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Sampo & Erhardt

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Visit our archives of the MST3K pages previously hosted by the Sci-Fi Channel's SCIFI.COM.

Goodbye Sci-Fi

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett reflect on MST3K's final broadcast.

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Episode guide: 205- Rocket Attack USA (with short: The Phantom Creeps, Chapter 2)

Short: (1939) A disguised Zorka, believed by everyone to be dead, arrives at the site of the plane crash and learns his wife has been killed. Despite the fact that he caused the crash, he blames his enemies and swears to avenge her death. The pilot of the plane survived the crash but was put into a coma by the exploding spider. Dr. Mallory concocts a formula to revive the pilot, but it fails. Guessing there is some missing ingredient to be found in Zorka’s lab, Mallory and military intelligence officer West go there, with reporter Jean Drew in tow. But Zorka beats them there, stocks up on supplies and escapes using his invisibility belt, though his assistant Monk is captured. West and Drew pursue him and find Zorka’s apparently abandoned car. West gets into the car and the invisible Zorka knocks him out and releases the brakes. As Jean looks on in horror, the car with the unconscious West inside careens down a hill out of control.
Movie: (1961) The U.S. sends spies to the Soviet Union to learn about an imminent missile attack, while trying to play catch-up with its own missile program. But failure on both fronts leads to a terrible conclusion.

First shown: 10/27/90
Opening: Joel gives Tom a “haircut,” then shows him the products he’ll need to maintain it
Invention exchange: Joel has been working on a candy ribbon adding machine (Gypsy ate the Mexican jumping bean bag chair), while the Mads have invented water-polo foosball
Host segment 1: Joel explains The Charlie McCarthy hearings on un-American activities
Host segment 2: Joel is the host of a civil defense quiz show
Host segment 3: Joel’s Russian counterpart visits on the Hexfield
End: J&tB explain why they’re upset about the movie and read a letter; Frank suggests movies the Mads could send that wouldn’t be so bad
Stinger: “Help me!”
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (124 votes, average: 4.05 out of 5)


