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Weekend Discussion Thread: Remembrances of the KTMA Days

We’re about halfway through the episode guide entries for the KTMA episodes, and as I’ve been doing them, some questions have come to mind. So I thought I would ask them to the guys who were there — Joel, Josh and Trace — and see if they remember the answers to any of them (it WAS 22 years ago, after all!).

Turns out they did (mostly), and some of their recollections may surprise you.

And all three had some thoughts about how — and even IF — fans should approach watching the KTMA episodes. I thought they were pretty interesting to read.

Read the entire interview here, and then offer your thoughts.

Also, I’m hoping to do a part 2, with more questions about the second half of the KTMA era, later in the year (and I may have a question or two for Kevin as well). If you have a question about that era, post them here and I will include the best ones in the second installment.

73 Replies to “Weekend Discussion Thread: Remembrances of the KTMA Days”

  1. JeremyR says:

    I think it’s more a case of them perhaps feeling these episodes weren’t their best work. But I think they are being too hard on themselves, some of the later ones are just as good as some you’d find in the “real” seasons. City on Fire/Hangar 18/The Last Chase in particular.

    And frankly, some of the later ones using the same movies (Gamera, Fugitive Alien) are just as unwatchable as the early takes.

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  2. Cornjob says:

    The KTMA episodes are for me a bit like looking at a great artist’s sketch’s. And a handfull of them are very enjoyable (Phase 4, Hanger 18, SST-Deathflight, City on Fire…

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  3. Riley says:

    “City On Fire” and “The Last Chase” rank high among my favorite MST3K episodes, and I’d recommend them to anyone.

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  4. Richard the Lion-Footed says:

    Well, now that we have drifted off topic . . .

    Let me just say, Sampo, that this was a very good interview.
    Now, of course, it is in print, so any lags, or bad questions, or false starts are edited out.
    However, interviews are not an easy thing to do. Those of use who look for them have had to sit through a lot of really bad ones.

    You asked very good questions and presented the answers in an informative way. I learned a lot about the early days and that was the point. Right?

    I am sure by this time the cast is tired of going back 22 years and trying to remember why they said “but” instead of “however” in show seven.

    You seemed to get them out of their shells and they gave us a good history of the show I had not heard before.

    Please do another interview covering the second half of the KTMA years. If I can come up with any thought provoking questions, I’ll post them. However (or but) you seem to have a good sense of what to ask.

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  5. PrivateIron says:

    @32 Nightfall was Asimov’s 32nd short story, published about 2 years after his debut, though he was stll only 21 at the time.

    I highly recommend “Superdome,” “City on Fire” and “The Last Chase” as episodes. Phase IV and Humanoid Woman were interesting, but maybe more for the actual movie than the MST3K treatment. “Cosmic Princess” has Brian Blessed in it, so it is already almost mandatorily hilarious. Also, I liked “Time of the Apes” better in KTMA form than Season 3’s version. I found the last KTMA to be one of the most distubring movies they ever did.

    But trying to work through all of them, that is mostly a labor of love.

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  6. Drifted off topic? Where? I think we’ve stayed pretty much on topic: our thoughts on the interview and the opinions expressed therein.

    A few responses and then I’m backing out:

    “Some comments here really fall into the realm of “fan entitlement.” I would bet that both Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax would be far happier to have this website post discussions about their recent releases than some twenty-plus year old ephemera. And i don’t blame them a bit.”

    Both Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax have their own discussion forums. This is MST3Kinfo.com, not RiffingCentral.com. I come here to talk mainly about MST3K, not their current projects, although I’m obviously interested in them as well. I think most people here feel the same.

    “As they all say or imply, you don’t watch these to have fun…”

    I do. Others do. It’s not a clear black and white issue. Let’s get this straight: Plenty of people watch these for fun, enjoy watching them over and over again and, while acknowledging their more primitive nature, still view them as valid episodes of the show. It cannot be stated as you and others do. If it were a matter of opinion (“I don’t see how you could have fun watching these.”) I wouldn’t care, but it is being stated as fact (“You can’t enjoy these.”) and that is simply, and demonstrably, not true.

