I can't believe I have run this blog for four months now without a shout out to the pinnacle of Bad Movie appreciation. Mystery Science theater 3000. If you are not familiar with it, the premise is that a mad scientist is forcing a guy to watch bad movies (as part of some vague scheme for world domination). The guy (there have been three 'test subjects' over the years) has several robot companions, two of whom watch the movies with him. It's all an excuse to make wisecracks at the expense of some of the worst movies to ever "grace" movie screens. It's a consistently hilarious show.
The show began in 1988 with Joel Hodgson, a comic out of Minnesota witha penchant for props. He started MST3K on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis-St. Paul. It introduced "Joel Robinson" a janitor trapped in an experiment run by mad scientists Dr. Clayton Forrester (Played by Trace Beaulieu) and Dr. Laurence Erhardt (J. Elvis Weinstein). The theme song is updated when cast changes happen, but here is Joel's: MST3K Intro. After a year it was picked up by the then-fledgling "Comedy Central" channel, and given a noticeably larger budget. J. Elvis Weinstein was not interested in working for Comedy Central, so his character was replaced by Dr. Forrester's bumbling assistant "TV's Frank" (Frank Conniff) and the pair would be primary antagonists of the show for most of the rest of its run.
Joel was a laid-back character who always came across to me as either somewhat sleepy or mildly stoned. His era was characterized by "Invention exchanges" where he would play to his prop comic roots by showing off some wacky "invention" he had made, and the mad scientists would do the same, just before the movie. These inventions would usually be hilariously impractical, things like the "Big Head" which simply was a prosthetic to make one appear to have a giant head, or "Johhny Longtorso," an action figure sold in hundreds of pieces, each sold separately (this being yet one more evil scheme by the Mads).
All good things must come to an end, and at the end of season 5, Joel Robinson finally found an escape from the "Satellite of Love" (where the scientists had trapped him for their experiment) in a pod hidden in a case of Hamdingers. Not to be denied a test subject, Dr. Forrester and TVs Frank kidnapped temp worker Mike Nelson (Played by the show's head writer, Micheal J. Nelson) and sent him to the satellite in Joel's place.
Mike was a controversial character at first. One of the internet's first great flame wars was "Mike Vs. Joel", Usenet groups (and the primitive forums that existed in those days often resorted to banning all discussion of the subject, as it would cause tempers to flare. Mike was also a lot less laid back than Joel. He would make actual attempts to escape. And though he did the invention exchanges in his first season, he stopped after that.
Lots of other changes occurred during his time as well. First Frank Conniff would leave the show, and thus TV's Frank would be escorted to Second Banana heaven by "Torgo the White" (Torgo being a henchman in one of the show's most famous episodes "Manos: The Hands of Fate"). And then the show itself would be canceled by Comedy Central. Luckily for the fans, it was picked up by the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy). And with that change, Dr. Forrester left the show as well, to be replaced by his mother Pearl (Played by Mary Jo Pehl, also a writer on the show).
The show would continue until 1999 when Sci-Fi canceled it. And it seemed to live on only in the hearts of fans an in various similar shows created by multiple alumni of the show. Joel and some of the cast from his era started Cinematic Titanic. Mike (along with the actors who voiced the robots in his period, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett) would form Rifftrax. RiffTrax was unique in that it originally just sold the recordings of the riffs which you would play along with your copy of the movie. Thus allowing them to riff any movie they chose, including blockbusters fresh from the theaters, something they could never have done in the traditional format. They also eventually branched out into "traditional" riffing and live shows. Even Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff started touring, doing live riffs under the title The Mads are Back.
Then in 2015, word came down that Joel was bringing the original back. He started a Kickstarter campaign that went on to fund 14 episodes that eventually aired on Netflix in 2017. The new test subject was "Jonah Heston (Played by Comedian Jonah Ray). And the mad scientists would be Kinga Forrester, daughter of the original Dr. Forrester and TV's Son of TV's Frank, AKA Max. The pair would be played by none other than Felicia Day and Patton Oswald respectively. With a budget that previous seasons could only dream about, the show came back in style, with the second season of the renewed series having dropped just this last Thanksgiving on Netflix.
Overall, the renewed show is (in my opinion at least) every bit as good as the original. Some people I have spoken to miss the low budget aesthetic of the old show, and I think the show took a few episodes to get its footing. But I love every ridiculous second of he antics of Jonah and the Bots.
Bad movies will never die as long as movies are being made. It is my sincere hope that Mystery Science Theater lives as long as they do.
P.S. If you want info on the show straight from the horses mouth, visit MST3K.com. Also you can find all the changing lyrics to the shows opening sequence here: MST3K Love Theme