• This is a great episode. it has three memorable host segments (the “Charlie McCarthy hearings” segment and the “civil defense quiz show” are typical of the long, densely written host segments of this period; Mike is at his goofy, unassuming best as Joel’s Russian counterpart). The short (as indicated by the complicated synopsis above) is action packed. The movie, on the other hand, drags in spots. But the riffing of both is very strong.
• This episode is included in Shout’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection: Vol. XXVII.”
• A first in this ep: Comedy Channel and BBI were getting complaints from viewers that Tom Servo’s head was covering up too much of the screen, so they tried an experiment: they installed a skinnier version of the Executive Snack Dispenser (you can still see them at Mr. Bulky’s) and announced that Tom had received a “haircut.” The experiment would only last two episodes, thank goodness.
• Joel’s jumpsuit is still bright red.
• Frank’s “Ya got me!” is a callback to Jim Begg in “Catalina Caper.”
• The water polo foosball thing is great but almost immediately the ball flies up and out of shot. Frank retrieves it and they keep going.
• Despite the closeup of the prop, I didn’t notice until I got to the Conventio-con, and saw the prop close up, that all the figures in the water-polo foosball game were tiny Dr. Forresters and Franks. (I’m sometimes not very observant.)
• Last week’s installment of “Phantom Creeps” said this one would be called “Death Stalks the Highway,” but it never actually says that in this episode. Chapter 2 is just called…Chapter 2. So, since it doesn’t actually appear on screen in this episode, I am not including that title here.
• There’s about 45 seconds of action in the beginning of this week’s “Phantom Creeps” installment that is pretty much the same 45 seconds that was shown at the end of the last installment. Which means it’s another situation where they end up having to write two sets of jokes for the same footage. But in one case they sort of fudged it: Crow does essentially the same Margaret Dumont joke in both versions. In one Crow says (in his best dowager voice) “Oh Captain Spalding!” In the other, Crow says, in the same voice, “But Professor Firefly!” Essentially the same joke.
• Naughty riffs: “Well, I got to third, if that counts for anything.” And the classic “Good morning!” which they would use again.
• This is a good moment to clear up a common misunderstanding among some MSTies. In the short, a character says, “the driver is gone or he’s hiding,” in a very Ronald Reagan-like voice. Crow’s response was to do his best Reagan impression and say “Welcome to Death Valley Days.” For several seasons thereafter, whenever Ronald Reagan needed to be invoked, somebody (usually Crow) would do Reagan and say, “The driver is either missing or he’s gone” or some such variation of the line. They did this so much that some fans began to believe that Reagan actually said something like this and that this was a direct reference to Reagan. He didn’t. It wasn’t. It was a reference to this moment in this short, where they were reminded of Reagan.
• Then-current riff: “Mallory…” “Yes, Alex?” A reference to then-hit TV series “Family Ties.”
• I wonder who did those drawings in segment 1.
• Watch for two things as Joel carries Tom into the theater after the first host segment. First, you can see the silhouette of the stick attached to Tom as Joel hands it to Kevin. Second, Kevin apparently fumbles the handoff and Tom flops over.
• Some of you young folks may be wondering who Art Metrano is, and why his name makes J&tB break out in song and dance music, accompanied by strange gestures. Metrano was a sometime standup comedian in the ’60s, and he (briefly) hit it big with a silly tongue-in-cheek bit parodying hack magicians. Soon every 12 year old in America (including yours truly) was doing it. Here’s a sample.
• Whoa, slam on “Thicke of the Night” and Kip Addotta out of nowhere!
• I love the line from the movie that slams cheese price supports. SOMEbody has issues…
• Segment 2 really goes on and on. On the plus side, Gypsy falls over with a very satisfying clunk.
• Several times during the scenes at the Russian missile range, the slabs of concrete remind J&tB of the monolith scenes in “2001: A Space Odyssey” so much that they parody the eerie chorus in those scenes. Cracks me up.
• Callback: “The dark one awaits for the Robot Holocaust.” And, a double: “The general is asking for hamburgers instead of chili peppers; they burn his gut (Sidehackers). He’d really like a (as the woman in Jungle Goddess) hamburger and some French fried potatoes!”
• Crow repeats the lyrics of “Bombs Away” by The Police one point. I liked The Police but these lyrics didn’t make an impression, so the reference when right by me.
• Another first: Thanks to one Mark Gilbertson, they’ve finally ironed out the Hexfield ViewScreen. It now sports a camera lens-like shutter, replacing with that high-tech window shade technology.
• Segment 3 was recently recalled by a lot of fans when a Russian version of MST3K was discovered on the Web.
• I can’t say for sure, but I THINK the closing segment and the letter contains the last in a long series if rips on Isaac Asimov.
• The episode ends with the first-ever “stinger”–a short snippet, usually the oddest moment, from the film. For some reason they don’t do one in episode 207- WILD REBELS, but after that it continues until the brief Observer takeover in season eight.
• Cast and crew roundup: Nobody involved in this movie did anything else in any other MSTed movie.
• CreditsWatch: A new element enters the credits this week: “Creative Pit Boss,” a rotating job. This week it was Joel. Trace and Frank are again grouped together “special guest villians” (misspelled). Hexfield Viewscreen Designed and Constructed by: Mark Gilbertson. Sorri Andropoli: Michael J. Nelson. With this episode, the final credit “Executive Producers: Joel Hodgson, Jim Mallon” first appears.
• Fave riff from the short: “Stunned?? He took six bullets!”
• Fave riff from the feature: “That’s why we’ve GOT TO CRUSH THEM!” Honorable mentions: “Oh that! My lederhosen just came back from the cleaners!” and “But underneath it was just like a bus ride in the 10th grade, if you know what I mean.” Also, I love the little road runner meep-meep Joel does right before an explosion.

81 Replies to “Episode guide: 205- Rocket Attack USA (with short: The Phantom Creeps, Chapter 2)”

  1. Dan in WI says:

    This episodes starts off a bit slow. The invention exchanges this week were nothing special. But from there it takes off into what for me is the second 5 star episode in the run of the show.

    Not only is it a favorite riff, but the “Still shaking the bushes boss” was another extremely well worn catch phrase among my circle of friends.

    One of my favorite in theater bits is whenever Joel plays the other voice in a phone call type scene. This episode has a good one when General Watkins is on the phone.

    All three in movie host segments are above average and good. But what really puts this episode over the top for me is the movie summary they give us at the end of the film. Now I first saw this episode as a re-run. That said it was among the first episodes I ever saw and it was the first completely disjointed movie with the seemingly totally unrelated scenes. So when that summary mentions everything I was complaining about during the film it was the equivalent of a walk off home run for me. The delivery really sold it to. I loved the rapid fire frantic panic used by the bots. It reminds me a bunch of the Pina Colada sketch from season 4. I’m glad the transcript for this one is in Ward E.

