Friday, November 21, 2014

MST3K


In the not to distant future there is this guy named Joel. He's a regular guy, like you or me. Joel works at Gizmonic Institute as a janitor, just another guy in a red jumpsuit. He did a pretty good job cleaning up the place but his bosses didn't like him so... They shot him into space. They send him cheesy movies and monitor his mind while he watches and riff on them with his robot friends, Crow and Tom Servo. He has no control over when these movies begin of end because... Well, he used those parts to build his robot friends.
 

The recent announcement that PBS is trying to bring the cult favorite TV series, Mystery Science Theater 3000, back to television. Three episodes are being shopped around to public television stations nation wide to see if there is an interest. The potential for the series to be back on the air had brought back some good memories. My cousins and I would stop whatever we were doing on Saturday nights and gather around the TV at my grandmothers house to see what bad film was up next and what Joel and his robot pals Crow and Tom Servo would say about them. I unfortunately lost track of the show during high school and never got back to it before it's final cancellation. But those memories of Saturday nights still stay with me. Recently I have been rediscovering it with my wife thanks to the local library stacking up on some of the DVDs.


Mystery Science Theater 3000, also known as MST3K, started airing in Minneapolis, Minnesota on KTMA on November 24, 1988. It would be picked up by Comedy Central, get canceled in 1997, picked up by the SyFy network (which was still SciFi at the time), and again get canceled in 1999. In it's eleven years, 197 episode and one movie, it earned a Peabody Award, two Emmy nominations, and a CableACE Award nomination. Series creator Joel Hodgson would watch B-movies with Crow and Tom Servo and riff on them. Their silhouettes would be onscreen appearing like you would be watching them from behind in a movie theater. Another robot, Gypsy sometimes takes part in the live action skits of the show. Joel built her to run the Satellite of Love's higher functions. The SOL being the ship they are all stranded on.



Joel left the show in 1993 and head writer Mike Nelson took over hosting duties on the Satellite of Love. The series is very funny. Well most of the time. Sometimes the movies are so bad or boring it seems like they struggle to get the jokes going. And sometimes their references are pretty obscure, on occasion being true inside jokes. Over all though, it is comedic gold.


In a weird way, MST3K is sometimes somewhat educational. Some of the films and shorts that got selected might only be found in archives and would never otherwise see the light of day. The series also brought notoriety to some obscure films. Although some would label it more along the lines of infamy. And even though the theme some label the films as "cheesy" and "the worst we could find" some of the filmmakers who had their works ripped apart were appreciative of MST3K giving their films new life. Some actors who appeared in these films, Including Adam West, even hosted a "Turkey Day" marathon in 1994. And some didn't take to kindly to it either, notably the rights holders to the Japanese monsters Gamera and Godzilla. You won't find the Gamera episodes on DVD and the episodes with Godzilla can no longer be published.


Though the series has been off the air for some time now, it still has a loyal following. So loyal that Mike Nelson created RiffTrax, which allows fans to download riff audio tracks they can sync to both B-movies and well known, and even popular films. RiffTrax features some of the voices and crew of MST3K and has some special guests including "Weird Al" Yankovic and Neil Patrick Harris.


If enough public television station are interested, the block of three Mystery Science Theater 3000 films will be packages as a "Best of MST3K". If this proves to be successful, more "Best of" packages could be in the works opening this cult series to a wider audience than it ever had. Hopefully MST3K will be back in the not to distant future.

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