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Weekend Discussion Thread: Riffably Obscure TV Shows

Alert regular “Sitting Duck” suggests:

Largely forgotten TV shows have proven to be a gold mine for our favorite cowtown puppet show. What other shows do you think are suitable for being riffed? I’d like to put forth this British show from the 50s called “Colonel March of Scotland Yard.” It’s got slipshod plotting, overwrought acting, inappropriate music cues and Boris Karloff sporting an eye patch. In other words, it’s perfect for the MST3K treatment.

What obscure TV shows would you like to see riffed?

84 Replies to “Weekend Discussion Thread: Riffably Obscure TV Shows”

  1. Danzilla "Cornjob" McLargeHuge, Student of Kaijuology says:

    jjk50:
    A show currently on Comet TV, Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot. A Japanese series from 1967-68 that has rubber monsters and aliens like a cross between Godzilla movies, Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

    I ADORE Johnny Sokko! A great show in the vein of similarly dubbed Japanese superhero teleseries’ from the mid 60’s, such as Ultraman and The Space Giants. Johnny Sokko was distributed through AIP TV, and features a dub that would make it an easy MST3K target. The Unicorn Chief, in particular, is given dialogue filled with “more gaps than a Pinter play”. The Wild alien villains would also surely inspire some great material, especially the peg legged, striped shirted, buck toothed guy who looks like he walked out of an offensive WWII propaganda poster.

    In fact, there actually might be a path for MST3K to one day riff this! In the 1980’s, a handful of “Johnny Sokko” episodes (including the pilot) were edited together, Master Ninja/Rocky Jones/Riding with Death style, into a TV movie called “Voyage into Space”. So there technically is a Johnny Sokko movie. And, even though the movie wasn’t included, guess who put out the Johnny Sokko Complete Series DVD set a few years ago…

    Shout! Factory.

    Dare we hope?

       8 likes

  2. Yeti of Great Danger says:

    Sitting Duck:
    Regarding Colonel March, he was originally created by mystery writer John Dickson Carr under the pseudonym Carter Dickson. I’ve never read him, so can’t be sure if the plotting flaws are a result of either a shoddy adaptation or if Carr was simply a hack.

    Carr wasn’t a hack and I highly recommend reading him. He was one of the masters of the “locked room” mystery and other seemingly miraculous crimes. Like many writers from the Golden Age of Mysteries, though, his writing seems rather dated now. An even more enjoyable writer IMO is the underappreciated R. Austin Freeman, who invented the “inverted” mystery story. Think “Columbo,” where you know who did it and how they did it, but the mystery is how will they be caught? (Sometimes called a “howcatchem” instead of a “whodunnit.”)

    To force myself back on track of the WDT, I think J/M/J & the ‘bots could have fun with the ’65-’66 series “Honey West” starring the lovely Anne Francis. Here’s the swingin’ opening: https://youtu.be/KPK_eZJLMtM

       1 likes

  3. I know it’s not “obscure” but if ever there was a show made for riffing it’s the new Star Trek:Discovery (or how we like to refer to it on the boards, the STD of Treks that even penicillin can’t cure).

    It’s about as stupid and lame as any of the Japanese early TV efforts, and the only way I could actually enjoy it would be to watch the new crew take it on. Maybe one day…

       3 likes

  4. Ro-man, aka one of several possible Steves says:

    “The Greatest American Hero”?

    “Believe it or not, I’m not Pumaman…”

       8 likes

  5. Oh, so many possibilities.

    The Charmings. Snow White, Prince Charming their two sons, the wicked Queen, the mirror and a dwarf in modern day LA.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRLYJHUeoFE

    Space Academy, or is’s spin-off, Jason of Star Command. 70s Saturday morning sci-fi. The former starred Johnathan “Dr Smith” Harris, and the latter starred James “Scotty” Doohan.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ufw2YdGJsw

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wqa234nQnRg

    The Flash Gordon series that aired on Sci-Fi in 2007. My biggest complaint about it? Ming wasn’t bald.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrQOWiFHz0g

       1 likes

  6. bartcow says:

    Manimal.

    And maybe you kind experts of the obscure can help me with this one. Sometime in the mid-80s there was a short-lived sci-fi type show about a family that gets pulled into an alternate dimension with a sort of totalitarian feel (much like Stranded In Space, but more 80s). I believe it aired on NBC, and only ran for one season, and maybe not even a full one. No idea who starred in it, because I was still too young to really pay attention to that sort of thing. Mom, Dad, and two? children (boy and older sister, maybe?).

