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Mystery Science Theater 3000

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Mystery Science Theater 3000

Mystery Science Theater 3000
The MST3K planet logo
Also known as MST3K
MST 3000
Genre Comic science fiction, puppetry
Created by Joel Hodgson
Starring Joel Hodgson (1988–93)
Trace Beaulieu (1988–96)
Josh Weinstein (1988–90)
Jim Mallon (1988–96)
Kevin Murphy (1990–99)
Frank Conniff (1990–95)
Michael J. Nelson (1993–99)
Mary Jo Pehl (1994–99)
Bill Corbett (1997–99)
Patrick Brantseg (1997–99)
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" (instrumental) (KTMA season)
"Mighty Science Theater"
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 11
No. of episodes 197 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Jim Mallon
Joel Hodgson (1988–93)
Running time ~95 minutes
Production company(s) Best Brains
Original channel KTMA (1988–89)
The Comedy Channel (1989–91)
Comedy Central (1991–96)
Sci Fi Channel (1997–99)
Original run November 24, 1988 (1988-11-24) – August 8, 1999 (1999-08-08)
External links

Mystery Science Theater 3000, often abbreviated MST3K, is an American cult 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. The show was then picked up by The Sci-Fi Channel and aired for another three seasons until its final cancellation in August 1999.

The show mainly features a man and his robot sidekicks who are imprisoned on a space station by an evil scientist and forced to watch a selection of B-movies, as part of a psychological experiment, and frequently preceded by short public-domain educational films, newsreels, or serial dramas. To stay sane, the man and his robots provide a running commentary on each film, making fun of its flaws, and wisecracking their way through each reel in the style of a movie-theater peanut gallery. Each film is presented with a superimposition of the man and robots' silhouettes along the bottom of the screen. The film is interspersed with skits tied into the theme of the film being watched or the episode as a whole.

Hodgson originally played the stranded man, Joel Robinson, for four and a half seasons. When Hodgson left in 1993, series head writer Michael J. Nelson replaced him as new victim Mike Nelson and continued in the role for the rest of the show's run. The robots, Crow T. Robot, Tom Servo, and Gypsy, are puppets created from a variety of household objects, manipulated and voiced by other cast members who rotated over the course of the show's run.

During its eleven years, which produced 197 episodes and one feature film, MST3K attained critical acclaim. The series won a Peabody Award in 1993, was nominated for two Emmy Awards (in the category of Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing for a Variety or Music Program) in 1994 and 1995,[1] and was nominated for a CableACE Award. In 2007, James Poniewozik listed Mystery Science Theater 3000 as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All-Time".[2]


In the "not-too-distant future", two mad scientists, Dr. Clayton Forrester (named after the main character of The War of the Worlds), played by Trace Beaulieu, and his sidekick Dr. Laurence Erhardt, played by Josh Weinstein, launch Joel Robinson (Hodgson), a janitor working for Gizmonic Institute, into space and force him to watch B-movies in order to measure how much bad movie watching it takes to drive a person crazy in order to pinpoint the perfect B-movie to use as a weapon in Dr. Forrester's scheme of world domination. The sycophantic TV's Frank, played by Frank Conniff, replaced Dr. Erhardt in the second season premiere on the Comedy Channel, following Weinstein's departure from the series. Trapped on the Satellite of Love, Joel builds four sentient robots: Tom Servo (voiced first by J. Elvis Weinstein, then by Kevin Murphy beginning in Season 2), Crow T. Robot (voiced first by Trace Beaulieu, then by Bill Corbett beginning in Season 8), Gypsy (voiced first by Weinstein, then by Jim Mallon and later by Patrick Brantseg, both using a falsetto voice), who steers the ship, and Cambot, the recorder of the experiments who is visible primarily in a mirror during the opening credits and occasionally interacts with the others. Also making intermittent "appearances" in the show's early years is Magic Voice, a disembodied female voice whose primary role is to announce the start of the first commercial break in each episode.

