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]
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.
• 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.
• 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 Shales was what we used to call, on the old message boards, a “Joelite.” I’m not sure even HE knew it at the time. But it 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 a freelance video producer, among other things), Matt Roush, then the TV critic at USA Today (now a honcho at “TV Guide” ) and Paul Schultz, then a New York Daily News assistant features editor (now an editor there).
• Stinger: “Thank you Senator your statement has been duly noted.”
Original air date: March 22, 1995.
Watch it on Youtube
[note: these links may no longer work at some later date]
• 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:
• 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.
• I will say that this show is very nicely edited.
• Apparently the show has won “numerous awards.” Really?
• The clips from the show are well chosen.
• Among those interviewed is 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:
• 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. I’m guessing Patrick ran the puppets and the puppets dialog was dubbed in later. It must have been complicated!
• “Directed by Rob Lowe” is a somewhat dated riff. I think Lowe has been forgiven for some of his personal mis-steps early in his career.
• 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
Middle third missing
• Because Al Gore is such a prominent part of this special, and because I can’t see how a political argument WON’T erupt if I just leave the comments open, all comments in this post will go to moderation and will not be posted unless they are on topic. So please be patient for your comment to appear.
• For some reason the middle section of this special is not on YouTube. I have to assume some rights holder for a movie in that section had YouTube remove it.
• This arrived just as Season 9 had begun, in the week between the debut of 901- THE PROJECTED MAN and 902- THE PHANTOM PLANET.
• I really think there’s a lot going on with this special. Not only is it the realization of the promise of 1995′s “Little Gold Statue” special, it’s also pretty clear that we are seeing the birth of RiffTrax here. Or, rather, the birth of the first germ of the idea that would eventually lead to RiffTrax.
• Movie clips: “Mrs. Brown,” “Wings of a Dove,” “Good Will Hunting,” “As Good As It Gets,” “Amistad,” “Titanic,” “Jackie Brown,” “Boogie Nights,” “Deconstructing Harry,” “L.A. Confidential” and “Starship Troopers.”
• Classic riff: “I’m gonna sink this bitch.” (Ultimately, RiffTrax would do a full riff of “Titanic,” and this riff was recalled.)
Original air date: Sept. 4, 1998.
• This is the last special they did for Sci-Fi Channel, and there’s a real sense that the relationship is fraying at the edges. Still some of the riffing is hilarious.
• 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.
• For some reason, the “X Files” clip is deleted from the YouTube version of the show.
• As much fun as last year’s “summer blockbuster review” song was, this year’s doesn’t quite measure up. It’s a little lame.
• “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.
• Movies: “X-Files” (clip missing from YouTube), “Ever After,” “Halloween H20: 20 Years Later,” “The Truman Show (trailer segment and clip), “Pi,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Small Soldiers,” “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon.”
• Fave riff: “I can’t have gluten in my underpants.”