MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000
THE UNOFFICIAL EPISODE GUIDE
THE TV SPECIALS
Original air date: Nov. 14, 1992.
Watch on Youtube:
[Note: These links may not work in the future]
(I added the ratings thingy.)
In the fall of 1991, as the team was working on episode 321- SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS, a film crew from Comedy Central arrived to make a promotional documentary about the series. More than a year a later, the final product hit TV screens as “This Is MST3K.”
A few thoughts:
• By the time this aired, fans had already grown weary of comedian/magician/Comedy Central spokesman Penn Jillette, whose voice was heard constantly on the channel. Some found his presence in this show grating. But I’ve mellowed on the issue of Penn and when I watched this recently, I have to admit that he does seem to “get it.”
• The attempt by the filmmakers to approximate shadowrama is only partially successful. The result, to a fan, gives the impression that the filmmakers weren’t looking that closely at what they were imitating. On the other hand, that’s what REAL theaters seats actually look like.
• To explain movie riffing, they show a clip from “Amazing Colossal Man” without riffing, then show it again with the riffs included. It actually works pretty well, and I think they picked a good spot in the movie, with pretty funny riffs.
• But later, they show a snippet that includes a riffback to a line in the season 1 episode “Robot Holocaust.” It’s pretty clear the filmmakers didn’t realize that when they included it.
• Wow, Mike looks about 12. But everybody looks ridiculously young.
• Amusingly, the set where Penn delivers a lot of his lines looks vaguely like the “MST3K Hour’ set.
• The riff “Bruce Lee press-on nails” is a nice, complex one as a demonstration of the really complicated riffs they do.
• Tom Shales, at this writing still the Washington Post’s TV critic after all these years, became an icon to MSTies when he said things like “It’s the one show on television I really hate to see end.” What we didn’t know at the time was that what Shales really liked was Joel. That became very clear after the show changed hosts. Whatever it was that Shales hated to see end in 1992 was gone in 1994. With Mike as host, Shales effusive reviews stopped, and harsh, downbeat commentary on the show became the norm. I often wondered if Shales was embarrassed by how effusive he’d been in this documentary, and if he’d intentionally tried to be more negative to the show later on just to kind of even things out. Maybe some day we’ll get the chance to ask him.
• Yes, that’s an incredibly young Neil Patrick Harris. You have to be a certain age, now, to think of him as “Doogie Houser.”
• If there was any question about what episode was being filmed when the camera crew was there, it was dispelled when you saw the riffing scenes, with Crow sporting a “Rudolph” nose (the backstage scenes of host segment filming are also from that episode). But many fans noted that the bots that are normally used in the theater — which are painted black to create crisper silhouettes — were not seen in those shots. It’s unclear whether the camera crew asked the Brains to use the more familiar bots or if the Brains were just using the non-black bots for their own reasons.
• I’m glad this documentary got made, if only for Joel’s classic line: “We never say ‘Who’s going to get this?” We say ‘The right people will get this.'”
• The fan interviews are clearly done outside the theater at the live MST3K show in Minneapolis. Anybody know who those fans are? I’m guessing these interviews were done after the show. Everybody looks pretty jazzed.
• In addition to Shales and Harris, the MSTies interviewed were Ben Svetkey, then an Entertainment Weekly staff writer (now one of its “editors at large” ), Dan O’Shannon then the executive producer for “Cheers” (now a veteran of many series–his current one is “Modern Family” ), Larry Closs, then a TV Guide senior editor (now the author of the book “Beatitude”), Matt Roush, then the TV critic at USA Today (now senior critic at “TV Guide” ) and Paul Schultz, then a New York Daily News assistant features editor (now a copy editor there).
• Stinger: “Thank you Senator your statement has been duly noted.”
Next week: The MST3K Little Gold Statue Preview Special.
Original air date: March 22, 1995.
I was going to write a synopsis, but the MST3K Wikia has a terrific one, so I am going to steal it.
Act One: Hosts Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot welcome viewers over cocktails to the special and state its purpose: for the Bots to tell you your opinions on the upcoming Oscars, even though they haven’t seen any of the movies. They decide to use the promo tapes that the studios give away instead.
