"Mystery Science Theater 3000" (MST 3K) holds a special place in my heart and the hearts of fellow Misties.
Learning of each DVD release of four two-hour episodes makes me smile and creates as much anticipation as I used to feel when sending in cereal boxtops for a special toy.
Reading a few weeks ago that Shout factory is releasing Volume XXIII of this show on March 23 elevated my mood on what had been a pretty lousy day.
This unique, clever, and genuinely funny show was one of the first cool cable series in an era in which the scripted shows that MTV aired were reruns of the classics "The Monkees" and the Beatles cartoon.
I initially would drive 30 minutes to watch the show at a friend's house every Saturday morning because my cable system did not offer the Comedy Channel, currently Comedy Central, on which MST 3K first ran.
After I could watch MST 3K at home, I looked forward every week to eating my Saturday morning treat of a bagel and a bowl of Apple Jacks while watching the show.
The original premise, which was tweaked through its long run, of MST 3K was that a mad scientist and his child-like assistant shot a flunky named Joel, played by series creator Joel Hodgson, onto a space satellite to see how long Joel could watch wonderfully horrible (primarily '50s and '60s sci-fi) movies before he lost his mind.
Misties know very well that Joel "tried to keep his sanity with the help of his robot friends" that he built from materials that he found on the satellite.
Each episode consisted of Joel, later replaced by series head writer Mike Nelson, and the 'bots appearing in silhouette and making sarcastic comments while the movie rolled. They would also perform always hilarious, and sometimes bizarre, skits based on the movie before and after commercial breaks.
The range of remarks during the running commentary ran from references to Voltaire to classic and newer programs and other pop culture items. Better known roles of actors, such as "Leave it to Beaver's" Hugh Beaumont, in the horrible film also provided good comic fodder.
Aside from being a truly awesome show, MST 3K is another example of a series that Shout rescued from the Island of Misfit Shows. It is also the series that started my long relationship with Shout.
The now-defunct Rhino division of Warner Brothers had been releasing DVD sets of MST 3K but stopped after 12 volumes. As I recall, I learned that Shout had acquired the right to produce DVDs of the show but had postponed the release of the 13th set of episodes.
My contact at Shout patiently endured my regular follow-up calls. The 13th volume, which was a 20th Anniversary Edition, demonstrated Shout's enhancements to the releases and was well worth the wait.
First, the set came in a collector's tin that is serving as a bookend for my Harry Potter DVDs. This release also included a figurine of 'bot Crow, which fulfilled an aggressively vocalized decades-long dream of mine for action figures from the show. (Later sets include figurines of fellow 'bots Tom Servo and Gypsy.)
Shout has also released a single DVD of the "very special" MST 3K episode that aired a film version of Hamlet.
This episode was definitely a departure. I remember it being good but
do not recall how it compared to the "Gilligan's Island" episode in
which the castaways staged a wonderfully terrible musical version of
Shout additionally makes every release even more awesome by including original mini-movie posters that insert the 'bots into the action of the films that they were skewering. I plan to eventually get these posters framed.
These DVD sets additionally include highly entertaining special features. My favorite was one that showed the making of the show.
A reference in the "making of" documentary to "Child Bride" being too tasteless for even MST 3K to run and a comment that that reference would prompt "freaks" watching the special feature to buy "Child Bride" did get me to purchase it. (I have not watched it yet.)
Also as is typical for other releases, Shout produces new MST 3K DVD sets every few months. All of them are wonderful, but I will stop bugging Shout when they release the transition episodes that had both Joel and Mike and the final episodes that brought the series to a satisfying conclusion.
As always, please free to email questions or comments. I would love someone to let me know where I can find the hamdingers that were crucial to an MST 3K plot.