Movies Based on TV Shows Featuring Their Original Casts, In Honor of ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’
Year – 1996
In the not too distant future…if you’re a nerd (whether it you are a “comedy nerd” or just a regular ol’ nerd) those words will send you into a theme-song-singing frenzy just as quickly as “Here’s the story” will for Gen-X’ers. It’s from the cult classic Mystery Science Theater 3000. The brainchild of Joel Hodgson, the show’s star, it revolved around a man and his robots stranded in space by mad scientist. But that was merely a framing device for the shows intended purpose – watching jaw-droppingly bad movies and commenting on them as they played.
Riffing (as it came to be called) on an odd assortment of sci-fi, horror or just campy B-movies was the shows stock-and-trade. The fact that the show ran two hours helped a not-yet-established Comedy Central (called The Comedy Channel at the time) fill up large blocks of programming during an era where content (especially original content) was difficult to come by.
The show ran for a decade (moving to Sci-Fi Channel for its final three seasons) and has since become respected enough to show up on many influential “Best Of” lists including Entertainment Weekly’s “25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years” (it was #3) and Time Magazine’s “100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME” (that list was alphabetical).
Hodgson left halfway through the fifth season passing the reigns to the show’s head writer Mike Nelson. And at the end of Season 6, the show made its way to theaters as Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.
The premise remained unchanged. Other than improved production values and a slightly higher grade movie being riffed upon (This Island Earth), there’s little to immediately distinguish this from a regular episode. Ironically, the film featured fewer riffs (because they figured jokes would be drowned out by audience laughter) and at 73-minutes it’s actually shorter than a traditional episode; even after taking into account the commercials.
The movie, while critically well-received, was marketed poorly resulting in a box office gross of just over $1 million. So they returned to television for four more seasons. Thanks to Netflix and bootleg Youtube posting the show has attracted a whole new generation of fans. And sense most of those fans discovered the show non-sequentially they’ll never know the torment of Joel vs. Mike internet squabbles.