    “I’m now personally cool with it if the KTMAs never get released or not (I really am), but I imagine eventually the crew will decide to check out those old tapes and might actually have a good laugh at some episodes and might change their minds.”

    That’s one of the points I made when I mentioned the Beatles. I don’t think they get how good they were.

    I am also fine with the KTMAs never coming out if circumstances never allow it. But (as I think I made clear) if I were to learn they were *purposely* being stopped from coming out, that would be a different matter.

    Besides, there will come a time when they’ve exhausted the revenue flow from the available episodes “and then we’ll see…”

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  7. “Nightfall was Asimov’s 32nd short story, published about 2 years after his debut, though he was stll only 21 at the time.”

    And that was the 32nd response! Spooky….

    Anyway, much as I love Asimov, I won’t pretend to be an expert on the timeline of his publications. That was how he described it in an interview I read, so I took it as fact. (He was probably just using hyperbole – shocking from Asimov, I know.) Anyway, the point stands.

    “But trying to work through all of them, that is mostly a labor of love.”

    And I feel the same way about Season Seven, but no one (including me, who can barely stand it) would question its validity.

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  8. FordPrefect says:

    I think they might eventually give KTMA more serious exposure someday, but considering how much trouble they have with releasing the cable episodes which better represent the series as a whole, I understand why Best Brains isn’t in a rush to do so.

    When it comes right down to it, KTMA episodes are a niche market within a niche market. Not everybody loves MST3K and most of those who do don’t necessarily love the KTMA episodes. Some do of course, but most just watch them for historical interest. If a company like Shout Factory wants to make the MST3K DVD and digital market license as marketable as possible to a wide audience, they aren’t going to release something that’s a niche within a niche.

    At least not at first. I think that at some point far into the future, if the Shout Factory / MST3K relationship continues to do well, they will eventually run out of cable episodes with movie rights they can obtain. I’d like to think they could get at least most of the cable series, but who knows. Anyway, after they run out of cable episodes, they might see fit to release KTMA episodes if they can get the rights to the movies for at least some of those episodes and the rights to the host segments from WUCW. I’m guessing they’ll probably try and create new bonus material for those releases like a commentary track and/or a special introduction.

    Sure, this isn’t something that’ll happen today and may not happen at all, but you never know. A lot of people never thought they’d see Alfred Hitchcock’s silent films get the restoration treatment and now that looks like it’s going to be a reality. But for now, we should just be content with what we have and be happy that the show continues to get new fans, instead of turning into a barely remembered relic of the 1990’s.

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  9. Cornjob says:

    1) Phase 4 is one of my favorite episodes of any season.

    2) I think a KTMA episode would make a good DVD bonus.

    3) Those of us who care get a Cheepnis or equivilent VHS to DVD transfer, and for the most part don’t care about the crappy quality and enjoy the temperature postings and such.

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  10. bad wolf says:

    Sorry to get further off topic but as FordPrefect says, this is a “niche within a niche.” I don’t have page view numbers like Sampo but to compare the comment counts for the last few weeks of KTMA episodes to the commments for the last SciFi season (as of yesterday):
    K12 37; 1013 161
    K11 50; 1012 111
    K10 68; 1011 94
    K9 44; 1010 86
    K8 35; 1009 194
    K7 42; 1008 148
    K6 39; 1007 112
    K5 55; 1006 137
    K4 59; 1005 115
    K3 –; 1004 127
    K2 –; 1003 127
    K1 –; 1002 147
    K0 –; 1001 133
    average 48; average 130
    So a very cursory market survey suggests a KTMA DVD might only sell about 1/3 as well as a standard MST3K release.

    Now, would there be more comments/interest for reviewing, say, the four Film Crew DVDs? I guess i do wish someone was doing such a site for the current releases.