Joel and Mike have no control over when the movies start, because Joel utilized the parts that would've allowed him to do so to build the robots. He must enter the theater when the movie is sent up, because Dr. Forrester (and in later seasons, his evil mother Pearl) has numerous ways to punish Joel/Mike for non-compliance, including shutting off the oxygen supply to the rest of the ship and electric shocks. As the movie plays, the silhouettes of Joel/Mike, Tom, and Crow are visible at the bottom of the screen, wisecracking and mocking the movie (a practice they often referred to as "riffing") in order to prevent themselves from going mad. Several times during each movie (about every half-hour when shown with commercials), Joel/Mike and the robots perform skits, songs, or other short sketch pieces (called "host segments") that are usually related to the movie they are watching.

Many episodes without movies long enough to fill the show's runtime include screenings of unintentionally humorous short films or "shorts", including educational films and training videos. Shorts became less common as the series progressed and were nonexistent in the first Sci-Fi Channel season, due to a combination of longer films and host segments, and shorts requiring a science fiction element. The restriction was lifted for the final two seasons, which featured three shorts.


Episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are wrapped with live-action skits performed by the cast, typically opening with a sketch unrelated to the remainder of the episode, followed by an introduction to the movie. In many episodes featuring movies too short to fill the show's 2-hour running time, the movie would be preceded by one or more Manos: The Hands of Fate), both Minnesota Vikings running back Robert Smith and film critic Leonard Maltin have appeared as guests.

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

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 comedy aspects, and while they were continued into the Nelson period, they were ultimately discontinued 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". Similarly, the final skit in Hodgson's period usually included reading fan mail and advertising the MST3K Info Club. This was phased 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 from the film.

The end of the introductory sketch would end with lights and sirens on the bridge flashing 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 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, Hodgson or Nelson, Crow, and Tom would sit in silhouette in a row of theater seats and watch the movie, often with Hodgson or Nelson using their hands to point and mock the movie in addition to their verbal riffing. Sometimes, a short video will be shown before the actual film. The silhouette approach is trademarked as "Shadowrama", and really is just a simple row of rounded shapes cut from black painted foamcore board, with the human host dressed in black, and black-painted versions of the puppets used. This allowed for the host and puppeteers to watch the movie and read from their script while creating the illusion of a theater setting for the show.[3]

Background and history


Although MST3K was arguably the most successful television series to satirize the B-movie genre, it was not the first. Prior to MST3K's 1988 debut, the nationally syndicated TV series Mad Movies with the L.A. Connection and The Canned Film Festival featured many of the same movies but each lasted for only a single season in 1985 and 1986 respectively.

Hodgson is credited for coming up with the concept for the show (as well as the title, Mystery Science Theater;[4] the "3000" suffix was added later to sound like a version number, as in "HAL 9000"). Drawing partly on his own comedy act, the show's format was to showcase Hodgson. These initial episodes were recorded at the now defunct Paragon Cable studios and customer service center in Hopkins, Minnesota. Hodgson credits Silent Running, a 1972 sci-fi 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] Hodgson also cites Beany and Cecil as having likely been a subconscious childhood influence. The 1960s Bob Clampett cartoon series centered on a boy and his sea serpent friend. In an interview, Hodgson made loose retrospective comparisons to elements between the two shows, such as the ship (the Leakin' Lena, to the S.O.L.), and the characters of Beany (to Joel), Cecil (to Gypsy), Huffenpuff (to Tom Servo), Crowy (to Crow), and Dishonest John (to Dr. Forrester). Another childhood influence was the CBS Children's Film Festival, a 1970s live-action program which starred Kukla, Fran and Ollie, Burr Tillstrom's puppet troupe which was made famous during television's early days in the 1940s and 1950s. The characters consisted of a human (played by Fran Allison) and her two puppet friends (both performed by Tillstrom). Each episode of Film Festival featured an international children's film, with Kukla, Fran and Ollie serving as hosts. Fran would lead discussions of the film as the episode went on, in similar fashion to MST3K's host segments. In addition, Hodgson used the name 'Robinson' when he did his appearances on the show: it was a tribute to the classic TV show Lost in Space (1965-1968) and to the ficticious space family Robinson, who drifted in space in every episode.

