MST3K
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Joel 3-5 cast

Series creator and original host Joel Hodgson, with his robot creations.

Wikipedia article:

Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or MST3K) is the television show for which this wiki is founded. Since the show's humble UHF beginnings in 1988, it has gained a dedicated fanbase that remains to this day.

The Premise[]

Scificrew

The primary cast from seasons five through ten: Crow T. Robot, Gypsy, Mike Nelson, and Tom Servo.

The central premise of the show is that a test subject, typically a hapless blue-collar worker, is forced by mad scientists to bottom-of-the-barrel movies in an effort to find the film that will break the test subject's will and allow the scientists to take over the world. The test subject fight back with a sense of humor and the help of robot companions who help them keep their sanity by assisting them in making fun of the movies, thus ruining the plans of the mad scientists.

Show History[]

Beginnings[]

Main article: Inspirations & influences

Jim Mallon, working at KTMA, a TV station in the Twin Cities area, contacted locally-based prop-comedian Joel Hodgson to discuss possibility of creating a show for the station. Hodgson came up with the concept for Mystery Science Theater 3000. After the two worked through Hodgson's ideas, they put together a pilot episode to show the execs at KTMA. This pilot showed Joel in space aboard the Satellite of Love watching movies alongside his robots Crow T. Robot (voiced by Trace Beaulieu), Beeper ("voiced" by Josh Weinstein) and Gypsy (also voice by Weinstein).

KTMA Era[]

JoelCrow88

The show was picked up and debuted on November 24, 1988 with two episodes airing back-to-back. Hodgson, Beaulieu and Weinstein returned as host, Crow, and Gypsy, with Weinstein also voicing new character Servo, who replaced Beeper. Joel's "bosses" (who shot him into space) first appeared during the title sequence of the first televised episode played by Trace and Josh. They would make their first full appearances in K07 - Gamera vs Zigra as Dr. Clayton Forrester and Dr. Laurence Erhardt, respectively.

Many elements of the show were developed and established during this time. These fixtures include the bots, the Door Sequence, and the Invention Exchange. The KTMA practice of playing telephone messages from viewers was replaced by reading letters.

The Comedy Channel Era[]

With the start of two new comedy channels on cable in 1989, there was a scramble for material. The Comedy Channel picked up MST3K as its flagship series. With this move, the series went from an improvised style to a rehearsed, scripted production. Other changes were a new set for the SOL and the Mads, with their new digs dubbed Deep 13. Also, the role of Gypsy was taken over by producer and writer Jim Mallon and Hodgson's character officially took on the name "Joel Robinson".

Josh Weinstein left the show after the first season and Tom Servo was taken over by Kevin Murphy. Dr. Erhardt was replaced with a new character, TV's Frank, played by Frank Conniff.

Comedy Central Era[]

MST3K-CTV

In mid-1991, The Comedy Channel and Ha! merged to form Comedy Central (after a brief period as "CTV: The Comedy Network"). MST3K was the first show to air on Comedy Central, on June 1, 1991. By this time, the show had become a ratings success and a critical darling. Comedy Central also began the annual Turkey Day marathons that year.

In 1993, Joel Hodgson decided to move on to new projects. He stated that he wanted to "hang up his red jumpsuit and move behind the camera". It was decided to continue the show with head writer Michael J. Nelson starring as Mike Nelson. The trade-off occurred during the middle of the fifth season, with Mike arriving and Joel leaving in Episode #512 - Mitchell.

Frank Conniff decided to move on at the conclusion of Season 6 and was replaced for the truncated Season 7 by Dr. Forrester's mother, Pearl Forrester (Mary Jo Pehl), a character who had been introduced previously.

In 1996, Comedy Central decided to cancel MST3K, citing flagging ratings. Best Brains began shopping the show around to other networks that might be interested in picking it up.

Also in 1996, Rhino Entertainment began releasing episodes of the show on VHS. In the summer of that year, while MST3K was between networks, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie was released.