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  11. Joe Raygor says:

    Philip: Having a huge love affair with the KTMA episodes doesn’t really make you a bigger fan than everyone else.

    So cut with the smug “I am so above you all” act.

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  12. Richard the Lion-Footed says:

    We fell of topic because this is NOT a thread about the KTMA episodes, but the interview Sampo did with the cast.
    He also asked for ideas for questions for the second part of the interview covering the second part of season Zero.

    [If you have a question about that era, post them here and I will include the best ones in the second installment.]

    We the fans, on the other hand, have spent more time on the value of the season than on the interview or the future questions.
    (This includes me of course)

    And while on (off) the topic, Frey asked “Whose to say what an artists “best” work is?”
    I agreed with his answer when dealing with “art” as a whole.

    However, in THIS case (the interview) the answer is quite clearly “Joel.”
    He was, after all, answering the question as to why he is not enthusiastic about the KTMA episodes being seen.

    I agreed with Frey’s Asimov comment and it is a very good example of what we are talking about, off topic. The view of the artist Vs. the view of the public. While not his first published story, as PrivateIron @55 pointed out, it was an early story and Asimov hoped that he had improved with time. Those who know the history of the film “Gone with The Wind,” or “Citizen Kane” know that often a great movie or great story is an alignment of the planets and not a reflection of the quality or skill of the creator. Like one of the writers of “Casablanca” said in an interview, “hey, I worked on fifty films that year. If I knew I was making a classic I would have paid more attention.”

    So, three questions I would like for Sampo to ask in the next go round are;

    1) WOULD you have done a second year at KTMA if the Comedy Channel thing did not come about.
    2) When did you realize you were on to something that was more than just “fun.”
    3) Whose idea was it to try to sell the show to the next level?

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  13. Watch-out-for-Snakes says:

    Great interview Sampo.  Josh’s final comment, the last paragraph, it is spot on.  It’s things like this that bring me to this site daily.  Looking forward to More.  More!  MORE!!

    (Unless “more” is more semi-bickering and sorta-arguing throughout the comments thread.  If that’s the case, then, LESS.  Less.  less……)

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  14. JLH says:

    Joel mentioned in an interview in summer 89 that they seemed to be intending to do a KTMA season 2. He was especially keen to do “Mars Needs Women” for it.

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  15. Joe Raygor says:

    I thought KTMA went bankrupt in 1989? Or was that after MST left?

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  16. Larry says:

    This is an awesome, awesome interview! Thanks Sampo!

    Regarding KTMA season two, the final host segment of the KTMA ep makes it clear they intended to come back (as Joe noted in his initial write-up). I believe MST3K ended up being cancelled by the station due to bankruptcy, but I could be recalling wrong.

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  17. Larry says:

    Oops, meant to say the final host segment of the *final* KTMA ep, sorry!

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  18. mst3ktemple says:

    I’m pretty sure MST went on “hiatus” in May 1989 and KTMA filed for bankruptcy in July 1989.

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  19. Finnias 'Critter' Jones says:

    Thanks badwolf @#60 for providing those stats. I’ve been shocked myself at how few comments the KTMA Episode Guide entries have been getting. Their reputation (and availability) are so poor I shouldn’t be surprised, but I figured more folks here were internet savvy enough to track down every single MST episode out there. But I tend to be a completist about most of my geek interests anyway, and don’t blame anyone for not pursuing these rarities. Hell, even Sampo himself admitted he’d never seen all of these before, and he’s a bigger fan than I’ll ever be.

    I just hope that other MSTies will take our discussions of the relative values of Season Zero episodes to heart and give the better ones a try. As some have said, it’s like getting new episodes of the show to add to your viewing rotation.

    As for this thread going “off topic”, well maybe a little, but I admire Mr. Frey’s tenacity and general politeness in his posts. I agree with a lot of his points, but differ with his original statement back in comment #18:

    “Wow. I have never been more disappointed with these guys in my life.”

