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.
At its core, the show is about a guy and his friends watching and making fun of bottom-of-the-barrel movies. In the case of MST3K, the concept has been further refined into a hapless guy in a blue-collar job who has been stranded aboard a satellite by mad scientists; these scientists force him to watch these horrible films so they can find one that will break the human spirit and allow them to rule the world. The trapped victim has his own weapons, however: a sense of humor and the company of several homemade robot companions who help him keep his sanity by assisting him in making fun of the movies, thus ruining the plans of the mad scientists.
Sounds weird, but it all actually makes sense. And it's pretty damn funny to boot.
For a complete list of main characters, see the Character List.
For a complete list of episodes, see the Episode List.
For a complete list of specials, see the Specials List.
Or maybe you just want to feel special. We can't help you there.
Ideas for the show came from the stand up comedy routine of Joel Hodgson. The routine was basically a prop comedy routine a la Carrot Top. He was doing the routine in the Twin Cities area when he and a friend discussed a possible TV show on the local UHF station KTMA.
Debuting in 1988, Joel was the host. They established many elements of the show during this time. These fixtures included, the bots, the theater doors, and the invention exchange.The success of the show can be attributed somewhat to the underground network of tape trading. However, still many local viewers watched. From time to time, the show would play telephone messages from fans, negative and positive.
Comedy Central 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. The first season, in fact, didn't do well in ratings. The show was, in fact, lucky it got another 13-episode season. The cast decided to fire Josh Weinstein because he had creative differences and the fact that he was only 19 years old and the rest of the cast was in their early 30s. Thus, exit Josh Weinstein as Dr. Laurence Erhardt, Tom Servo and Gypsy and enter Frank Conniff as TV's Frank. Jim Mallon took over the role of Gypsy and Kevin Murphy took over Tom Servo. Many new traditions were started during this time such as the annual Turkey Day Marathon. The show now did very well in ratings by the third season. Critics praised the humor of the show and it was even nominated for comedy awards.
In 1993 Joel decided to move on to new projects. He quoted that he had 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.
Soon, Frank Conniff also left in Season 6. He had a similar reason to go as Joel did, just moving on. In fact, Frank was very successful later on. He became a writer for numerous TV shows.
In 1996, Comedy Central decided to cancel MST3K, citing flagging ratings. The show's staff began shopping around other networks that might be interested in picking up the show.
In the summer of 1996, while MST3K was between networks, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie was released.
Sci-Fi Channel Era
The renewed show began running on The Sci-Fi Channel in 1997, as fans were glad that the show was saved. However, many changes occured. Trace Beaulieu left the show and the character of Dr. Forrester was gone and, as it seemed, Crow was, too. However, problems were solved. Mary Jo Pehl reprised her role as Pearl Forrester to succeed as the main villain. A new cast member named Bill Corbett took over the voice of Crow. The show's format changed a lot. It was set a few centuries into the future where Crow's voice chip has changed and creatures known as The Nanites infested the ship. Pearl had two assistants on her hands, bumbling Professor Bobo (played by Kevin Murphy) and Brain Guy (played by Bill Corbett).
Today, the cast is still doing projects. Mike, Kevin, and Bill have an downloadable project called RiffTrax, much similar to MST3K, only without silhouettes or a theater scene. Joel, Trace, Frank, Josh, and Mary Jo also have a project more similar to MST3K called Cinematic Titanic. There is a silhouette of the 5 standing on a stage-like structure. Both projects have live shows from time to time.
In an April 2014 WIRED magazine article, Joel is said to be "hoping to start a new online incarnation" of MST3K with a new host.