Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mystery Science Theater 3000 best of the best

An Introduction

I love Mystery Science Theater 3000 (abbreviated MST3K, by most fans), albeit I wasn’t that into it for many years. I always saw it in a passing glance, but never pursued it until after it had already ran its course on television. The advent of Youtube, has made the show live on, and garner an audience that still deeply enjoys it. For those who don’t know, MST3K has a simple, yet strange premise. A host and his two robot friends sit down and watch B-movie style films and just rip them apart; pointing out inaccuracies and just plain making fun of the bad acting or plot holes.

The host is either Mike or Joel -- depending on the seasons that you watch. Crow T. Robot a gold metallic semi-humanoid and Tom Servo, who is essentially a talking gumball machine, make out the main cast. All three are silhouetted against a movie projector and we just sit back and watch the cinematic train wreck they put before us.

It’s a comedic delight. Some movies are just terrible and need little “riffing” on, like cult favorite Manos: Hands of Fate or Red Zone Cuba – yet the added commentary is so well written and delivered it’s like you and a group of friends are sitting watching it together.

Joel, the original host, on the left; Mike on the right. Crow is the gold robot, Servo is well...a gumball machine, not hard to miss!

The show had a good decade long run, from the 80s to late 90s and stayed relatively true to the same format throughout.

Joel Hodgson was the original host, but I, like many find myself partial to the second half of the series when Mike Nelson became the host. It might be because Mike had been one of the main writers of the show and understood the timing and context of the jokes he had written for each scene – ultimately I just found him much more engaging a person. Sorry Joel.

Tom Servo and Crow T. Robots’ voice actors and puppeteers changed over the years as well. Many consider Kevin Murphy the only Tom Servo there really is, as he played the character the longest. When it comes to Crow I tend to fall into the line of liking Bill Corbett a little better than series’ original Tom Beaulieu, both brought something different to the role, neither outshined the other too much.

Aside from the general movie riffing there were host segments that acted as filler between movie breaks. The show was relatively low budget (most of the revenue was used for movie rights) but it had a sense of uniqueness. It felt like this little thing that not a lot of people knew about. A show that only you and few others watched.

That’s held true throughout the years. The humor is distinctly MST3K, and not everybody is in to it. Some of the jokes don’t reach a younger audience (I’m 25 and some of them go over my head), but when a movie is truly terrible it doesn’t take much – sometimes Mike and the bots just laughing at a scene is enough to bring tears to your eyes.

So here’s what I’ve got planned. I made a list of what I think are the must watch episodes, narrowed down from a rather surprising list of 50. I was shocked at how many were from the Mike Nelson and Bill Corbett era, but hey, when it’s a great episode it’s great regardless who’s host or puppeteer. 

ah, the 80s when you could go outside looking like this and everybody was okay with it.

The “Mystery Science Theater best of the best” will be spread out into five different parts. Listing about six different episodes each.

I’m pretty excited actually, as I get to go back and re-watch some of my favorites (as if I don’t watch them enough already), only know I hope to introduce others to the show. Like I’d mentioned before I didn’t start watching MST3K until it was off the air. Sometime around college is when I really got into it. Still the show is funny even today. It’s never too late to see a great series and MST3K is distinct enough to warrant anyone’s attention.

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