(Image provided by Netflix)
I know, Thanksgiving is over – but I didn’t think my Thanksgiving tradition was strange…until I told someone about it.
I was talking to my Uncle about my plans through the holiday weekend and I remarked that I was going to be doing the same thing I do every year for Thanksgiving: watch Mystery Science Theater 3000.
What’s Mystery Science Theater 3000?
Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or MST3K) was a television show that started on a small Minnesota public access TV station KTMA in 1988 and would later find homes on Comedy Central, The Sci-Fi Channel and, finally, Netflix. The show revolved a host (Joel, Mike or Jonah) being trapped on a satellite and being forced to watch terrible movies with his robot pals. The intro to the show sums up the premise pretty well.
My Uncle seemed surprised: “I didn’t think anyone remembered that weird show”.
How could anyone forget this show? This was my favorite show growing up. It had bright colors, puppets made out of toys and a Midwestern charm that only something made in Minnesota could possibly have. Its remains my favorite TV show as adult because the jokes were so funny and biting, the skits were endearing in a Mr Rogers for grown-ups kind of feel and, maybe most importantly, it talked back to the media it was watching. Yes, you’re watching the worst of what the silver screen has to offer, but you’re watching it with 3 of the sharpest comedians on Earth – and fortunately for you, they won’t shut up.
MST3K made it’s own type of humor that resonates to this day. Countless podcasts and internet media projects use Mystery Science Theater 3000 as the creative foundation that their project stands. Probably the best example pf this are the various anime abridged projects that you can find. Dragon Ball Z Abridged owes much to the comedic paths that MST3K was carving out 15 years earlier.
So, what does this have to do with Thanksgiving? In the 90’s while MST3K was on Comedy Central, they collaborated with the network to do the MST3K Turkey Day Marathon. A full 24 hours of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes with sketches and funny bits in between episodes. The great part is that these vignettes usually had some kind of ridiculous plot and jokes would make their way into the series proper.
I never got to experience MST3K on Comedy Central except in brief moments when I would stay at my grandparents or aunt and uncles house. So, I never really got to go the Turkey Day marathon proper. But in college I spent a significant amount of time and money buying DVDs of as many Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes as I could get my hand on. So one year with my DVD library and a few of my close friends I made my own MST3K Turkey Day marathon – and it was awesome. It’s where I found my favorite episode of MST3K ever: Laserblast.
I must not have been the only person to have this idea because in 2014 the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon was officially resurrected on YouTube. The original creators, who were at that time trying to bring MST3K back via Kickstarter, decided to revive the marathon through YouTube to thousands of excited fans.
Today its easier than ever to get in on Mystery Science Theater 3000 marathons. The official Turkey Day marathon has moved over to Twitch, or you could simply watch the MST3K channel on Pluto.tv, or you can catch episodes of MST3K on the Shout Factory Twitch channel as well. If you get sick of Mystery Science Theater 3000 proper you could always switch over to Rifftrax who also have a Twitch channel and Pluto.tv channel.
Lastly, it was announced just before the Thanksgiving holiday that Netflix announced it would not be renewing Mystery Science Theater 3000 for its 13th season. While that does make this years’ Turkey Day marathon a tad bittersweet, this is a show that has survived against larger odds. I’m confident this isn’t that last we’ll see of Mystery Science Theater 3000.