Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) is an American television comedy series created by Joel Hodgson and produced by Best Brains, Inc. The show premiered on KTMA in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on November 24, 1988. It later aired on The Comedy Channel/Comedy Central for seven seasons until its cancellation in 1997. Thereafter, it was picked up by The Sci-Fi Channel and aired for three seasons until another cancellation in August 1999. A sixty-episode syndication package titled The Mystery Science Theater Hour was produced in 1995. In 2015, Hodgson led a crowdfunded revival of the series with 14 episodes in its eleventh season, released on Netflix on April 14, 2017. To date, 211 episodes and a feature film have been produced.
The show initially starred Hodgson as Joel Robinson, a janitor trapped against his will by two mad scientists on the Satellite of Love and forced to watch a series of B movies as a part of the scientists' plot to take over the world. To keep his sanity, Joel crafts a number of robot companions—including Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot, and Gypsy—to keep him company and help him humorously comment on each movie as it plays, a process known as riffing. Each two-hour episode would feature a single movie in its entirety along with associated public domain films, with Joel, Tom, and Crow watching in silhouette from a row of theater seats at the bottom of the screen. These scenes were framed with interstitial sketches. The show's cast changed over its duration; most notably, the character of Joel was replaced by Mike Nelson (played by Michael J. Nelson) in the show's fifth season. Other cast members, most of whom were also writers for the show, include Trace Beaulieu, Josh Weinstein, Jim Mallon, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff, Mary Jo Pehl, Bill Corbett, Paul Chaplin, and Bridget Jones Nelson. The revival features a primarily new cast, including Jonah Ray as the new human test subject, along with Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt.
MST3K's original run did not garner high viewership numbers, but the show's popularity spread through word-of-mouth over the Internet from its fans known as MSTies (or "Mysties"), frequent repeats and syndication, and home media offerings produced by Rhino Entertainment and currently Shout! Factory, who along with Hodgson now own the rights to the show and supported the revived series. MST3K was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME" in 2007, and TV Guide has noted MST3K as one of the top cult television shows. The show won a Peabody Award in 1993, was also nominated for two Emmy Awards in 1994 and 1995, and for the CableACE Award from 1992 to 1997. The show was considered highly influential, contributing towards the practice of social television, and former cast members launched similar projects based on the riffing of films, including RiffTrax (ongoing as of 2017) and Cinematic Titanic. MST3K also brought to light several older movies that had not received public attention and were subsequently identified as some of the worst movies ever made, most notably Manos: The Hands of Fate.