Thursday, June 11, 2009

Keep Passing The Tapes

When the subject of favorite TV show inevitably comes up at cocktail parties (has anyone actually been to a cocktail party in the last twenty years?) or in annoying Facebook copy and paste lists, most people rattle off the standard answers: Seinfeld, The Simpsons, MASH, The Cosby Show, I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, Friends, Star Trek, etc.

My answer is not so standard, though I do have one of the most loyal cult followings to back me up here. My favorite TV show of all time is none other than Mystery Science Theater 3000.

There's a good chance you've never heard of it. That's okay, because you still probably know what it is. If you've ever seen or heard about "that show where three guys watch and make fun of appallingly bad movies," then you know what I'm talking about.

MST3K was created by Joel Hodgson (who also starred) and enjoyed a decade long run on various channels, beginning life on public access TV in Minnesota. From there, it spent several years on Comedy Central and ended its run on the Sci-Fi Channel. About halfway through the series, Joel Hodgson left, and Mike Nelson, the head writer, took his place on the Satellite of Love as the man trapped in space forced to watch bad movies.

Yes, for literally ten years, all these guys did was make fun of bad movies. The premise: a guy is shot into space by an evil mad scientist, builds a couple of robots for company, and is forced to watch terrible movies as part of an experiment.

Admittedly, the show had its low points. The creators themselves will be the first to say it took them a few seasons to really get what they were doing and perfect it. And then there were times when the movies they were watching were so bad (Manos: The Hands of Fate to name one), they literally couldn't do anything with the material.

If you've never seen the show, I recommend starting out with one of these episodes:

-Pod People
-Future War
-Time Chasers

The title of my post refers to a line that appeared in the end credits of the show. MST3K enjoyed a huge cult following, and it became customary for die-hard fans of the show to tape an episode and pass it along to people who had never tuned in before. The creators heard about this and actually encouraged it to entice new viewers, because the show, like many good ones, was always a stone's throw away from the gallows.


Nathanael Green said...

And here, I thought your favorite TV should would've been "BeastMaster."

(Yes, there was a TV show.)

Brian O'Rourke said...

I had no idea there was a TV show. Dare I was it?

Jenna said...

I remember I was so resistant in law school to watching MST3K... I think because it was ALWAYS on in your apartment. Once I caved, I was hooked. The only problem was (and is) that I enjoy the movies themselves most of the time. Don't laugh!

Brian O'Rourke said...


Any idea where that set of Tom Servos that Amman gave me for my birthday is?

I think the only thing we watched more often than MST3K in law school was Office Space.

seanag said...

Am I to take it that this was, uh, the basis of your marriage, then? Because, well--no I am just not going to go there.

Actually, I do know of this show, and remember the silhouetted heads superimposed. I'm sure that the only reason I didn't become a regular fan is my almost total lack of cable during the relevant years. (Actually, until about a week ago, so let me know if there is anything great that I'm currently missing.)

Just clicked through to that Wikipedia entry and saw that the show won a Peabody, which is a very prestigious award, campy though the show may have been.

Brian O'Rourke said...


Yeah, the Peabody was well-deserved. This show really was a labor of love. They never phoned in any episodes, even during the tenth season, when they knew the show was done for.

Nathanael Green said...

Actually, I've never seen an entire episode of the BeastMaster TV show. I only know of its existence through my research into the original movie.

But, to be optimistic, it can't be any worse than "BeastMaster II: Through the Portal of Time."


Brian O'Rourke said...

But you had to love the part where Dar and the female lead drive past a movie theater and see a marquee displaying Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time.

seanag said...

Hi Brian,

I've just tagged you for a meme. Feel free not to do it, of course, but if you want to give it a stab, you can use my post as a model, or Peter's, or Adrian's. Or make up your own questions and answers. If you give it a go, have fun with it.

Brian O'Rourke said...


Thanks for the tag! I was just sitting here struggling to come up with something to blog about, so this will be next on the list!