    Finally I can’t think of a better first singer than the blind guy’s “Help me.” It still cracks me up to this day.

    Favorite Riffs:

    Carrying the injured person from the plane: Joel “Hey try to move her spine around as much as possible.

    Girl hanging from tree: Tom “Mmm. Fresh, delicious, tree-ripened girl.” (That would go good on a calendar page.)

    At the resturaunt:
    Joel “Could somebody get this guy some service please.”
    Tom “Waiter my date is ice cold.”
    Announcer “with a death toll over three million.” Joel “ just a normal day in New York.


  2. Laura says:

    One thing I never understood about the short: why didn’t anyone make the guess that the “physician” that just onveniently showed up at the scene of the crash was Dr. Zorka?

    As for the movie, I still have a hard time sitting through it. Mostly because of the movie, not the riffing. I do enjoy the Russian belly-dancer scene (mostly because of J&TB wondering why the American “spy” was refused service). Also, why wasn’t a bigger bomb used to defuse the atomic rocket? And why not just bomb it from the air instead of using a cut-rate James Bond to do the work?


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

    The survivors are the lucky ones.

    The best I can muster is 2 for this one. I so dislike the phantom creeps, and the movie is kind of low intensity for me ( and yes I am guilty at this moment for perhaps focusing on the subject film too much and not the end result, but I love Hamlet so I’ve earned this right ).

    Watched this for the first time in ages… last time I saw it must have been broadcast.. watched the DAP this week. Suffers in comparison to the recent gems ( and long time DVD availables ) of Sidehackers and Catalina caper which are old and dear friends.

    But it’s not without it’s merits.

    The 60s paranoia game show is very good. Yes maybe it seems long to some, but it is very well written and very funny ( if you are in a position to get nostalgic about that sort of thing ).

    The monolith theme riff at the… Russian missile base ( ? ) is inspired. A brilliant riff.

    How did your car get in the trees ? practice practice practice.

    Joel’s invention seemed a little… under-cooked.. while the table water polo was pretty cool. ( how could anyone not see that the table water polo players were forester and frank ? ).

    I couldn’t watch the hexfield bit without thinking about the actual Russian MST3K rip-off that was linked around a few months ago. But it was a little underplayed for me.

    Small head Tom was interesting, a little distracting but not a terrible thing to try.

    This is the first stinger. well selected.

    A jaunty Help me !


  4. Kenotic says:

    “Small-head Tom” (as opposed to “Cool Hand Luke” or “Timmy Big Hands” ) was kind of strange, but I always assumed that they were just willing to give it a shot. Still, that round head is far too iconic by this point!

    The “Kid and Play” head would show up briefly in the opening until Joel left, IIRC.


  5. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    >>>Despite the fact that he caused the crash, he blames his enemies and swears to avenge her death.

    “As I held the pillow to his face, I vowed to avenge his death…”


  6. ck says:

    And before anyone criticises the movie’s 1960s concern with not
    letting them Ruskies gain a missile advantage just consider the
    observations of General “Buck” Turgidson:

    “Yeah. I think it would be extremely naive of us, Mr. President, to imagine that these new developments are going to cause any change in Soviet expansionist policy….. I mean, we must be… increasingly on the alert to prevent them from taking over other mineshaft space, in order to breed more prodigiously than we do, thus, knocking us out in superior numbers when we emerge! Mr. President, we must not allow… a mine shaft gap!”

    Makes you think. Don’t it?


  7. Mr. B(ob) says:

    This one makes me howl with laughter and I’ve watched it many, many times. Phantom Creeps is quite amusing and the amateurish nature of the feature film generated some fantastically funny riffs.

    Some of my favorite jokes:
    1) Joel translates the Russian general’s dialogue during the briefings as if they were old jokes and phone gags. “Do you have 10-lb. balls?”
    2) Jokes at the expense of the low budget of the film, like comments about the absent rocket during some of the scenes.
    3) All the jokes during the early scene in the Russian restaurant with the belly dancer and the slow service.
    4) The comments about the female spy sleeping with the Russian official and the call back to the movie line about her getting the worst of it. “Looks like she got the worst of it again” someone quips when she gets shot. Achingly funny.
    5) The host segments. These are some of my all-time favorites, right from the McCarthy Hearings sketch through to the Civil Defense Quiz and the visit by the Russian Cosmonaut played by Mike Nelson and the robots that “look like they were shot out of a cannon”. First time I heard that joke I literally could not stop laughing.

