17 May 2006

MST3K (opening thoughts)

Tomorrow I begin A Year on the Satellite of Love. In the spirit of Kevin Murphy's book A Year at the Movies, I'm going to watch all of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the space of twelve months. This will be 194 episodes, 1 movie and 6 specials. That adds up to about 307 hours of my life or 3.5% of my year. I'll need to watch 15 episodes every 4 weeks, which comes out to slightly more than one every other day.

Why start right now? If I keep to my schedule, I will get to 512 by Thanksgiving. "Mitchell" is a perfect episode to force my in-laws to watch with me on Turkey Day. It's also a great episode to celebrate the most high of MST holidays.

I don't remember the first episode of MST3K I ever saw. I didn't watch the Comedy Central episodes regularly. Instead, I'd just happen to catch the show playing late at night and would settle in for a couple hours of solid chuckles. I didn't really become a MiSTie until Rhino began releasing DVDs. Remembering my late night laughs, I grabbed their first two releases (506 and 513) and loved them. When the second wave of Rhino DVDs included the ultra-hilarious "Mitchell", I became hooked. I immediately sought out the movie DVD (buying what was likely the local Media Play's last copy ever) and I began taping and trading episodes from the Sci-Fi Channel.

After years of buying every Rhino release, trading, ordering DVD-Rs online, and downloading DAP releases, I'm about to have a complete set of episodes (Rhino's Volume 9 is in the mail and will end my long collecting journey). I'm looking forward to seeing the dozens and dozens of episodes I've never even laid eyes on.

I'm also interested in getting a sense of the longevity of the humor in MST3K. Based on the seven writers that IMDb has birth years for, the humor of MST3K was written by people born between 1956 and 1964. Boomers, in other words. As such, many of the cultural references they made on the show were created to make people of that generation laugh (themselves, in the writers' room). I fear that -- in addition to the torturous legal issues that will likely prevent the show from ever being rerun on TV -- this referential humor will make the series inaccessible to younger fans. I was born in 1977 and feel like I'm barely able to catch 75% of the cultural references. For people younger than that, it can only get worse. As I watch, I'll be curious track how much of the humor is referential (820: "Man, Sherry Lewis has got it going on!") and how much is pure comedy (820: "Reef Blastbody! Big McLargehuge! Smoke Manmuscle! Roll Fizzlebeef!"). Does MST3K have legs? Will it be funny in the future? Or, when I try to show episodes to my future kids in 2018, will they force me to turn it off? I hope to find out in one year's time.