On November 24, 1988, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a small public access show was created called Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was comprised of 3 human actors, 2 robot puppets, a shoddy set, and a myriad of movies no one had ever heard of, because they were so awful — which was exactly the point. The creators found movies that were awful to watch, paid very little for the rights for them, and made fun of them the entire time, much like a group of friends might. And the show exploded.
A guy named Joel was a janitor at Gizmonic Institute, and was kidnapped by two mad scientists, who sent Joel into space on the Satellite of Love.
They used Joel as a guinea pig to find the worst B-Movie and use it for world domination.
Out of fear of being lonely and to keep himself sane, Joel built several AI robot friends, including Tom Servo (left) and Crow (right). An episode of the show would consist of an opening skit, a closing skit, and the middle bit, where Joel and his robots would watch the B-movie of the day and mock it.
The movies would start and stop at random times as well, due to Joel using the controls to build his robot friends.
And as the opening song states “If you’re wondering how he eats and breathes, and other science facts, then repeat to yourself, ‘It’s just a show, I should really just relax’.”
During the shows first season, a local fan club was made, which quickly gathered over 1000 members! After the shows first season, when the local station had to shut down, it was sold to The Comedy Channel/Comedy Central for six seasons, and then SciFi (Now Syfy) for three. The fanbase kept growing, even after Joel was replaced by Mike Nelson halfway through the fifth season.
MST3K became Comedy Central’s signature series, with executives nearly doubling its run from 13 to 24 episodes per year in 1991. On Thanksgiving of the same year it launched what would become an annual event: a 30-hour MST3K marathon that came to be known as “Turkey Day.”
In 1999, Mystery Science Theater 3000 was cancelled again, and fans once again launched a campaign to get the show resurrected. Entertainment Weekly reported that “efforts to save the show include more than a dozen ‘Save MST3K’ websites, a letter-writing push, and a pledge drive for ‘Save MST3K’ print ads.” The campaign led to a full-page ad in Daily Variety, but Sci-Fi Channel decision-makers remained unmoved, with then-VP of programming Bonnie Hammer citing low ratings coupled with the rising costs of securing film rights (for movies to be ridiculed by the cast) as the problem.
Now on Netflix
After 18 years, Netflix has decided to bring the show back, after Joel, the original host, created a kickstarter which raised $5,764,229!
The show will now be hosted by Jonah Ray, known for being one of the three hosts of The Nerdist Podcast and the co-host of Comedy Central’s The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail, but still with the wonderful Tom Servo and Crow by his side. The Evil Scientists will now be played by Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt.
The show has now had two seasons on Netflix, and has proven to be a faithful love letter to the original series.