Monday, November 25, 2013

MST3K at 25...Movie Sign!

With us since 1988, Mystery Science Theater has hits 25th Anniversary of making us laugh and come together around the playful jibing of bad movies.

It's come a long way, starting on a small station up in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.

Hmm, early days.

They made the most of sets and material they had, and Joel's love of puppetry.

Then they sat in front of bad movies and took their best shots at them.

And then the show evolved. They eventually found themselves picked up by one of the up and coming Comedy Cable Networks (luckily the one that survived -- one that would become Comedy Central), and they upped their game. Some people left the show, some came on. They tightened up the comedy some, planning out the jokes more for the in movies segments. Also they updated the puppets, sets, and opening. But the heart of the show remained. And it's sensibilities that grew out of being based in the upper Midwest held. (As someone living in the Midwest, many of the regional jokes hit home for me, making me feel all the more welcomed.)

And it would continue to grow and change.

 I came across the show first when I was off at college (I may or may not have gone to the University of Minnesota and roomed with Peter Graves.). MST3K had been on a little while, but Comedy Central wasn't as widely available then. This show a revelation. I was at a low point, and this show helped bolster me. It was a unique experience. A smart experience. And the handful of episodes I recorded that year were dear to me, until I finally got access to more of the show.

It would open with a title card and the words, "Mystery Science Theater 3000, Show. Reel 1." And we were in. Back to the Gizmonic Institute. (Later, down in Deep 13. yadda yadda yadda At Castle Forrester.) And then shot into the not too distant future

This movie stinks.

Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank were hatching an evil scheme...
 And he used those special parts...

Satellite of Love

The show got many upgrades, but it's core was there. Bad movies. A wide range of jokes (from the juvenile to academic). And a friendly light air. 

Sure you had the Mads. Sure they had evil experiments. But nothing was serious. It was two hours where you were part of the experiment, and given license to snark.

You had skits and short pieces. From Joel becoming a farmer to taking family pictures to Christmas gift giving to making baked goods to Mike's ongoing issues with the ship's nanites...and that time he was put on trial for multiple charges of being a destroyer of worlds.

Ah. Good times.

Now in the Joel era there was also the Invention Exchange, mostly excuse to have fun with props, always something to look forward to. This was phased out after he left the show.

"What do you think, sirs?"

Another tradition was Viewer Mail. Through the end of the Comedy Central era they read letters from fans at the end of the show. It was a nice tradition, reminiscent of the world of TV they came out of. In fact a lot of what made MST3K what it was came from the Horror Hosts shows, and other like shows found across the country in small media markets. The fact they created a format that took them nationwide is a credit to all involved.

The show was a televisual gem. Some like to get into fights about Joel (the original host) and Mike (the second host), or the KTMA years versus the Comedy Central years versus the SciFi Channel years. I don't. Each era, and host, brings it's own value. And each era and each host is a part of a proud history of this show and phenomenon.

Yes, things changed. Yes, a member of the Satellite of Love was introduced. Yes, the Mads came and went. And, yes, the show came to an end.

Yes, the Mads came and went. And, yes, the show came to an end. 

But it always seemed to happen on their terms. And they have left us a legacy of laughs, memories, and an unquenchable need to mock bad movies.

Some many great and weird moments. We should all just remember to share them. Keep circulating the show.

And with Turkey Day almost here, it's a great time to do that. Or, just enjoy a marathon of the show on your own. But remember, there are online spots all over you can join in, and even an official marathon with Joel.

So gorge yourself...on comedy.

It's the 25th Anniversary! Enjoy it.

Also, remember that the comedy didn't stop there. It would not die. The people behind the show did continue on.

If you can find it, there's Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett's Film Crew series of shows. (It was sadly short lived.)

And now, they are working at Riff Trax, pumping out the comedy on various movies and shorts. Sometimes they even riff live (Like this December, when they will be returning to a favorite, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.) Being in a theater with other fans can be quite edifying.

And then there's Cinematic Titanic, which has been made up of Trace Beaulieu, Joel Hodgson, Mary Jo Pehl, Josh Weinstein, and Frank Conniff. They produced a number of movie riffs, and then started a tour. Sadly, I understand they are ending their run. But it was great while we had it, and I can only hope we night see them work again in the future.

So, we have a number of outlets through which to enjoy their comedic toil.

And I hope you all take advantage of them. Turn down the lights, and just relax.

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