing the film to a new generation. The crew of Time Chasers held a party the night the MST3K treatment of their film aired and, while reactions were mixed, director David Giancola said, "Most of us were fans and knew what to expect and we roared with laughter and drank way too much. I had a blast, never laughed so hard in my life."[84]

Awards[edit]

In 1993, MST3K won a Peabody Award for "producing an ingenious eclectic series": "With references to everything from Proust to 'Gilligan's Island,' 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' fuses superb, clever writing with wonderfully terrible B-grade movies".[85] In 1994 and 1995, the show was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing for a Variety or Music Program, but lost both times to Dennis Miller Live.[86] Every year from 1992 to 1997, it was also nominated for CableACE Awards.[87][88] Its DVD releases have been nominated for Saturn Awards in 2004, 2006 and 2007.

Influence[edit]

Though MST3K, many obscure films have been more visible to the public, and several have since been considered some of the worst films ever made and are voted into the Bottom 100 on the Internet Movie Database.[89] Of note is Manos: The Hands of Fate, which was riffed on by MST3K in its fourth season. Manos was a very low-budget film produced by Hal Warren, a fertilizer salesman at the time, taking on a dare from a screenwriter friend to show that anyone could make a horror film. The film suffered from numerous production issues due to its limited filming equipment, and many critics describe the result using a riff from MST3K, in that "every frame of this movie looks like someone’s last-known photograph".[90] The MST3K episode featuring Manos was considered one of its most popular and best episodes, and brought Manos into the public light as one of the worst films ever produced. The film gained a cult following, and presently there is an effort to restore the film to high-definition quality from its original film reels.[91] MST3K also riffed on three films directed by Coleman Francis, Red Zone Cuba, The Skydivers, and The Beast of Yucca Flats, which brought awareness of Francis' poor direction and low-budget films, similar to that of Ed Wood.[92] MST3K also brought to the limelight lackluster works by Bert I. Gordon, primarily giant monster B-movies, that gained attention through the show, and many Japanese kaiju movies imported and dubbed through producer Sandy Frank, particularly those in the Gamera series.[18]

MST3K's riffing style has been used in other works. In 2003, the television series Deadly Cinema, starring Jami Deadly, debuted, which featured the cast making fun of bad movies, MST3K-style. In 2004, the ESPN Classic series Cheap Seats, debuted, which featured two brothers making fun of clips of old sporting events, MST3K-style, and is noteworthy for containing an episode in which MST3K cast members briefly appeared in a cameo to make fun of the hosts' own skits. In 2008, the internet and direct-to-DVD comedy series Incognito Cinema Warriors XP, debuted, which used the same "host segment-movie segment" format the show established, while featuring completely original characters and plot. ICWXP gained a similar cult following, even earning the praises of former MST3K host Michael J. Nelson.[93] In 2010, the television series This Movie Sucks! (and its predecessor Ed's Nite In), starring Ed the Sock and co-hosts Liana K and Ron Sparks, debuted. It features the cast making fun of bad movies. Creator Steven Kerzner, however, was quick to point out that MST3K was not "the creator of this kind of format, they’re just the most recent and most well-known".[94] In 2011, the theater silhouette motif was parodied by golf commentator and talk show host David Feherty in an episode of Feherty. He is shown sitting in front of a large screen and "riffing" while viewing footage of golfer Johnny Miller and is joined in the theater by his stuffed rooster (Frank) and his gnome statue (Costas).

Further, the riffing style from MST3K is considered part of the influence for DVD commentaries and successful YouTube reviewers and Let's Play-style commentators.[9] DVD releases for both Ghostbusters and Men in Black used a similar format to Shadowrama for an "in-vision" commentary features.[95][96] The concept of social television, where social media is integrated into the television viewing experience, was significantly influenced by MST3K.[97] This social media practice of live-tweeting riffs and jokes on broadcast shows, such as for films like Sharknado, has its roots in MST3K.[10][98][99][14]

Public performances of live riffing have been hosted by various groups in different cities across the U.S. and Canada, including Cineprov (Atlanta, Georgia), Master Pancake Theater (Austin, TX), Counterclockwise Comedy (Kansas City, Missouri), FilmRoasters (Richmond, Virginia), Moxie Skinny Theatre 3000 (Springfield, Missouri), Riff Raff Theatre (Iowa City, Iowa), Twisted Flicks (Seattle, Washington), and Turkey Shoot (Metro Cinema at the Garneau, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada).[100][101][102] Canadian sketch comedy group Loading Ready Run produces the show Unskippable for The Escapist website, which applies the MST3K premise to video game cut scenes.