First, the Bots pick the Best Make-Up award, showing a clip from “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” and an interview with an “uncooperative” Kenneth Branagh. They then pick “Four Weddings and a Funeral” for Best Picture and show a confusing clip. Mike (who won’t be back later as Ed Asner) drops in to fill in the Bots on the clip’s topic. Their Best Actress is revealed as Miranda Richardson from “Tom & Viv;” this clip leads to discussions of bass fishing and river movies. Best Director is based on looks, which means the winner is…Robert Redford of “Quiz Show”!
Act Two: The Bots stuff themselves with hors d’oevurs and take another shot at Best Picture, this time choosing “Forrest Gump;” the “box of chocolates” line gets Servo a little overexcited. Next is Best Costume; the Bots are impressed by “Queen Margot” but are then wowed by “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and throw their vote behind it instead. They discuss a few random films before sending things over to Gypsy in the field. Unfortunately for them, she’s actually in her room alone making Pop-Tarts. Best Song has clips from “The Lion King” and “Junior.”
Act Three: The entrees have arrived, and so have more clips from “Quiz Show” and Robert Redford, this time for Best Picture. Best Original Screenplay has bits from “Red” and “Heavenly Creatures,” followed by another look at Best Actress, in this case Winona Ryder from “Little Women.” This leads to a discussion about Civil War myths before segueing into Jessica Lange in “Blue Sky.” This leads the Bots to decide it is the Year of the Mental Lady!
Act Four: Over dessert, Ed Asner finally drops by, and it is not Mike, right? Best Picture focuses on “Hoop Dreams” this time around, although the Bots are dismayed by the clip’s abrupt ending. Best Actor is finally discussed, mentioning John Travolta and after a bitter rant from Servo leads to another Best Picture feature for “Pulp Fiction.” The Bots then thank the viewers for watching (although “Ed Asner” is slightly dismayed at his limited role in the whole affair) before gorging themselves on the last of their sweets.
Oh, and the Bots forgot to mention “The Shawshank Redemption.” The end.
• It’s amazing this special got made at all. The final episode of season six — the one in which Frank departs — was only days away when this special debuted, and things were pretty testy between BBI and CC by that juncture. But somehow it happened. The concept isn’t fully formed here, but you can definitely see the germs of a good idea.
• I love when Crow has a “slicked back” net, indicating a formal occasion.
• There’s no riffing of clips here, as we would get in the two Oscar specials during the Sci-Fi years, though there is some narration.
• The melody for “Let me be Frank about Frank” plays in background at several points.
• I noticed this time that there’s different “food” on the desk for each segment.
• Kevin and Trace are incredibly tight here. You can tell they’re thinking each other’s thoughts.
• Clips featured “Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Tom & Viv,” “Forest Gump,” “Queen Margot,” “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” “The Lion King (actually a clip from the “Love Tonight” music video), “Junior,” “Quiz Show,” “Red,” “Heavenly Creatures,” “Little Women,” “Blue Sky,” “Hoop Dreams,” and “Pulp Fiction.”
• Interviews: Kenneth Branagh, Tony Fucile (animator for “The Lion King”) and John Travolta.
• Other clips: a brief clip of Robert Zemeckis, another of Quentin Tarantino and two long clips of the scrumptious Robert Redford directing “Quiz Show.”
• Best line: “Life is like a crap sandwich! The more bread ya got, the less CRAP YA GOTTA TAKE!”
Original airdate: Aug, 1, 1997
Watch on Youtube:
I added the ratings thingy.
• Clearly the filming was done during the episode 814- RIDING WITH DEATH, and in fact it ran for the first time the week after that episode first aired and a day before the debut of the next episode 815- AGENT FOR H.A.R.M.
• Kevin’s story about the naming of the show is completely wrong in almost every respect, or at least it is almost totally at odds with the explanation Joel has given.
• Bill was going through a “complete cueball” phase.
• I think the idea of giving the cast camcorders in order to capture “behind the scenes” footage is largely a failure (with the exception, perhaps, of that nice moment when they zoom in close on Mike’s meaty face). There’s a layer of Midwestern shyness and self-consciousness that prevents them from really making it work.
• I will say that this show is very well edited, and the clips from the show are well chosen.