KTMA era

In September 1988, Hodgson enlisted Twin Cities-area comedians Trace Beaulieu and Josh Weinstein, and producer Jim Mallon, to help him shoot a pilot for the show. The robots and the set were built by Hodgson in an all-nighter. The next morning, shooting commenced and a 30-minute pilot was produced, in which selections from the 1969 science-fiction film, The Green Slime, were the test subject film. Joel watched the movie by himself, and was aided during the host segments by his robots, Crow (Beaulieu), Beeper, and Gypsy (Weinstein). Camera work was by Kevin Murphy, who worked at television station KTMA. Murphy also created the first "doorway sequence" and theater seat design.

Mallon met with KTMA station manager Donald O'Conner the next month and managed to get signed up for thirteen episodes. 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 back story was also altered from the pilot; In the pilot episode it is explained that Joel Hodgson (not yet using his character name of Robinson) had built the Satellite of Love and launched himself into space.[6]

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. Response was so great that the initial run of 13 episodes was extended to 21, with the show running to May 1989. 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 cancel MST3K.

Comedy Central era

Just as its run at KTMA was ending, the creators of MST3K used a short "best-of" reel to pitch the concept to executives at the Comedy Channel, a relatively new national cable channel. It became one of the first two shows picked up. New sets were built, the robots were retooled, and a new doorway sequence was shot. Another major change was the show's writing format: instead of ad-lib riffs in the theater, each show was carefully scripted ahead of time, with Mike Nelson serving as head writer. Weinstein left the show after the first Comedy Channel season and Murphy replaced him as the voice of Tom Servo. The Dr. Erhardt character was replaced by Conniff's "TV's Frank". Despite being a lackey and not a "mad scientist", Forrester and Frank were collectively referred to as "The Mads".

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.

Mike and the bots watch The Crawling Eye (in their apartment on Earth) at the end of the series finale

Hodgson decided to leave the series halfway through Season Five due to his dislike of being on-camera and his disagreements with producer Jim Mallon for creative control of the program.[7][8] 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."[9] In his final episode, Joel was forced to sit through the Joe Don Baker movie Mitchell before escaping the S.O.L. (with the help of Gypsy and Mike Nelson - a temp worker hired by Dr. Forrester to help prepare for an audit from the Fraternal Order of Mad Science) and returning to Earth. To replace Joel, Dr. Forrester sent Mike up in his place.

Conniff left the show after Season Six and Season Seven saw the addition of Forrester's mother, Pearl (played by writer Mary Jo Pehl). 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. Eventually they reach the edge of the Universe and become entities of pure consciousness. 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).

Sci-Fi Channel era

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. This effort led the Sci-Fi Channel to pick up the series, where it ran for three more seasons. Pearl's new sidekicks were 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 Bill Corbett. In addition, Corbett took over Crow's voice and puppetry and BBI staffer Patrick Brantseg took over Gypsy.[10] With this replacement, the series' entire original cast had been turned over.


The series finale, Danger: Diabolik, premiered on August 8, 1999, although a "lost" episode produced earlier in the season, Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders, was the last new episode of MST3K, broadcast on September 12, 1999. 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. The shows later moved to syndication.

In 2014, 80 episodes of the show were made available for purchase or rental on Vimeo.[11]

Possible reboot

In 2014, in an interview for Wired Magazine, Joel Hodgson discussed plans to revive the show, this time online featuring a new host with MST3K alumni making cameo appearances.[12] On a reddit AMA November 25, 2014, Hodgson mentioned "the reboot" instead of "a reboot" implying that a reboot was already in progress.[13]


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

Comedy Channel / Comedy Central seasons (1989–1996) The Movie
SCI FI seasons (1997–99) Flash series
Giant Gila Monster
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Joel Robinson
"Joel Hodgson" during season 0,
"Joel" (no last name) during Season 1
Joel Hodgson Joel Hodgson1 Joel Hodgson
Mike Nelson Michael J. Nelson
Crow T. Robot Trace Beaulieu
Josh Weinstein (few episodes)
Trace Beaulieu Bill Corbett Paul Chaplin Trace Beaulieu
Tom Servo Josh Weinstein Kevin Murphy James Moore Frank Conniff
Gypsy Josh Weinstein Jim Mallon Patrick Brantseg Jim Mallon
Cambot Kevin Murphy2
Dr. Clayton Forrester Trace Beaulieu Trace Beaulieu
Dr. Laurence "Larry" Erhardt Josh Weinstein
TV's Frank
simply "Frank" pre-season 4
Frank Conniff Frank Conniff1 Frank Conniff
Pearl Forrester Mary Jo Pehl1 Mary Jo Pehl Mary Jo Pehl
Professor Bobo Kevin Murphy
Observer ("Brain Guy") Bill Corbett

