Mystery Science Theater 3000 is, simply put, one of the hands-down funniest television shows in the history of history. Originally aired on KTMA, a television station in the twin cities region of Minnesota in 1988, Mystery Science Theater moved to the Comedy Channel in 1989, which became Comedy Central in 1991, and finally moved to the Sci-Fi Channel for the last 3 years of its run, ending in 1999. The show was the brainchild of comedian Joel Hodgson, who was joined by producer Jim Mallon and fellow comedians Trace Beaulieu and Josh Weinstein. Future member Kevin Murphy was doing camera work at this time. Weinstein would leave after the first Comedy Channel season, and the main cast would henceforth be Joel as Joel, Trace as Crow and Dr. Forrester, Kevin as Tom Servo, and Frank Conniff as TV’s Frank. Mid-way through season 5, Joel would leave the show and be replaced by Mike Nelson, who had been head writer since season 2. Frank and Trace would both leave shortly after, being replaced by Mary Jo Pehl as Pearl Forrester and Bill Corbett as Crow.
The show has a very simple premise: a man and his robot friends (Gypsy, who doesn’t watch the movies, Crow T. Robot, and Tom Servo) are forced to watch bad movies as part of an evil experiment. To keep their sanity throughout this experiment, Joel (later Mike) and the bots riff on the movies while in the theater. The riffing is by and large hilarious. I won’t pretend it’s always spot on, but for a show that ran an hour and a half, it makes the most of its run time.
So what kind of movies were featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000? Movies like this:
…with heroes like this:
I don’t know where they found some of the movies they found, but I don’t envy whoever had to screen them the first time. Such illustrious masterpieces as “The Skydivers”, “The Pumaman”, “The Creeping Terror”, and my personal favorite, “The Final Sacrifice”, are a few of the films whose last shreds of dignity were torn asunder by the MST3K crew.
All in all, the true test to see if you’d like Mystery Science Theater is to go and watch an episode. An hour and a half too long for your busy schedule? Try one of the shorts, which often contain more laughs per minute than the full movies. But no matter what you watch, prepare yourself for pain. Pain from knowing movies like the ones featured on the show exist, and pain from clutching your sides from laughing too hard.