    I know that’s the equivalent of asking someone to name that song that goes “doo doo da doo doo doo”, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

       1 likes

  7. Joseph Goodman says:

    Compilation films worked so well on MST3K in the past, why not some more?

    The Man With The Power – failed 70’s Universal TV show repackaged as a telefilm a la Gemini Man, where a guy with secret alien telekinetic powers has to protect Persis Khambatta from assasins, and help her cheat at pinball along the way. Why yes, I did see this at 3am on SciFi Channel in the 90’s.

    Return Of The Dinosaurs – compilation film of a Tsuburaya show with stop motion dinos and barely animated anime human characters. Riffs write themselves.

    Attack of the Super Monsters – like the above, but with the more traditional rubber suits instead of stop motion.

    the rest of the Master Ninja compilations – with the original “The Master” getting a newly remastered Blu-ray next month, why not revisit mush mouth and Angel Eyes’s hamster?

       4 likes

  8. Yeti of Great Danger says:

    bartcow:
    Manimal.

    And maybe you kind experts of the obscure can help me with this one. Sometime in the mid-80s there was a short-lived sci-fi type show about a family that gets pulled into an alternate dimension with a sort of totalitarian feel (much like Stranded In Space, but more 80s). I believe it aired on NBC, and only ran for one season, and maybe not even a full one. No idea who starred in it, because I was still too young to really pay attention to that sort of thing. Mom, Dad, and two? children (boy and older sister, maybe?).

    I know that the equivalent of asking someone to name that song that goes “doo doo da doo doo doo”, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

    Was it “Otherworld”?

       3 likes

  9. Yeti of Great Danger: Was it “Otherworld”?

    Darn–I was going to guess “Fantastic Journey”, but that was 70’s.
    VERY 70’s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqKEENAGSBo

    Danzilla “Cornjob” McLargeHuge, Student of Kaijuology:
    Also, while I’m here, I have to add the late 80’s/early 90’s “War of the Worlds” TV show to the list.While a fascinating concept that deserves high praise for so faithfully replicating the props, effects, and feel of the original George Pal film (which the series acts as a direct sequel to),

    Well, not really: The “alien duplicates” plot idea was originally pitched as “Invasion of the Body Snatchers: the Series”, but Snatchers’ book source was still under copyright, and HG Wells’ wasn’t.

       1 likes

  10. Misfit4242 says:

    ANYTHING Sid and Marty Kroft! Some of it is nightmare-fuel to be sure!!

       8 likes

  11. Dan Dick says:

    Ding Dong School! Beany & Cecil

       3 likes

  12. Ray Dunakin says:

    Danzilla “Cornjob” McLargeHuge, Student of Kaijuology:
    On the subject of 50’s sci-fi TV, I’d have to say “Men into Space”. The title says it all: men go into space.Once in space, they do things.Sometimes those things are dangerous.Sometimes those things are more ABOUT space than IN space.There is dialogue.A moonbase figures prominently in many episodes.There are rockets.There are lot of old white guys talking.Sometimes, that talk in space.

    In other words, this show is dryer than unbuttered stale toast.

    It’s also insultingly sexist.I kid you not, there is an entire episode where the astronauts are permitted to take their housewives with them to the moonbase in order to study them and see how the effects of space travel effect womenfolk.They literally do the same things they do on earth (cook, clean, take care of the men), and still SOMEHOW fail.Why?Strap in… The pressures of being unable to shop, talk to their friends, or go outside get to them, and the space program decides to drop the whole “women into space” thing almost immediately.

    I often wonder about the writers of those sexist 50’s and 60’s shows. I was just a kid then, but from what I could tell the attitudes portrayed on TV were far worse than what I saw in the real world.

       0 likes

  13. Lawgiver says:

    I was thinking of the science fiction sitcom Quark, which is pretty obscure, but it’s a comedy so I don’t know if it would work so well.

       3 likes

  14. EricJ says:

    The Original EricJ:

    For my choice, some prefer J&tB’s “Master Ninja” take on cheesy 70’s-80’s network series to M&tB’s “Riding with Death and Mellowing Out With Jimmy Carter” off-topic issue-laden take on cheesy 70’s-network.

    Really twisting yourself into knots to get a slam in on The Mike Era there, pal. You know it’s a funny episode. Clearly you’re just suffering from the after effects of Swine Flu.

    Also YA AIN’T CUTE so cut it out with those smileys.