Sci-Fi Channel Era[]

In 1997, MST3K began a three-year run on The Sci-Fi Channel. The show underwent several changes in the transition. Most significantly, Trace Beaulieu left the show, with Crow being handed over to Bill Corbett and Jim Mallon handing Gypsy over to Patrick Brantseg mid-way through Season 8. The SOL set was updated once again and Deep 13 was no more. The movie selection was initially limited to science fiction, fantasy or horror movies, until this restriction was lifted during Season 10.

The Sci-Fi Channel also mandated that MST3K have an ongoing storyline, so throughout the first season, the location for the "Mads" base changed. At first, it was Deep Ape, where the experiments were sent by intelligent apes Professor Bobo (Kevin Murphy) and Dr. Peanut (Michael J. Nelson), under orders from the "Lawgiver", Pearl Forrester. The action next moved to the Observer homeworld planet, where we first see the Observer who came to be known as "Brain Guy".

Eventually, things settled down with the new trio of "Mads" (Pearl, Bobo and Brain Guy) operating out of Castle Forrester, a format that would carry the show until its original end.

Episode #1013 - Diabolik marked the end of the original run of the series, although 1003 - Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders actually aired after the season was over on August 8, 1999.

AMC offered to continue the show, but the creative team decided to move on.[1]

Re-runs continued to air on The Sci-Fi Channel until 2004.

Interregnum[]

Despite being off the air, MST3K did not go gently into that good night.

In 1998, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie was released on DVD by Image Entertainment.

Rhino began releasing DVDs for the show in 2000.

On March 14, 2005, Mike and the Bots made a guest appearance on Cheap Seats.

In 2007, Jim Mallon launched the official MST3K.com (which previously had either forwarded to the Sci-Fi Channel or the Satellite News] web sites). There, he oversaw the production of the short-lived Mystery Science Theater 3000 revival as a Flash-animated web series.

In 2008, Joel Robinson and the bots appeared along with Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank in a sketch included with the DVD release of The Giant Gila Monster.

In 2013, the Turkey Day marathons returned via DVD distributor Shout! Factory, who had taken over distribution from Rhino in 2008, with Joel hosting (as himself) and Crow and Tom Servo making cameos. All three returned for the marathon in 2014, with the original voice actors returning for both Crow (Beaulieu) and Tom (Weinstein).

In 2014, MST3K began airing on RetroTV.

In an April, 2014 WIRED magazine article, Joel was said to be "hoping to start a new online incarnation" of MST3K with a new host.[2]

Revival campaign[]

On November 10, 2015, Joel launched a Kickstarter campaign [3] to bring back MST3K and produce a new season of 3, 6, 9 or 12 episodes (depending on the amount of money raised). The description of the project stated that it had two goals: raise money to make minimum of three episodes and to prove that "the world still wants more MST3K". The second was expanded on November 18 when Joel revealed that this project wasn't intended to just make a few episodes and then stop again, but to show network executives that the audience is still there for MST3K and "giving MST3K a few hundred new episodes and a new beginning."[4]

The campaign raised more than 1 million dollars in its first 24 hours and went on to finish with a total of $5,764,229. As a result, MST3K set a new world record for the highest earning Film or Television Kickstarter in history, beating the Veronica Mars Movie Project, the previous record holder, by $62,076. The amount raised funded the production of 14 new episodes, including a holiday-themed episode. The fourteenth episode was added when $600,000 was raised during The Final Countdown, a "telethon" that marked the end of the campaign.

Production on the new season began on January 4, 2016 with the selection of the movies to be riffed, finalizing administrative details and talking with potential staff and guest writers.

Netflix Era[]

On August 1, 2016, Joel announced that Season 11 would air on Netflix.[5] The season was produced by Alternaversal Productions, LLC.

On March 14, 2017, it was announced that Netflix would also start streaming some classic episodes, with an initial 20 in anticipation of the April revival premiere. It was not specified if more would be made available at a future time.

Following a debut release of the first episode for Kickstarter backers on April 9, 2017, the rest of Season 11 debuted on Netflix on April 14.

On November 24, 2017, at the end of the annual Turkey Day marathon, hosts Joel Hodgson, Felicia Day and Jonah Ray announced that Netflix had renewed the show for a 12th season. They did not give any specific release day, but said that it would drop "in the not-too-distant future." Season 12, subtitled The Gauntlet, debuted on Netflix on Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 2018, with six episodes.

