In the good old days of television, no TV station was complete without a horror movie show. Some of them had their own little quirks and segments that made them unique. But no local horror movie show ever made, past, present or future, was better than Mystery Science Theatre 3000, which originated at what was then known as KTMA-TV, channel 23 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The movie was actually an "experiment" conducted by Drs. Clayton Forrester and Laurence Erhardt, who sent a janitor, Joel Robinson, into space, not appreciating his hard work a la Cinderella's stepfamily. They sent him into outer space onto the Satellite of Love, where the lonely Joel created Cambot, Gypsy, Tom Servo and Crow, his quartet of robots. Joel was sent into space to watch really horrible movies, but he, Servo and Crow offset the horror of the movies with snappy wisecracks. Meanwhile, Gypsy handles higher functions on the SOL, while Cambot follows Joel and the bots around to see the movies.
The series was a local hit, but the station was in troubled times, and MST3K was cut. Then, Time Warner's new Comedy Channel picked it up, and gave it national exposure. After one season on national TV, Dr. Erhardt departed and "TV's Frank" stepped in. The series continued on without much change, even when the Comedy Channel merged with Viacom's HA! channel to form what eventually became known as Comedy Central. In 1993, Joel Hodgson, who put the show together and played Joel Robinson, decided to leave to work on other projects; Michael J. Nelson, who played various roles in previous episodes (including Torgo, from "Manos: the Hands of Fate"), played Joel's replacement, Mike Nelson, who was introduced on Joel's last experiment, where he and the bots riffed "Mitchell". When Gypsy set Joel free, an angry Dr. Forrester sent Mike into space, where he would remain. Then Frank left, as Dr. Forrester's mother, Pearl, moved in. Dr. F himself was last seen in the theatrical movie, which featured "This Island Earth", probably the best movie ever featured on MST3K, IMO. Pearl would take over when the series moved to the Sci-Fi Channel, and her cohorts were Professor Bobo the gorilla, and an observer known as "Brain Guy". The cycle continued until the Satellite crashed and everyone moved on, though Mike and the bots continued to watch bad movies.
This series has to be the greatest horror movie show of all-time, and for good reason. Where else can you have someone be shown silhouetted at the bottom of the screen making fun of a piece of junk? Also, each host, Joel and Mike, had their own merits, though Joel may have been the better one, IMO. Also keeping the show moving was its loyal fanbase, known as MSTies; my mother is proud to be one. I'm glad the show was as popular as it was, because of its quality, and because of a very loyal fanbase. This was truly a show I enjoyed at one time or another as much as my mother did.
OH, WE'VE GOT MOVIE SIGN!