    Seriously, 5 stars all the way for this one. I’d give it more than that if that was an option. :-))


  8. TarlCabot says:

    The general scratches his belly and thinks. His pay is good but his officers stink. Guerilla girl, hard and sweet. A military man would love to meet…

    *tap, tap, tap, tap*
    Help me!


  9. Thomas K. Dye says:

    My favorite from Season 2. A hilarious Cold War paranoia thriller, with stilted narration, non-characters doing boring things, and Russia somehow catching the United States at its most incompetent and flat-footed (it would get worse in Invasion USA).

    Art Metrano made a lot of guest spots in sixties sitcoms, and, being a Bewitched fan, every time I see him on an episode I think of “I’m a rich bum!”

    This was directed by Barry Mahon, who would later torture Mike, Kevin and Bill with the movie-in-a-movie “Thumbelina”. He also directed Errol Flynn’s last film, a wretched Cuban paranoia thriller called “Cuban Rebel Girls”.

    The riff “Drink more Ovaltine” literally made me do a spit-take. I had to stop the tape and clean up for thirty minutes.


  10. Creepygirl says:

    I also hadn’t watched this episode since the Comedy Central days. I (for what ever reason) thought it was a clunker and a bore. I watched it last night and I have really changed my mind. This experiment is wonderful! I’m now considering it my “Great Lost MST3K Episode”. That’s what happens when one continually skips watching an episode for ’bout 14 or so years.

    Chapter Two of Phantom Creeps is a lot more fun than Chapter One. Better riffs and way more action.

    The movie does still drag in few places but since I hadn’t seen it in so long it was all new to me again. :-)

    I loved the host segments! The Charlie McCarthey hearings bit is a classic. (It really helps if you know all the puppets)

    I’m giving this episode 4 stars. Who knows, I may feel differntly in another decade or so.

    “Help me.”


  11. Fred Burroughs says:

    I was so relieved when I first saw this one, because I figured out where “The driver is missing…” references came from. And yes, it did sound a little like Reagan. I’m surprised with how bad the Phantom Creeps was, how many running gags endured from those shows. (e.g.: ‘This will simplify everything!’)

    This is an example of good riffing on a bad movie; slow pacing, lots of silence and pauses and no action. I personally get bugged when they call it “Paranoia” when referring to anti-communist efforts; that word does not apply. The communists at the time were killing millions, taking over a new country every year, and doing quite a good job of placing their friends throughout the US government and Hollywood, to get their own message heard.

    That said, and with all the danger, high stakes and spyjinks really going on, HOW do you make such achingly boring and stupid movie about it? One guy sits through a cabaret, hides in a closet, then hikes through the woods to stick some silly-putty to a rocket; and that’s the best we can do? Thank goodness Art Metrano shows up to give 30 seconds of life to this film. PS -I remember him as the stupid sergeant from ‘Police Academy.’



    I’m on record as saying this is the worst movie they ever riffed on, making it my least favorite MST episode. The film cannot escape it’s origin as a piece of propaganda rather than coming from any artistic or commercial impulse. The script is stilted, the performances wooden, and the visuals perfunctory. It feels throughout like a bland industrial short made for the government. And the fact that the story hinges upon a female double-agent acting as a Soviet minister’s mistress is decidedly unpleasant, made even sadder by the fact that she’s not even that hot (!).

    But the final nail in the coffin is that J&tB are unable to connect with the thing. Riffs come at a fast and furious pace but never add up to much. This is a failure in whole different way than Season One stinkers like Robot v. Aztec Mummy or Mad Monster. Those movies at least had recognizable sci-fi/fantasy stories with professional actors. This is ostensibly a spy-flick but it is the dullest I’ve ever seen, joyless and un-thrilling throughout. The SOL crew were ill-equipped to cope with the lack of excitement onscreen during those earlier experiments, but I can’t envision ANY incarnation of the show’s cast doing better with this one. The blatant agitprop agenda of the film creates a total vacuum for humor (though it does inspire some good host segments dealing with Cold War themes).