1. Guest/cameo appearance only.
2. Normally a non-speaking role.


The first three KTMA episodes are considered to be "missing episodes", as no fan copy is known to exist. The pilot episode is often counted among those missing shows, but it is actually an unaired half-hour sample used to sell the MST3K concept to KTMA.[15] None of the KTMA episodes was rerun nationally or released onto home video, though master copies of all these episodes still exist[16]

Video releases

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. Since 2008, all releases have been through Shout! Factory, and have typically been multi-episode volumes or themed packs.



In 1993, the show's staff selected 30 episodes to split into 60 one-hour segments called The Mystery Science Theater Hour, hosted by Mike Nelson in his "Jack Perkins" persona, requiring him to get then into heavy makeup and to change his voice for the shows taped. 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 1 hour slot, or the original 2 hour version.[17] On July 5, 2014, MST3K returned to television for the first time in 10 years, when RetroTV began broadcasting the series on Saturday nights, with an encore on Sunday evenings.[18]

Feature film

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.[19]


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 1 through 6, and even included some behind-the-scene 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).[20] 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.[21]

Other appearances

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. Also that year, Joel Hodgson was a featured guest on Cartoon Network's Space Ghost Coast to Coast. In 1997, the E! network's Talk Soup show, starring John Henson, featured guest appearances from Mike, Crow, and Tom Servo.

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.[22] Also that year, a new online animated web series, referred to as "The Bots Are Back!", was produced by Jim Mallon. The series planned to feature a weekly adventure based solely around 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.[23]


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."[24] Three years later, TV Guide rewrote the article, and bumped MST3K to #13. [25] In 2007, the show was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME".[2] In 2012, the show was listed as #3 in a featured Entertainment Weekly article, "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."[26]

So popular is the show that fans coined the name "MSTies" or "MiSTies" (pronounced mistees) as an analogy to the term Trekkie. Rather than a derogatory putdown, MSTies wear the label as a badge of pride, and it gained Best Brains' seal of approval with the 1996 publication of the Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. MSTie led to the creation of the verb MSTing (or misting) in the fanfiction community. MSTing is the practice of writing a meta-fic (a fanfiction about a fanfiction) in which the author's characters comment on a fic written by another. MSTie fics imitate the style of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 programs: the commentators are usually three in number (sometimes they are MST3K characters), the fic opens with an introductory dialogue or situation which continues as a mini-plot during several "intermission" sequences (between blocks of the riffed fanfic), and comes to a conclusion at the end. MSTie fics are written in transcript format. The show also enjoyed a number of celebrity fans, including Frank Zappa, whose long-standing enjoyment of substandard B-movies had been documented in songs such as "Cheepnis" (as heard on Roxy & Elsewhere); Zappa went so far as to telephone Best Brains and became a friend of the show, and following his death episode 523 was dedicated to him.

Reactions by those parodied

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.[27] 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 5 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 don't 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.[28] 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.[29] Kevin Murphy had said that Joe Don Baker wanted to beat up the writers of the show for attacking him during Mitchell.[30][31] Murphy later said Baker likely meant it in a joking manner, although Nelson said he deliberately avoided Baker while the two happened to be staying at the same hotel.[32]

Director Rick Sloane was shocked at his treatment at the conclusion of Hobgoblins.[33] 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.[34]

Jeff Lieberman, director of Squirm, was also quite angry at the MST3K treatment of his film.[35] In an audio commentary discussing The War of the Worlds, author Bill Warren said "I don't like that show" after director Joe Dante pointed out that one of MST3K's villains is named after the film's leading character, Dr. Clayton Forrester.

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.[36] 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,[32] saying he enjoyed their skewering of what he had considered to be a surreal experience (the film was shot in Italy). 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.[37]

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'd 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."[38]


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".[39] 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.[1] Every year from 1992 to 1997, it was also nominated for CableACE Awards. Its DVD releases have been nominated for Saturn Awards in 2004, 2006 and 2007.