Fandom[edit]

MST3K, broadcasting during the emergence of the Internet for public use, developed a large fan base during its broadcast which continues to thrive since.[5] The show had already had its postal-based fan club, which people could write into and which some letters and drawings read on subsequent episodes, and the producers encouraged fans to share recordings with others.[5] Fans of the show generally refer to themselves as "MSTies".[5] Usenet newsgroups rec.arts.tv.mst3k.misc and rec.arts.tv.mst3k.announce were established in the mid-1990s for announcements and discussions related to the show.[103][104][105] A type of fan fiction called MiSTings, in which fans would add humorous comments to other, typically bad, fan fiction works, was popular on these groups.[106] The fan-run website Satellite News continues to track news and information about the show and related projects from its cast members.[107] Another fan site, The Annotated MST, attempts to catalog and describe all the obscure popular culture references used in a given episode.[57]

In addition to the show's fandom, a number of celebrities have expressed their love for the show. One of the earliest known celebrity fans was Frank Zappa, who went so far as to telephone Best Brains, calling MST3k as "the funniest fucking thing on TV" according to Beaulieu.[5] Zappa became a friend of the show, and following his death episode 523 was dedicated to him. Other known celebrities fans include Al Gore and Patton Oswalt.[5]

There were two official fan conventions in Minneapolis, run by the series' production company (called "ConventioCon ExpoFest-A-Rama" (1994) and "ConventioCon ExpoFest-A-Rama 2: Electric Bugaloo" (1996). At least 2,500 people attended the first convention.[5]

Related post-show projects[edit]

Mystery Science Theater 3000s Mike Nelson (left) and Kevin Murphy, at "Exoticon 1" convention panel in Metairie, Louisiana, November 1998
Main articles: Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic

The various cast and crew from the show's broadcast run have continued to produce comedy works following the show. Two separate projects were launched that specifically borrowed on the theme of riffing on bad movies. After the short-lived The Film Crew in 2006, Nelson started Rifftrax, providing downloadable audio files containing MST3K-style riffs that the viewer would synchronize to their personal copy of a given popular movie (such as Star Wars: Episode I); this was done to avoid copyright and licensing issues with such films. Rifftrax's cast expanded to include Murphy and Corbett along with occasional guest starts, and were able to use a wider range of films, including films and shorts in the public domain, and films which they could get the license to stream and distribute. In addition, they launched production of Rifftrax Live shows for various films, where they performed their riffing in front of a live audience that was simultaneously broadcast to other movie theaters across the country and later made available as on-demand video. As of 2015, Rifftrax continues to offer new material and shows.

Similarly, Hodgson, after some experimental creative works such as The TV Wheel,[5] started Cinematic Titanic with Beaulieu, Weinstein, Conniff, and Pehl in 2007. Like MST3K, the five riffed on bad movies they were able to acquire the licenses for (including Santa Claus Conquers the Martians), which then were distributed through on-demand video and streaming options. They later did a number of live shows across the United States, some which were made available for digital demand. Production of Cinematic Titanic was shut down in January 2014.[108]

Other related projects by the MST3K crew following the show's end include: In 2000, most of the cast of the Sci-Fi era of the show collaborated on a humor website, Timmy Big Hands, that closed in 2001.[citation needed]

In 2001, Mike Nelson, Patrick Brantseg, Bill Corbett, Kevin Murphy and Paul Chaplin created The Adventures of Edward the Less, an animated parody of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and others in the fantasy genre, with additional vocals by Mary Jo Pehl and Mike Dodge, for the Sci Fi Channel website.[109]

In 2008, Bill Corbett and fellow writer Rob Greenberg wrote the screenplay for Meet Dave, a family comedy starring Eddie Murphy about a tiny Star Trek-like crew operating a spaceship that looks like a man. The captain of the crew and the spaceship were both played by Murphy. Originally conceived as a series called Starship Dave for SciFi.com, it was dropped in favor of Edward the Less. The script (along with the title) were changed drastically by studio executives and other writers, although Corbett and Greenberg received sole screenwriter credit.[110][5]

In 2010, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Joel Hodgson, Mary Jo Pehl, Josh Weinstein, Beth McKeever and Clive Robertson voiced characters for Darkstar: The Interactive Movie, a computer game created by J. Allen Williams.[citation needed]