    The energy does manage to pick up a bit during the last half hour, after the dame gets shot and the dude infiltrates the launch site. The riffers replicate the eerie music from Kubrick’s 2001 whenever what looks like “the monolith” appears. Crow has the Russian general do callbacks to Sidehackers and Jungle Goddess, then quote The Police song “Bombs Away,” a very catchy political number written by Stewart Copeland (who’s father was a real life CIA agent). And while our crew are baffled by the abrupt shift to NYC at the end, they are given fresh new characters to quip on. Plus we get our first stinger out of this mess: “Help me…”

    In the way that some folks detest MST’s take on Hamlet (or Catalina Caper as evidenced by some wingnuts from last week’s discussion), I stand by my hate of Rocket Attack USA. Only Batwoman hurts me as much, but at least that one has some WTF sex-appeal. This is just a black hole of suckitude, barely redeemed by the host segments.

    2 stars. Still, I did enjoy it more on this viewing (my third ever) than I had before, so there’s some hope for me yet. Somehow I feel this anticipates what the Brains will do when they start riffing educational shorts later in the series. But here in a “feature-length” film it is just too much for me. The biopic of director Barry Mahon (WWII veteran) would be ten times more interesting than this flick for sure.


  13. dsman71 says:

    Love this episode a lot..seen this one more than most…
    Sadly it still hasnt made it in an MST3K Volume – which is odd since I think it might be PD (?)
    I thought for sure this would have been in a volume by now
    It would make a great companion piece to Invasion USA actually :)
    Hint Hint
    Shout Factory (I know Brian reads these)
    MST3K Upcoming Volume :-)
    Rocket Attack USA
    Thank you


  14. frankenforcer says:

    You can’t forget the stinger being replaced in Experiment 523: Village of the Giants in honor of Frank Zappas untimely passing away as well.


  15. jjb3k says:

    I have a hard time believing that anybody would complain that Servo’s head covered too much of the movie. According to Paul Chaplin in the ACEG, they gave Servo a new head just for the hell of it, and never intended to keep the new one either.


  16. Ben says:

    Regarding Art Metrano, let’s not forget his starring, if you want to call it that, in Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment and Police Academy 3: Back In Training as Mauser. I know the PA movies might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I watched them religiously when I was much younger. Besides Art Metrano was quite funny in them, I always thought.


  17. Spector says:

    Geez, Sampo, I’m agreeing with you again! Great minds thinking alike? ;)

    Anyway, this was a terrific episode, starting with the second episode of the wonderful “Phantom Creeps” short, which the Brains clearly had a lot of fun riffing on. Let’s face it, Bela Legosi’s character in this one just makes me laugh everytime he opens his mouth, making him a fun, easy target for Joel and the ‘Bots (this will simplify everything!).

    As for the main feature, I must admit this one took a couple of viewings to grow on me but it’s now amongst one of the favorites of Season Two. The plot, based of course on American paranoia of the Soviets, communism and their fears of losing the missile race, is very ripe for the Brains and I find the riffing spot on with this one.

    I do agree some of the host segments were overly done, but I think the highlight was the Civil Defense Quiz, which I’ve always found very funny, especially Gypsy’s falling out of the competition.

    Four out of five stars!


  18. Matthew Shine says:

    Another classic Season 2 episode, that, for me never gets old. Dated 50’s schlock always worked for MST3K and this is no exception.
    Great host segments (My mom, who’s not a big MST3K fan but grew up in the 50’s laughed hysterically at the Charlie Mccarthy Hearings.), hilarious riffing and the first Stinger ever.


  19. Cheapskate Crow says:

    I still need to watch the last half hour of this (I last watched it 15 years ago if not longer).
    When “The Phantom Creeps” title appears, I love the line “Is that a noun or a verb?”

    I love the slam on Thicke of the Night, I remember some other show about this time slamming on it as well (Get a Life?)

    The thing that stands out the most about this movie to me is the narration, there’s just so much of it it’s like play by play, a fact the Joel and the Bots allude to several times.

    Host segment 2 goes on too long for me but it has Crow from Los Alamos (which is where I grew up) so I forgive it

    Naughty riff: “skin friction on the warhead”???

    I also noticed there were a lot of Tor references, had Tor been in an episode before this? I remember Tor from his fine work in The Unearthly and Bride of the Monster.


  20. Cheapskate Crow says:

    I forgot to mention I love Crow’s “Help me!” at the end. Even though I need to see the last half hour of this still, I remember it well all these years later from the first time I saw this episode.


