Mystery Science Theater 3000 is an odd show. But that’s what makes it so successful. The premise, in which a captured human Joel (originally played by creator Joel Hodgson) is forced to watch terrible B (C, D…) movies by a collective of mad scientists, is wildly creative. Described as “…making a human torture experiment more entertaining than anyone could have predicted,” Joel builds A.I. robot companions out of household items and together they offer blistering, hilarious commentary on films like The Giant Gila Monster, Night of the Blood Beast, and First Spaceship on Venus.
History and revival
Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K to fans), began at KTMA, a small, small TV station in Hopkins, Minnesota, in 1988.
The Comedy Channel (which became Comedy Central in 1991), picked it up as their flagship program in 1989, and it ran there until 1997, when the Sci-Fi Channel took over. All of the episodes between 1989-1999 were filmed in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. After nearly 200 episodes and amassing an enormous cult following, the show aired its final original episode, Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders, on September 18, 1999.
But that certainly wasn’t the end for MST3K.
A reunion at Minneapolis’ Parkway Theater in June of 2016 put the show on the big screen for a live viewing, complete with audience participation, hosted by Joel Hodgson himself. The SRO-event featured one of the show’s most iconic episodes, Manos, Hands of Fate.
But the show’s loyal following extends far beyond the Twin Cities. A successful $5.6 million Kickstarter campaign by MSTK fans, called MSTies, in 2015 led to the filming of 14 new episodes to put the show back on the air for the first time in almost 20 years.
(Worth noting: This was the largest campaign in Kickstarter history)
Netflix, which picked up the show, launched a promo video earlier in 2017 in which latest host Jonah Ray and his robot buddies take down also beloved (and also Netflix) show Stranger Things. If you weren’t already excited enough for the show, you can watch the promo below:
And you can stream the latest episodes here: Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return
Not bad for a low-budget show from the Twin Cities. And, as there are still plenty of awful movies for the show to tackle (and more coming out every year it seems), it seems MST3K will have material to skewer for years to come.