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3 The cast
4 External links
The premise of the show was that a janitor working for the Gizmonics Institute (played by Joel Hodgson) had been shot into space by two mad scientists, Dr. Clayton Forrester and his sidekick TV's Frank, as an experimental test subject. The experiment was meant to test how many awful B-movies a human could endure before going mad.
Trapped on board the The Satellite of Love, Joel built two robot companions to ameliorate his lonely existence: Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot. The ship was also populated by Gypsy, who handled the "higher functions" of the S.O.L., and Cambot, who recorded the experiments. Gypsy doesn't appear in most episodes and Cambot is only seen once in the pilot episode during the robot roll call, though the characters occasionally interact with it later. Also occasionally making an 'appearance' is Magic Voice, the female voice of the satellite's main computer.
Since Joel built Tom and Crow out of ship parts, he has no control over when the movies start. As the movies play, Joel, Tom, and Crow can be seen in silhouette at the bottom of the screen, endlessly mocking the movie with wisecracks in order not to be driven mad. They leave the theatre occasionally times during a movie to perform skits and songs spoofing the movie even more, but are always forced to run back into the theatre when the movie suddenly resumes.
When Joel Hodgson decided to leave the series halfway through season five, an episode was written in which his character escapes from the S.O.L. with the help of Gypsy. Mike Nelson, Dr. Forrester's temp, is sent up to the Satellite in Joel's place. Mike was played by series head writer Mike Nelson, and appeared from 1993 until the series' end.
Among the horrid films deconstructed on the series were Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Manos: The Hands of Fate, five Japanese Gamera monster movies, and the Ed Wood film Bride of the Monster. It should be pointed out that most of the movies had to be heavily abridged to make room for the sketches surrounding them. Altogether nearly 200 episodes of MST3K were produced.
Most of the early episodes also included screenings of unintentionally hilarious short films, such as a training film for Chevrolet sales managers, or films intended to teach children about posture or personal cleanliness.
The show's run coincided with the growth of the internet, and numerous websites were devoted to the series. Fans also sent one another tapes of back episodes, a practice the show's creators encouraged by flashing the title "Keep circulating the tapes!" during each episode's closing credits. Several Star Trek-ish fan conventions were held. Celebrity fans included Time film critic Richard Corliss and MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann.
After KTMA was forced to cancel MST3K due to financial difficulties, the show began its run on the cable channel Comedy Central. When Comedy Central dropped the show after a seriously abridged seventh season, MST3K's internet fan base staged a precedent-setting write-in campaign for the show to continue. The show was picked up by the Sci-Fi Channel, where it resumed with most of the original cast. Trace Beaulieu, who played Dr. Forrester and Crow, left. Mike and the 'bots were now menaced by Dr. Forrester's mother, Pearl, played by Mary Jo Pehl. Her sidekicks were the idiotic, Planet of the Apes-inspired Professor Bobo (Kevin Murphy) and the highly evolved, omniscient, yet equally idiotic Observer (The "Brain Guy"), played by writer Bill Corbett. Corbett also competently took over Crow's voice.
Due to contractual obligation, every episode on the Sci-Fi Channel had to be of a science-fiction movie (instead of the varied genres present in past shows), although by the final season this restriction seemed to be loosened. In any event, the network's vast library of low-rent science-fiction films meant there was no shortage of bad movies to spoof.
When Nelson took over from Hodgson, there was, not surprisingly, heated debate among fans as to who made the better host, and whether or not the show's overall quality was declining. But all of the series' fans rallied to its support when Comedy Central decided to drop it, and when the show resumed on the Sci-Fi Channel the consensus seemed to be that the move had refreshed the series creatively.
A feature film, in which Mike and the 'bots worked over This Island Earth, was released in 1996 between the show's move from Comedy Central to Sci-Fi. About two dozen of the original Comedy Central episodes have been released on VHS and DVD.
The bad guys