  21. MitchellRowsdowerBeardsley says:

    So, Jungle Goddess is ‘below average’, while Rocket Attack USA is ‘great’? I’m lost. If any Season 2 ep could exemplify any of the complaints hurled at Season 2 (of which I have none) this could be the one. Very slow and dull. Don’t get me wrong, I still like it , but it seems odd as heck to rate this above other Season 2s and call them ‘slow’, skits go on too long, etc.

    Whatever, just my opinion, but to quote Gypsy

    “I don’t get you.”


  22. Brandon says:

    205- Rocket Attack USA. W/ short: The Phantom Creeps

    Plot: Guy spy sneaks into Soviet Union with aid of woman spy, but despite their efforts, New York City is nuked.

    Host Segments:
    Opening: Tom gets “haircut.”
    Invention exchange: Candy adding machine, water-polo foosball.
    Host segment 1: The Charlie McCarthey hearings.
    Host segment 2: Nuclear quiz show.
    Host segment 3: Joel’s Russian counterpart on the Hexfield.
    End: J&TB upset about the movie, letter, the Mads are happy.
    Stinger: “Help me!”

    Favorite Riff:
    Joel: “You sound like a manure salesman with a mouthful of samples!”

    Best segment: The Charlie McCarthey bit I liked.
    Worst segment: Segment 2 spirals downhill from the getgo.

    -Servo has been given a haircut, and now has a thinner “bubble.”

    -In segment 3, when Mike appears in the Hexfield, he’s wearing Joel’s old KTMA suit! Thanks to MST Temple for pointing this out!

    -The first “Stinger” ever, is of a blind man exclaiming “Help me.”

    Overall/Rating: An average episode, with no real highlights, but is far from being bad. I’d give it **1/2.


  23. big61al says:

    I think this is an episode I’ve only seen once or twice years ago..need to review this episode again. I can’t remmber a thing about it. Hmmmmm.


  24. Sampo says:

    Laura–Zorka shaved his beard, so he’s IN DISGUISE! Unrecognizable! Of course, you’re right.

    MitchellRowsdowerBeardsley–sorry, I call ’em like I see ’em and I’m inscrutable!


  25. toot-tootoot-toot says:

    Hate to join the disagreement bandwagon, Sampo, but I gotta side with some of the others. For me, this episode was an absolute snoozefest beginning to end. The Phantom Creeps serial, like Radar Men, was wayyyy too fast paced and manic to provide decent riffing material. Not to mention, the print was awful and the sound distorted. The movie was even worse AND extremely depressing- there was really no material to riff on and nothing memorable to take away. The boys did their best with it but I really feel this was the worst of season 2. Kind of weird because I thought the episode before was the best of season 2. Go figure.

    I just want to point a difference in the sense of humor between a lot of fans of the show (not that any specific sense of humor is the right one, of course). MST3K has been knocked in some circles and praised in others regarding the obscurity of many references throughout the show. While I don’t claim to know every reference they make I also don’t tend to laugh out loud when they make them like many do. Do I remember “Thicke of the Night”? Yes. But when the riff was made I just thought in my mind (oh, that’s clever, an obscure reference). More direct, reactionary humor to the movie actually gets me rolling on the floor, such as Joel saying “wooohoo that’s good booze” when people take a drink in later episodes. This is where I think a lot of the Joel vs. Mike people choose sides. There was more of the former in the Joel years (especially in the beginning) while there was more of the latter in Mike years, though they were never completely one way or the other. Just an observation. Think about, won’t you? Thank you.


  26. Watch-out-for-Snakes says:

    This is okay for me. A 3/5 based on the strength of the Host Segments and riffing, but the episode looses points for the (as mentioned above) drab, boring, uneventful, plodding movie that we are subjected to this week.

    Short: Crow – “Hey try to move her spine around as much as possible.”

    Host Segment #1 is great, well written stuff. Joel’s send off of “Who pulls your strings?” is a perfect end to the segment.

    Host Segment #2 is okay, pretty good. Maybe a little too long. And why is Gypsy even there? Just to fall over?

    Host Segment #3 is the weakest of the bunch. It drags.


    Servo: “Doogie Howser all grown up.” –While relevant then, this riff is odd now that we know that Doogie Howser grows up to be Barney on ‘How I Met Your Mother.’

    Joel: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we present the only arty shot in the film.”

    J&TB’s sing the ‘2001’ theme song when some monolith like things show up on screen. I laughed very, very hard.