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.[40] 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".[41]

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).

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).[42][43][44] 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.

Usenet groups and were Usenet newsgroups established in the mid-1990s for announcements and discussions related to the show.[45][46][47] The newsgroup had been created in April 1995 by renaming the existing unmoderated newsgroup at the same time as the creation of the moderated general announcement group[48]


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

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.

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.[49]

In 2006, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett debuted RiffTrax, a web-based series which allowed customers to purchase riff-only audio tracks that they can sync up with dozens of popular film titles. Guest commentators such as "Weird Al" Yankovic and Neil Patrick Harris have been featured guest riffers, and, under the RiffTrax banner, the three principal riffers have made occasional live appearances which have been broadcast to theaters nationwide, starting with the 50th anniversary edition of a colorized Plan 9 from Outer Space in 2009. In addition, the three riffers also occasionally provide commentary to movies during a summer series at the Stone Brewing Company in Escondido, California.[50]

In 2007, Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Josh Weinstein, Frank Conniff and Mary Jo Pehl debuted Cinematic Titanic, direct-to-DVD releases which riffed on older films with a shadowrama effect. Also that year, the three principal Rifftrax crew debuted The Film Crew, direct-to-DVD releases which riffed on old movies in a different setting. Cinematic Titanic continues to release new titles, while The Film Crew discontinued after only four titles. Also that year, Frank Conniff and animation historian Jerry Beck debuted Cartoon Dump,[51] a series of classically bad cartoons, which are also occasionally performed live.[52] In an interview with, Pehl confirmed that Cinematic Titanic would end in January 2014.[53]

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, 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.[54]

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.

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.[55] The success of this event led Hodgson and Shout! Factory to repeat the event the following year.[56]