On November 26, 2019, Joel Hodgson confirmed that MST3K would not be renewed for a third season on Netflix. He stated that the production team was looking into a new home for the show, but nothing was yet in the works.

Gizmoplex Era[]

In 2021, Joel launched a second Kickstarter campaign to fund new episodes as well as an online streaming platform which he called the Gizmoplex. The cast from the Netflix era was announced to be returning, as well as the cast from the live tours. The Kickstarter was funded, and Season 13 debuted for backers on March 3, 2022. The Gizmoplex launched to the general public on May 6, 2022 and episodes appeared monthly throughout the rest of the year.

On October 24, 2023, Joel announced a new crowdfunding campaign, Let's Make MST3K Season 14! to finance a potential Season 14.[6] Several films were announced for the season, should it be produced.[7][8][9] The campaign was not successful and work on Season 14 has been suspended. In an e-mail to backers, Joel indicated that he still intends to continue the series, and is exploring further options.

Other works by cast and crew[]

Main article: Category:Other works by MST3K cast & crew

Following each departure from the show, cast and crew typically moved on to other creative works, with several "riffing" projects among them.

Josh Weinstein, the first to leave, began working in Hollywood on a variety of projects, including the influential TV series Freaks and Geeks (where he helped secure work for both Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu), eventually moving on to serve as a producer/writer on the series America's Funniest Home Videos, where he hired Beaulieu as a writer.

Hodgson first put together a pilot for a new show, The TV Wheel, before moving on to more conventional work in television and film. In 2007, he launched a new riffing project, Cinematic Titanic, alongside Beaulieu, Weinstein, Frank Conniff, and Mary Jo Pehl. They produced seven studio episodes and five live DVDs before ending production. He also toured his one-man-show, Riffing Myself.

Frank Conniff was the first to return to a form of riffing, writing Attack of the Killer B Movies, a 1995 TV special starring Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. He went on to write for Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Invader Zim. In 2012, Conniff created a live comedy show, Cartoon Dump, that also occasionally featured Hodgson, Weinstein and Dana Gould. After the dissolution of Cinematic Titanic, Conniff and Beaulieu formed The Mads Are Back, a live riffing project.

Beaulieu went on to write a comic book, Here Come the Big People, along with his work on F&G and AFV before joining Joel in Cinematic Titanic. In 2014, he wrote and directed a video short, The Frank starring himself, Conniff and Dave (Gruber) Allen and featuring many other MST3K alumni.

Michael J. Nelson wrote a column and produced several books before returning to the work of riffing. It began in 2004, with Mike doing humorous commentaries on DVD releases from Legend Films. In 2005, Mike, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett joined forces in creating The Film Crew, an endeavor that produced four full episodes for DVD, as well as bonus material and introductions for Legend and the Starz channel. Due to concerns from Jim Mallon over a conflict of interest with original distributor (and then-MST3K distributor) Rhino Entertainment, the Film Crew project was shelved, eventually seeing release from Shout! Factory. In 2006, Nelson and Legend launched RiffTrax, which began as a series of audio downloads intended to be listened to while watching a movie. Both Murphy and Corbett joined Mike at RiffTrax, which branched out into shorts, Video-on-demand and live production. The three (and RiffTrax CEO David G. Martin) bought out Legend, making them independent. After making a few guest appearances, Mary Jo Pehl and Bridget Nelson joined RiffTrax as regular contributors in 2015.

Kevin Murphy wrote the book A Year at the Movies before joining Mike at RiffTrax.

Bill Corbett wrote several plays and eventually his screenplay Starship Dave was produced in 2008 under the title Meet Dave.

Mary Jo Pehl has written several books, the comic Jailbait and riffed alongside Mike for the RiffTrax audio-only riff of Glitter before joining the site as a regular. In 2021, Mary Jo Pehl began her own streaming series The Mary Jo Pehl Show, which includes movie riffing projects.

Bridget Jones Nelson contributed to RiffTrax's blog and the occasional riff before joining as a regular. She also produced Instead of Tweeting, a series of short audio sketches alongside husband Michael J. Nelson.

See also[]

External links[]

References[]

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