       13 likes

  15. John Paradox says:

    And maybe you kind experts of the obscure can help me with this one. Sometime in the mid-80s there was a short-lived sci-fi type show about a family that gets pulled into an alternate dimension with a sort of totalitarian feel (much like Stranded In Space, but more 80s). I believe it aired on NBC, and only ran for one season, and maybe not even a full one. No idea who starred in it, because I was still too young to really pay attention to that sort of thing. Mom, Dad, and two? children (boy and older sister, maybe?).

    Otherworld, Johnathan Banks was the villain. They entered through a pyramid, and I have some episodes on VHS. Yeah, boy and girl kids, I remember the sonwas going to join the equivalent of the Hitler Youth, the girl became a music star in another episode [damn.. all that in my memory, talk about wasted space!]

       1 likes

  16. Before there was BJ & the Bear or Sheriff Lobo, there was Movin’ On, starring Claude Akins as a truck driver in the mid 1970s. It’s basically like that episode of riding with death about the truck driver, only without the ability to turn invisible.

    Somehow it lasted 45 episodes. Decades TV shows it from time to time. It’s actually a fascinating look at the 1976s, but it’s also awful and ripe for riffing.

       1 likes

  17. Ray Dunakin: I often wonder about the writers of those sexist 50’s and 60’s shows. I was just a kid then, but from what I could tell the attitudes portrayed on TV were far worse than what I saw in the real world.

    Even Star Trek has an episode where the whole plot is a woman body swapping with Kirk because Starfleet won’t allow women captains and she really wanted to be one. But then she broke down emotionally because she was a women

    Which was pretty bizarre for the show given Uhura was in the command chair at least once, but still,

       3 likes

  18. bartcow says:

    Yeti of Great Danger: Was it “Otherworld”?

    Looking at the photos on IMDB, that sure seems like the most likely candidate. I don’t remember if I watched more than the first episode, but the creepy-yet-cheesy feel has stuck with me all these years (even if the specifics were lost on me almost immediately). Thanks everyone!

       1 likes

  19. Ro-man, aka one of several possible Steves says:

    In thinking further, Battlestar Galactica would be a phenomenal choice. I personally LOVED the show as a 12 year old nerd starved for science fiction, but just think of the possibilities here for riffing… not least of which would be all of the Space Mutiny references! (Hey… we’re watching Space Mutiny?!? What happened to Buff McHardpec? Where did all the railings go?)

    Which I’m sure would thrill at least one of our regular posters here.
    ;)

       4 likes

  20. Pete Roach says:

    DAVEY AND GOLIATH!!!!!!!!!

       5 likes

  21. Sitting Duck says:

    Jeremy Zharkov:

    Ray Dunakin: I often wonder about the writers of those sexist 50’s and 60’s shows. I was just a kid then, but from what I could tell the attitudes portrayed on TV were far worse than what I saw in the real world.

    Even Star Trek has an episode where the whole plot is a woman body swapping with Kirk because Starfleet won’t allow women captains and she really wanted to be one. But then she broke down emotionally because she was a women

    I think it comes down to the attitudes of the individual writers. In the episodes of Have Gun, Will Travel that Gene Roddenberry (since we brought up Star Trek) wrote, particularly Ella West and Food to Wickenburg, the treatment of the female characters is noticeably more demeaning and Paladin has a more chauvinist manner than in episodes penned by other writers.

    Back on topic, I propose the live action Bill and Ted TV series.

       2 likes

  22. “Mister Terrific” and “Captain Nice” were a pair of short-lived attempts to cash in on the success of Batman ’66 without understanding what made that success. Terrific was a government stooge who got his power from an Underdog-type pill, while Nice lived with his mom who made his superhero outfit. Terrible laugh-track pseudocomedies, but not without their charms.

    Gerry Anderson’s “Space Precinct.” Take all the stereotypes and tropes of cop shows and drop them in Star Trek; mix well and cook for thirty minutes; toss out.

    “Manimal.” Not quite obscure, but it’s well past time for this mess to graduate from recurrent reference gag to feature presentation.

       2 likes

  23. Aaron says:

    Danzilla “Cornjob” McLargeHuge, Student of Kaijuology: In fact, there actually might be a path for MST3K to one day riff this!In the 1980’s, a handful of “Johnny Sokko” episodes (including the pilot) were edited together, Master Ninja/Rocky Jones/Riding with Death style, into a TV movie called “Voyage into Space”.So there technically is a Johnny Sokko movie.And, even though the movie wasn’t included, guess who put out the Johnny Sokko Complete Series DVD set a few years ago…

    Shout! Factory.

    Dare we hope?