    Well, I loved the interview and thought all three gave a thoughtful analysis of the KTMA-era shows. But MY biggest disappointment with these guys is that they left the show in the first place, to pursue middling careers in Hollywood, when MST was on the rise, or in Joel & Trace’s case, was nearing (or at) its peak of quality.

    But I can’t blame them, nor do I hold anything against them as I love the later years with Mike just as much (yeah, I said it!). I’m just glad they eventually “came back home” with Cinematic Titanic.

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  20. @ Joe Raygor : “Philip: Having a huge love affair with the KTMA episodes doesn’t really make you a bigger fan than everyone else.

    So cut with the smug “I am so above you all” act.”

    Inferiority complex, much? Not sure where you’re getting that vibe from, pal. Just because I actually *can* and *do* respond to comments and criticisms doesn’t make me (or even make me think) I’m a “bigger fan” than anyone else. That’s an angle *you’re* bringing, not me. Try to remember what Thumper’s father said…

    @ Richard: “We fell of topic because this is NOT a thread about the KTMA episodes, but the interview Sampo did with the cast.

    Well, I’ll just disagree with you as to what the topic is, then. “Read the entire interview here, and then offer your thoughts.” Seems clear and the discussion has been directly tied to our thoughts on the content of the interview. I *would* like to say (since I haven’t) that the questions were good and the information….um….informative. But I still don’t think we’re off topic.

    @ bad wolf: “So a very cursory market survey suggests a KTMA DVD might only sell about 1/3 as well as a standard MST3K release.”

    Not to sound like I think I’m a bigger fan of the show or anything ;-) , but that doesn’t even approach a “cursory market survey”. More people have exposure to the SciFi episodes, so have more to say about them. Besides, there seems to be less interest in Season One episodes, but since *any* episode released these days is part of a package deal, no single title in that package would be likely to hurt the sale of the package as a whole. Of course, if they did a set of *only* KTMAs, I could see *that* being a significantly smaller draw…

    Now, can I get out of this discussion or will they “pull me back in…”?

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  21. I'm not a medium, I'm a petite says:

    re #70. While I have to disagree with much of what Philip-R.-Frey-a.k.a.-“Rhindle-the-Red”-aka-the-Guy-with-the-really-long-multisegment-name-a.k.a.-the-guy-that-doesn’t-want-to-really-just-relax-thank-you-very-much says, he’s got a point about the badwolf’s ‘market survey’. Given the hard work and dedication needed to even view, or to have viewed, the KTMA’s episodes I have been impressed with just how MANY KTMA comments there are. I could see a small selection of KTMAs, maybe 2 or 3 double sided discs, covering production costs and maybe throwing off a little profit.

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  22. TD says:

    My thoughts…

    * Great interview, it offered some new insights into those early eps.

    * I’m not a huge KTMA fan, but I don’t think they are as bad as Joel and the gang think they are. Heck I’d watch Last Chase or Su Maru over Aztec Mummy any day… and Aztec was given a commercial release.

    * This has been mentioned on other forums but I’ll share the idea it here: The Jimi Hendrix Experience has a back room on their website where they offer rough demos by Jimi. They make it clear that these wont be offered in stores etc and can only be ordered through the back room. They are also clear and up front about the fact that these aren’t high quality pieces, but are offered for the die-hards or curious, or for historical interest. I understand not wanting to release KTMAs on DVD to the general public, but why not offer them (if they could even get the rights) via something like the Hendrix back room… for the fans who would enjoy having them (clearer copies that is)?

    * The curious cat in me would really love to see the “lost” KTMAs”, but it sounds like that’ll never happen.

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  23. Jack McRobbie says:

    OK. It’s me again.
    1. What on earth is Josh and Trace wearing in the opening KTMA titles? WHY?
    2. What is Beeper’s head made out of? I heard it was made of a Dum Dum Pops dispenser?
    3. What were your initial ideas on the sets and bots (and by that I mean what you wanted each bot to look like)
    4. Why is the Mad’s Gizmonic lab covered in TV sets when it’s a lab ( I know it’s a control room for TV!)

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