• Apparently the show has won “numerous awards.” Really?
• Among those interviewed is then-BBI staffer Jill Roozenboom, who I don’t think lasted until the end of season 8.
• Interestingly, there is no credit for the narrator. Anybody know who it is?
Original airdate: Sept 2, 1997.
Watch on Youtube:
I added the ratings thingy.
From the MST3K Wikia:
Introduction: Mike and Crow are awakened in the middle of the night by loud explosions and sound effects. Crow finds Tom Servo in the theater hosting a Summer Blockbuster Review, which he and Crow introduce with a jaunty tune, the “Blockbuster Review Uptown Toodle-oo”.
Act One: Crow and Tom watch, riff, and attempt to sum up the trailer to The Fifth Element. They are wildly confused instead, so they continue on to make fun of an interview with Bruce Willis, some behind-the-scenes info with director Luc Besson, and a clip from the film itself.
Act Two: Mike finds the Bots in the theater just in time to have Tom introduce him as Jonathan Frakes and join them in watching the trailer for The Lost World: Jurassic Park. There follows a montage of Steven Spielberg’s trademark “scenes of people looking” and some riffing on the behind-the-scenes footage.
Act Three: Professor Bobo joins the gang in the theater when Pearl sends him to look for the SOL crew. After he drops all manner of sticky snacks all over the floor, the group watches the trailer for Men in Black, which is constantly disrupted by Bobo’s annoying candy wrappers, questions, and laughter. After making Bobo leave, the crew watches and makes fun of footage of the aliens and special effects from the movie.
Act Four: Observer pops in, joining in the search for the crew. The crew makes fun of the trailer for Contact, only to be interrupted by Pearl herself. Pearl insists on switching to the trailer for Batman & Robin because of the presence of “her fiancé” George Clooney, and when Servo insults George, Pearl tosses him out of the theater and does her own summary of the film. After watching and making fun of a scene from the film and watching the wrongness that is Joel Schumacher, Pearl demands George be put back on. Crow instead shows all of the strange and unappealing men from the other trailers, causing Pearl to chase him and Mike from the theater. A shaken Servo returns to send off the show; Bobo also returns and assaults him with a barrage of movie suggestions. Many of them involve monkeys.
• This hit TV screens about two weeks after the debut of episode 816- PRINCE OF SPACE and a few days before the debut of episode 817- HORROR OF PARTY BEACH.
• This is really the fulfillment of the promise of 1995’s Little Gold Statue special. Everything really clicks.
• They came up with a great little opening song.
• One innovation is the new perspective: In FRONT of the riffers so we can see their faces. It certainly was startling at first!
• And, unlike the Little Gold Statue special, they are actually riffing on the clips this time.
• Even better, Bobo joins them in the theater, then Observer, then Pearl. I’m guessing Patrick ran the puppets and the puppets dialog was dubbed in later. It must have been complicated!
• Kevin as Bobo is great as that really annoying person you hate to sit near in a movie theater.
• “Directed by Rob Lowe” is a somewhat dated riff. I think Lowe has (mostly) been forgiven for some of his personal mis-steps early in his career.
• I will admit I don’t really understand Mike’s horrified reaction to the behind-the-scenes footage with Schumacher and Silverstone. Yes, Schumacher trying to explain “macho” to her is amusing, but I don’t feel his stark horror. Is it simply Schumacher’s presence that is prompting this? Mike’s dialog is still funny, but I don’t quite get what he’s on about. What am I missing?
• Clips shown: “The Fifth Element” (trailer then a clip), “The Lost World (trailer, scenes of people looking, behind the scenes footage), “Men in Black” (trailer, behind the scenes footage), “Contact” (trailer), Batman and Robin (trailer, behind the scenes footage).
• Interviews: Bruce Willis and Luc Besson.
• Fave riff: “And here’s David Cronenberg’s rumpus room…” Honorable mention: “You’re missing Pat Hingle’s towering performance as Commissioner Gordon!”
Original air date: March 19, 1998
[Note: This link may not work in the future]
(I added the ratings thingy.)
Once again I am stealing the excellent synopsis posted on the wikia page (with a few edits).