    Joel: “Is somebody around who can get in this shot!??”

    Joel: “Just another night in the big apple..”

    The stinger in this episode, the first one, is a perfect choice. The old blind man saying ‘help me’ is wonderfully bizarre and a perfect non-sequitur.

    Also, during the closing segment, Joel (I believe) says something like, “this weeks creative pit boss” while reading letters, I believe. My notes are sorta of a jumble, I’m unsure about the placement of context of that quote, but nevertheless, the term “pit boss” makes me rumble with laughter.


  27. Sampo says:

    Watch-out-for-Snakes: Oooh, good catch. I meant to mention “This week’s creative pit boss” — this was the first episode where this appeared in the credits. For this episode it was Joel. They pick a different person each episode through episode 212. I assume that person was the final say on the script or something like that.


  28. This Guy says:

    @26: Don’t forget that Doogie Howser also grew up to become a mad scientist.


  29. fireballil says:

    I just saw this for the second time and there were a few things I noticed:

    Seemed to me that the whole show was ripe for political statements, which came across in segments one and two. Even though they were very funny, they did show the writers’ leanings.

    The first time I saw Art Metrano’s magic bit was on an old Laugh-In episode. He did it even though he had water thrown on him and a backdrop fell on him.

    I wonder if some Russian saw this episode and decided to make their own real version, since we’ve found out their is one.

    The experiment with Tom’s head seems to be an attempt to please a small amount of viewers, which I think goes against what Joel said that ‘the right people would get the show.’


  30. Really Deep...Man says:



  31. Watch-out-for-Snakes says:

    SAMPO: Good call! It was in the credits, that’s right. As I said, my notes were a jumble, wasn’t sure if that was a quote or what. And yeah, I would assume that that would be the person who has final say on the script.

    @28 THIS GUY: Totally.


  32. EricJ says:


    That, and:
    “Sometimes when you’re with him and I’m in the closet, I just want to come out there and…”
    Crow: “…Put YOU in the closet.”

    (@1 – And btw, does anyone know what “Still shakin’ the bushes, boss” is from? I know it’s a Rochester imitation, and my closest guess is the Jack Benny routine where Jack spent three weeks looking for one lost golf ball, but that was on radio. Am I missing something specific?)

    @7 – Roger Ebert once did a piece analyzing the mechanics of Political Propaganda (after Sally Field’s “Not Without My Daughter” ) pointing out that one of the most common ways to depict the Evil Empire was to show them saying sinister things in Weird Foreign Languages, while a translator third-party translates their mysterious inscrutable discussions….
    Joel and Servo’s “translation” of the general’s phone calls were not only funny, but took the air out of the movie’s Cold War balloon fast.

    Also, in S2, one friend who had never seen the show tuned in for the last ten minutes (“…Oh yes, we CAN!” ) and J&tB’s reaction to the Mads: o_o
    That ended up being a great sum-up of the series for him, and further explanation was unnecessary.


  33. Annie says:

    Nitpick: Family Ties aired its last episode in May 1989, so it wasn’t technically a “then-hit.” But it was recent enough that the reference made sense.

    I know I’ve seen this episode, but I don’t remember it at all! That works in my favor, as it’s like getting fresh episodes!


  34. Sampo says:

    FYI — “Shakin’ the bushes, boss” is a slight paraphrase of the line from “Cool Hand Luke,” “Shakin’ the tree over here, boss.”


  35. fathermushroom says:

    I agree with those who think the movie is a bore.

    But I really liked the Civil Defense Quiz Bowl, or whatever it was called.



  36. fathermushroom says:

    Oh yeah — favorite line from the Quiz Bowl:

    Joel: “What was the name given to the unsuccessful CIA plot, etc.”

    Crow: “The Kennedy Assassination?”

    Joel: “Wrong, that was successful.”


  37. CaveDweller says:

    “Ford Beebe…Ford Beebe….Ford Beebe….”


  38. Jamie says:

    …(air raid sirens blaring) tap tap tap tap tap

    “Help Me!”

    Sorry folks. Just had to do it! ROTFLMAO


  39. Jamie says:

    @ 16: I love P.A.2 TFA. Mauser’s shower scene was funny every time. “…(Singing) And someday, I’m gonna be captain! And every rookie will get down on their knees…” P.A. 2 TFA is my favorite out of all the P.A. movies. It also starred Howard Hessman of his post WKRP fame. Another Mauser line: “…(in high voice) No! They dont need a back up! What do you need a hearing aid?”