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.[14] 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" 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.[57]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Mystery Science Theater 3000". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2011-08-03. 
  2. ^ a b  
  3. ^ Beaulieu, Trace; Chaplin, Paul; Mallon, Jim; Murphy, Kevin; Nelson, Michael J.; Pehl, Mary Jo (1996). The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide (1st ed.). Bantam. p. 145.  
  4. ^ "Ouch, Minutiae! #1: What do we know about the MST3K Pilot and missing episodes?". Tom's Temple of MST3K Stuff. Retrieved 2008-02-03. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "A Guy Named AJ : Launching Cinematic Titanic". Archived from the original on 2007-12-02. Retrieved 2007-11-12. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Phipps, Keith (1999-04-21). "Joel Hodgson". The Onion A.V. Club. Retrieved 2007-07-12. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b "Joel & The 'Bots Return for Brief DVD Reunion".  
  15. ^ "Season 'Zero': KTMA-TV Channel 23 1988-1989". Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Unofficial Episode Guide. Satellite News. Retrieved 2007-01-26. 
  16. ^ "Jim Mallon interview". Satellite News Interview of Jim Mallon. Satellite News. Retrieved 2008-07-19. 
  17. ^ Beaulieu, Trace; et al. ""The Mystery Science Theater Hour"". The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. p. 111. 
  18. ^ "Retro TV will show episodes". Satellite News. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  19. ^ Lambert, David, ed. (January 22, 2008). "New DVD Release for MST3K: The last!". "DVD News" (column),  
  20. ^ Beaulieu, Trace; et al. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. p. 64. 
  21. ^ Beaulieu, Trace; et al. "Forward About Kurt Vonnegut". The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. pp. xi–xiii. 
  22. ^ "PlayStation Perfect Guide". Game Rave. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  23. ^ MSNBC article: "Ex ‘MST3K’ stars, writers fill hole left by show". webcitation archive link
  24. ^ "25 Top Cult Shows Ever!". TV Guide (May 30 – June 5, 2004): 32. ISSN 0039-8543. 
  25. ^ "TV Guide Names the Top Cult Shows Ever". June 29, 2007. Retrieved August 24, 2007. 
  26. ^ "25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years". Entertainment Weekly. August 3, 2012, p. 37.
  27. ^ "Part 14: Battles on Many Fronts (1996)". The Almost but Still Not Quite Complete History of MST3K. Satellite News. Retrieved 2006-08-17. 
  28. ^ Cornell, Chris (2010-11-25). "Turkey Day Surprise from Shout". Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  29. ^ Ward, Brian (2010-11-29). "Shout Factory Community". Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  30. ^ Finley, Stephen F. (June 25, 1999). "512 - Mitchell". Daddy-O's Drive-In Dirt. Satellite News. Retrieved 2006-08-17. 
  31. ^ Chandler, Rick. "MST3K Touches Down For Good". Impression Magazine. Reprinted by MSTies Anonymous. Archived from the original on 2006-06-18. Retrieved 2006-08-17. 
  32. ^ a b Cavanaugh, Maureen (2006-08-30). "Host of Mystery Science Theater 3000 moves to San Diego" (MP3). These Days.  
  33. ^  
  34. ^ Borntreger, Andrew (February 2, 2008). "Interview with Rick Sloane". Retrieved 2008-03-11. 
  35. ^ Jeff Lieberman, director. (1976). "Director's Commentary", Squirm (NTSC) [DVD], MGM. Released August 26, 2003.
  36. ^ "An Interview with Fiveson & Schriebman". The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Review. Retrieved 2006-08-17.  Original discussion was started under the thread "Interview with Robert Fiveson" on Proboards on July 29, 2005.
  37. ^ Beaulieu, Trace; et al. "Miles O'Keefe: A Tribute". The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. p. 37. 
  38. ^ "An Interview With David Giancola". The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Review. c. May 22, 2005. Retrieved 2006-08-17.  Date is based on information on the discussion thread "David Giancola Interview".
  39. ^ "The Peabody Awards".  
  40. ^ Rikk Wolf on How Incognito Cinema Warriors makes Terrible Movies Better
  41. ^ Mohawk students help bring Ed back to TV Hamilton MountainNews, May 27, 2010 (Article by Gord Bowes)
  42. ^ Raspberry Brothers and the Many Spawn of MST3K
  43. ^ FilmRoasters Fry at the Byrd
  44. ^ The Sensational Saga of Mr. Sinus
  45. ^ Godes, David; Dina Mayzlin (August 2003). "Using Online Conversations to Study Word of Mouth Communication". pp. 10–11. Retrieved 15 September 2010. We found 169 different groups that contained messages about the shows in our sample ... Table 3 ... 20 Top Newsgroups in the Sample ... 9,649 ... 578 
  46. ^ Lieck, Ken (July 14, 1995). "The Information Dirt Road Marketing Your Band on the Net".  
  47. ^ Werts, Diane (May 14, 1996). "A MSTie Farewell to Mike, The 'Bots and Bad Flicks".  
  48. ^ "Moderation Replacement Announcement". The Big-8 Management Board. 2007-09-20. Retrieved 15 September 2010. was created in April 1995. At the same time the unmoderated newsgroup was renamed to 
  49. ^ Murphy, Kevin. "Edward the Less Video Interview, Part 1"., 2001. Retrieved on 2009-02-02.
  50. ^
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^ Corbett, Bill. "Meat, Dave?",, July 10, 2008. Retrieved on 2009-02-02.
  55. ^ Anderson, Kyle (2013-11-18). "MSTies rejoice! The 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' tradition Turkey Day is back! -- EXCLUSIVE".  
  57. ^ MST3K Pops Up in Arrested Development

External links

  • Satellite News
  • "Mystery Science Theater 3000". Official site ( 
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 at the Internet Movie Database
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 at
  • Daddy-O's Drive-In Dirt — Reference guide to the movies and shorts shown on MST3K.
  • The MST3K Song Index — Lyrics and lists of all the songs from MST3K
  • Club MST3k — Fan site offering free streaming of episodes
  • Sci Fi Channel chat transcripts
    • "Mike Nelson and Bill Corbett". January 29, 1998. Archived from the original on August 22, 2003. 
    • s Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Mary Jo Pehl & Paul Chaplin"MST3K'". March 12, 1998. Archived from the original on August 22, 2003. 
    • s Kevin Murphy: A Dialogue (Part 1)"MST3K'". August 8, 1999. Archived from the original on August 24, 2003. 
    • "Bill Corbett & Mike Nelson: A Dialogue (Part 2)". August 8, 1999. Archived from the original on August 23, 2003. 
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