Introduction: The Satellite of Love crew receives a call from Vice-President (at the time) Al Gore, who asks them to do a special based on theAcademy Awards. Mike is reluctant until the Veep offers him a favor, upon which cheerfully joins the show, singing the elegant “Academy of Robots’ Choice Awards Special Song.”
Act One: Mike and the Bots review scenes from “Mrs. Brown,” “The Wings of the Dove” and “Good Will Hunting.” Mike becomes obsessed with new titles involving puns similar to “Good Will Hunting.” The Bots are become annoyed.
Act Two: Next comes scenes from “As Good as It Gets,” followed by comments about the poor amount of nominations the acclaimed “Amistad” had. Next comes “Titanic,” and like the movie itself, the riffing on the film goes on … and on …
Act Three: The SOL crew is running out of time, and so follows several quick reviews of short clips from “Jackie Brown,” “Boogie Nights” and “Deconstructing Harry,” followed by a lengthier one from “L.A. Confidential” and, finally, the crew’s choice for Best Picture (in spite of its lack of a nomination) … “Starship Troopers.” The Bots then depart to finish cleaning up from the special, leaving Mike alone on the phone with the Vice-President, who attempts to do some riffing of his own on the movies. Mike feigns approval.
• Al Gore: love him, dislike him, feel neutral about him: wherever you stand, we kindly ask you NOT to tell us in the comments. Thanks.
• This arrived just as Season 9 had begun, in the week between the debut of 901- THE PROJECTED MAN and 902- THE PHANTOM PLANET.
• There’s a lot going on here. Not only is it the realization of the promise of 1995’s “Little Gold Statue” special, we’re also seeing the birth of RiffTrax here. Or, rather, the birth of the first germ of the idea that would eventually lead to RiffTrax.
• Classic riff: “I’m gonna sink this bitch.” Ultimately, RiffTrax would do a full riff of “Titanic,” and this riff was recalled. “Starship Troopers” would also later be riffed in its entirety.
• Best riff: “Everybody dance like Mister Greenjeans!”
Original air date: Sept. 4, 1998.
Once again I will steal the wikia’s synopsis:
Introduction: Mike and Tom are chilling on the SOL bridge when Crow dashes up: the crew must save the world by informing the citizens of the United States about their obligated summer movie duties. Mike and Tom really aren’t that enthusiastic, but nonetheless join in on the “End of the Summer” theme song. They then riff on clips from “X-Files: Fight the Future” and “Ever After.”
Act One: The crew next checks out footage from “Halloween: H20” (or as Mike calls it, “HalloweenWater”) and “The Truman Show.”
Act Two: The gang proceeds to be very confused by the independent film “Pi,” and then makes fun of “Saving Private Ryan” and its animated rip-off, “Small Soldiers.” Crow then notes that the SOL crew wanted to show clips from a certain film but can’t due to legal reasons. What follows is Crow’s version, Goshzilla, which is arguably better than the real film anyway.
Act Three: Mike and the Bots, for the finale, review clips from “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon.” As the credits roll, Servo notes the small chance that an actual comet will ever hit the Earth, unaware that one is on a direct collision course with the SOL.
I added a ratings thingy.
• This is the last special they did for Sci-Fi Channel. Behind the scenes, the relationship with SciFi Channel was falling apart, but there’s very little evidence of it here.
• The set is a little fancier than the last specials, i.e. more red velvet.
• This arrived as Season 9 was coming to an end, a few days after 912- THE SCREAMING SKULL debuted and a couple of weeks before the season finale, 913- QUEST OF THE DELTA KNIGHTS.
• Crow notes that movies based on television shows “is a ridiculous notion.” Ahem.
• It’s amusing that the studio wouldn’t let them use “Godzilla” clips back then, but RiffTrax will soon be riffing the whole thing.
• Last time around I called this show “a little lame.” That seems harsh this time around. I’d upgrade that to “good not great.” Some of the riffing is hilarious, some other riffing is only so-so.
• “We’ll be right back after this Kahlua commercial” was a reference to the endless commercials for the tasty booze product that were running during the show about this time.
• Fave riff: “I can’t have gluten in my underpants.”
NEXT WEEK: We start it all again, starting with the KTMA pilot: The Green Slime.