  40. JCC says:

    #25 –

    Nice theory, but of course we’re going to need examples from every single episode to prove it. I’m pretty sure they did do the “Mmm-hmmm that’s good ___________ ” less in the Mike Era, although that’s probably a consequence of Johnny Carson ending his run on the Tonight Show in ’92.


  41. crowschmo says:

    “Suddenly, Ivan tells a salty joke involving an elephant and a ladder. I can’t repeat it, but the punch line is, ‘What, and give up show business?'”.


  42. Kouban says:

    Is it just me or was somebody breathing into their mic a lot during this episode?


  43. Cronkite Moonshot says:

    This episode is middle of the road for me. It’s okay, but not one I would watch over and over again. It’s not a terrible episode, but it can’t compete with so many other season 2 episodes that are all time classics. To me it’s just not as memorable or enjoyable as eps. like Sidehackers, Catalina Caper, Wild Rebels, Hellcats, First Spaceship on Venus, or the two Godzillas. I remember watching this when it was first on (or rather when the second season was in it’s post season reruns, which is when I first was able to watch the show) and liking that they were doing something a little different by doing a cold war political spy type of movie, but still thinking the movie was kind of a drag on the episode. It has grown on me a little more over the years, probably because I’ve grown older and get more of the jokes, as well as understand more of what’s going on in the film, but it’s still in the lower end of the season to me.

    But I do have to agree that the 2001 Monolith music riff is classic. I especially loved it since I’ve been a rabid 2001 fan since I first saw the movie in the sixth grade. I don’t know if this was the first time they did it (though I’m thinking it probably was), but they also did it in several other episodes here and there, whenever something was even slightly reminiscent of 2001, and it always made me howl.


  44. Mighty Jack says:

    to #25, But the “wooohoo that’s good booze” is a reference riff. It relates to a bit by Johnny Carson.

    Anyway… I find this a shade funnier than the last 3 experiments. It’s a bit bumpy at times, but when the guys hit the mark, I was in hysterics. I especially enjoyed the way they imitated the narrator. Skits were superb.


  45. Zee says:

    I think “This Week’s Creative Pit Boss” was the fore-runner of the “Directed by” credit.

    Art Metrano is no GW Bailey!

    “That Mitchell & Webb Look” have a re-occuring sketch in series 2 & 3 that is a LOT like segment 2. Wonder if M&W are fans of MST3k…


  46. Tork_110 says:

    I’m glad this show didn’t have too many segments like the Quiz Bowl and especially the Charlie McCarthy hearings. The latter segment you could feel some of the contempt dripping out.
    You didn’t see the Brains rant about how The Space Children was made by naive adult-children who wanted real life problems solved by a Deus Ex Machina.


  47. kbrubaker says:

    I think that you have to be in the right mood to enjoy this one. The first time I watched it the episode didn’t do much for me. When I revisited it a few weeks ago, I was amazed at how much funnier it was than I remembered. I actually loved it on last viewing. Even the damned Phantom Empire serial seemed less painful than usual. I agree that the movie itself is terrible, but Joel and the Bots excellent riffing really shines. The experience almost gives me the courage to watch Red Zone Cuba again. Almost.


  48. big61al says:

    @ kbrubaker “The experience almost gives me the courage to watch Red Zone Cuba again. Almost.” Amen brother! RZC is like a black hole for plotless movies….they filmed it but it ain’t showing much.


  49. Alex says:

    Ah, I remember seeing Tom’s head like this when I first saw the intro theme. I’m like “Wth is up with Tom’s head???”, until I saw this episode. I’m glad it only lasted for 2 episodes; he looks weird!

    Never watched this episode too often, but it’s pretty good and I wouldn’t mind seeing it on a future Shout boxset.


  50. toot-toottoot-toot says:

    #40 and #44- Ah ya got me. I guess “woohoo that’s good booze” wasn’t the best reactionary riff example due to the fact that it is, indeed, a reference riff. BUT, I will say that it would appeal to many who aren’t in the Carnac loop, too, because of its zaniness. The “Thick of the Night” reference was purely meant for those who understood what the heck it was. So maybe we can rename “woohoo that’s good booze” a “reflex reaction reference riff”, at the risk of sounding as nerdy as a Battlestar Galacticash dollar bill.

    Of course, this is all just a theory.


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