In 2013, Frank Conniff and animation historian Jerry Beck debuted Cartoon Dump,[111] a series of classically bad cartoons, which are also occasionally performed live.[112]

In 2015, Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff began performing together as "The Mads", riffing movies at live screenings across the U.S.[113]

Reunions[edit]

In 2008, to commemorate the show's 20th anniversary, the principal cast and crew from all eras of the show reunited for a panel discussion at the San Diego Comic-Con International, which was hosted by actor-comedian Patton Oswalt. The event was recorded and included as a bonus feature on the 20th Anniversary DVD release via Shout! Factory. Also that year, several original MST3K members (including Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff) reunited to shoot a brief sketch to be included on the web-exclusive DVD release of The Giant Gila Monster.[114] The new disc was added to Volume 10 of the "MST3K Collection" DVD boxed set series, replacing the Godzilla vs. Megalon disc which could no longer be sold due to copyright conflicts. The new package was sold under the name "Volume 10.2", and the sketch was presented as a seminar to instruct consumers on how to "upgrade" their DVD set, which merely consists of "disposing" of the old disc and inserting the new one.

In 2013, Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu reprised their roles as Joel Robinson and Crow T. Robot for cameo appearances in the fourth season of Arrested Development.[115]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "MST3k: Technical Specifications". IMDb. Retrieved 3 April 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Company Credits". IMDb. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  3. ^ Hirsh, Mark (November 27, 2013). "About 'Mystery Science Theater,' A Bold Declaration. It's Bold!". NPR. Retrieved December 3, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c Itzkoff, Dave (November 9, 2008). "The Show That Turned the Mockery Into the Message". New York Times. Retrieved December 2, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak Referty, Brian (April 22, 2014). "Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Definitive Oral History of a TV Masterpiece". Wired. Retrieved December 2, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Kangas, Chaz (November 27, 2013). "Talking Mystery Science Theater 3000's 25th Anniversary with Creator Joel Hodgson". Village Voice. Retrieved December 2, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Dube, Jonathan; Perkins, Will (December 19, 2011). "Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1998)". Art of the Title. Retrieved December 2, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Davis, Lauren (November 4, 2012). "How did MST3K pick those terrible, terrible movies?". io9. Retrieved December 2, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Corlis, Richard (August 28, 2010). "Mystery Science Theater 2010: Riffer Madness!". Time. Retrieved December 2, 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c Truitt, Brian (November 23, 2013). "Sunday Geekersation: 25 years of Joel Hodgson's 'MST3K'". USA Today. Retrieved December 3, 2015. 
  11. ^ Sloan, Will (August 16, 2012). "'You Can't Just Be The Voice Of Generic Sarcasm': The Art Of Movie Riffing". NPR. Retrieved December 2, 2015. 
  12. ^ Abrams, Simon (December 10, 2015). "Joel Hodgson: MST3K Isn't About Ridicule-It's a "Variety Show Built on the Back of a Movie"". LA Weekly. Retrieved December 14, 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Trace Beaulieu; et al. (1996). The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide (1st ed.). New York: Bantam Books. p. 153-159. ISBN 9780553377835. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Wood, Jennifer (December 22, 2015). "'MST3K' Returns: Joel Hodgson on Resurrecting the Cult TV Show". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 23, 2015. 
  15. ^ Trace Beaulieu; et al. (1996). The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide (1st ed.). New York: Bantam Books. p. 145. ISBN 9780553377835. 
  16. ^ a b Philps, Keith (November 3, 2008). "The Mystery Science Theater 3000 reunion interview: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, and Jim Mallon". A.V. Club. Retrieved December 2, 2015. 
  17. ^ "A Guy Named AJ : Launching Cinematic Titanic". StarWars.com. Archived from the original on 2007-12-02. Retrieved 2007-11-12. 
  18. ^ a b c d Vorel, Jim (August 10, 2015). "The 25-Episode History of Mystery Science Theater 3000". Paste. Retrieved December 1, 2015. 
  19. ^ a b Hilty, Wyn (August 5, 1999). "MST3K's Legacy Will Live On". OC Weekly. Retrieved December 3, 2015. 
  20. ^ Henry, Brian. "MST3K FAQ -- West Brains: Aliens in L.A.". MST3K Info Club. Archived from the original on 2007-04-14. Retrieved 2007-05-24. 
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External links[edit]