    If we’re going by that logic, Shout! Factory also puts out the DVDs for Power Rangers and several of its related shows. “Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad” and “Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills” are sadly not among them, but “VR Troopers” would provide plenty of riffing material.

    Dare we hope? Honestly, given that MST3K and Power Rangers are two of my obsessions, I thank God for Shout! Factory every day.

       2 likes

  24. In the lineup should be shows that needed to be riffed. I’m usually thinking of shows that take themselves entirely too seriously. Riffing the Soap Operas in the Joel era comes to mind.

    Having said that, my unusual choice is Gray’s Anatomy. Sorry if anyone likes it. I’ve watch a half-dozen with my girlfriend and they’re the most angst-ridden shows I’ve ever seen. Joel or Mike and the bots would have a field day.

    Taking on another odd selection is one of my favorites, Perry Mason. Watching The Giant Spider Invasion and The Deadly Mantis, the guys certainly know their Perry Mason. Matching up against the real thing would be hilarious.

       5 likes

  25. bartcow says:

    Oh yeah, Otherworld is it. And it’s also my nomination for this thread. Competent-ish, but cheesy and hopelessly dated. 2 minutes into the pilot and I was already coming up with jokes.

       2 likes

  26. Yeti of Great Danger says:

    bartcow:
    Oh yeah, Otherworld is it. And it’s also my nomination for this thread. Competent-ish, but cheesy and hopelessly dated. 2 minutes into the pilot and I was already coming up with jokes.

    Thanks to your bringing up the show, I watched the opening on YouTube. Now it’s my choice for this thread as well. My word, it’s like they put everything bad from the ’80s in a blender. And it appears to co-star Tonya Harding and a motorcycle gang. I mean, wut?!?

       1 likes

  27. Johnny's nonchalance says:

    https://www.rifftrax.com/greys-anatomy

    George Orwell:

    Having said that, my unusual choice is Gray’s Anatomy.Sorry if anyone likes it.I’ve watch a half-dozen with my girlfriend and they’re the most angst-ridden shows I’ve ever seen.Joel or Mike and the bots would have a field day.

    https://www.rifftrax.com/greys-anatomy

       1 likes

  28. Cameron Bane says:

    Land of the Giants (a glorious Irwin Allen cheez-whiz delight)

    Science Fiction Theater (a 50s no-budget “SF” show with plots and acting so wooden you could build a deck)

    Highway Patrol (wherein chief cop Broderick Crawford is the very definition of “hungover doughy guy”)

       2 likes

  29. Aaron: If we’re going by that logic, Shout! Factory also puts out the DVDs for Power Rangers and several of its related shows. “Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad” and “Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills” are sadly not among them, but “VR Troopers” would provide plenty of riffing material.

    Sweet Christmas, I had forgotten about Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills. When I first saw that mess I had to visit the Emergency Room to get my jaw pushed back into place. It was a 21-minute exercise in JUST NOT TRYING.

       1 likes

  30. I think it would be interesting to see what they could do with The Time Tunnel. Loved it as a kid but I don’t think it holds up quite as well as I remember it.

       1 likes

  31. GareChicago says:

    … M&tB’s “Riding with Death and Mellowing Out With Jimmy Carter” off-topic issue-laden take on cheesy 70’s-network.

    Delete your troll account.

       8 likes

  32. Tarzan, with Ron Ely.

    I haven’t seen it in a long time, but as I recall it had beefcake, stupid action, animals threatened by bad guys, and a homily. It’s Hercules, Code Name Diamond Head, Carnival Magic, and a hygiene short all rolled into one.

    Thanks to http://www.annotatedmst.com/episodes/105/The_Puma_Man for reminding me, and pointing to “Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze.” It sounds terrific!

       1 likes

  33. mando3b says:

    Second Darren G’s suggestion of “Time Tunnel”–took itself ‘way too seriously, the premise made no sense, and it created lots of mega-cheese WTF/That’s Ridiculous!! moments: e.g., the two Chunk Manmusk heroes wind up with the Old Testament Joshua at the battle of Jericho (!)–and ol’ Josh is speaking English with a Midwestern accent and nobody bats an eye. Also agree with using some of the lesser “Outer Limits” episodes. But “Night Stalker” wouldn’t work very well: that show (as I fondly recall) was too good, and had its tongue too firmly planted in its cheek. Generally, though, the ’70s were chock full of pompous, poorly-made, overly melodramatic TV shows that our gang could mine for riffing gold!

       3 likes

  34. goalieboy82 says:

    the Bradys. they did make 2 hour movies using the episodes (aka The Brady 500).

       1 likes

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