The television cult hit “Mystery Science Theater 3000” ran from November 24, 1988 (where it began on KTMA-TV Minneapolis, Minnesota) until its cancelation in 1999 after three seasons at the then-new Sci-Fi Channel and seven seasons at The Comedy Channel/Comedy Central.
MST3K was and is a unique television show. The simple plot being a man (Joel and later, Mike) who works as a lowly janitor for the Gizmonic Institute. As the title song tells us, his evil scientist bosses don’t like him and shoot him into space to be exiled on the space station called the “Satellite of Love.” It is here where he is forced to watch bad movies as part of some kind of wacky experiment by the two scientists, referred to as “The Mass.”
To keep his sanity Joel builds two wisecracking robots, Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo. Together the trio spend most of the episode riffing the bad films. Some of the jokes are improvised with many more being scripted but Joel and the bots had an easygoing style that made viewers feel as if we were sitting with old friends and making fun of the films together.
Created by comedian Joel Hodgson, the show’s fan base was a slow build outside of its home base of Minneapolis but in the mid-nineties, with the episodes now showing on The Comedy Channel, “MST3K” (as it is so lovingly dubbed by its fan base) began to achieve cult status.
In 1993, Hodgson’s creation surprisingly won a Peabody award in Comedy and was nominated for both Emmy and a Cable Ace awards for outstanding comedy writing in 1994 and 1995.
The groundbreaking show was the first to embrace the sharing of videotapes by its fans (the credits in the first four seasons on Comedy Central included the phrase “Keep circulating the tapes!”) which helped its popularity grow in the pre-internet days and led it to be one of the most unique shows on television history, in which Time Magazine christened “one of the top 100 television shows of all time”.
Misties, what they call true fans of the show, were doubly-excited when Netflix announced a second season for the beloved series. With that announcement was the good news that they would also be streaming older episodes of the show along with the revival series.
Fans of the show received some terrifically bad news last Tuesday when current host Jonah Ray posted on his Twitter account about Netflix’s seemingly abrupt decision not to move forward with new episodes of the show, officially bringing the revival to a close after only two seasons.
In a Twitter post, Ray stated, “So, Netflix decided to not do another season of MST3K. We are off to Get Down in Lilyhammer while the OA helps us take it One Day at A Time. We will be in group therapy with Tuca & Bertie, Jessica Jones, & Lady Dynamite. The sessions will be run by Gypsy (w/ Naomi Watts)”
In further tweets on the subject Ray expressed his gratitude to Joel Hodgson and how proud he was to be a part of the show.
“We don’t know what the future holds for the show. It always seemed to figure out how to survive. From Comedy Central to SyFy. Then kept alive by RIFFTRAX & Cinematic Titanic. Whatever happens, I want everybody to know that getting a chance to be on this show was a dream come true.”
The second blow to fans of the show was the announcement that Netflix will be removing all older episodes of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” from the service as of March 1st.
In 2017, the streaming service began airing some fan-favorite episodes from the show’s 1990s incarnation. There is only one “season” available which carries the title, “Collection 3.” The collection contains a hodgepodge of ten episodes from a few different seasons.
The collection has proven to be popular and many, including the show’s creators and cast, have been completely blindsided by the announcements to cancel the new show and to remove the old episodes.
As of this writing, Netflix has given no reason for the cancellation in any of their press releases.
The future of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” is quite uncertain. In the early 2000s, Shout! Factory bought much of the show’s catalog and it is available on DVD and Blu Ray, along with many episodes of the show available on Shout! Factory’s own streaming channel.
Jonah Ray said, “the show endures” and perhaps it will once again find a home where Misties can come together to enjoy their beloved characters riffing the bad films of yesteryear.