As a teen, I fell in love with the show Mystery Science Theater 3000. Like countless others before me, I discovered the program while lazily scrolling through my cable offerings one night. As usual I landed on a B-movie, however I soon noticed three small silhouettes at the bottom of the screen. Clever riffs and pop culture references, many of which I didn’t get at the time, smacked me in the face, and I became intrigued.
I kept watching for a few minutes and eventually noticed the figure that most closely resembled a human rose to his feet. He picked up one of the “creatures”, the one seated immediately to his right, and left the theater. The third mysterious being followed suit. At that point, I was transported through a strange portal that terminated in some sort of counter top amidst a giant space station. The mystery deepened.
I watched as my moviegoing companions came into full view. Who was this guy? And were those robots? My questions would eventually be answered in later episodes. I would go on to learn that the sleepy eyed human was Joel, a custodian for Gizmonics Institute who was shot into space by evil scientists. He was blasted into isolation in order to watch bad movies as part of an experiment. His friends, Crow and Tom Servo, were robots he had built to keep him company. The premise was simple, elegant even. Joel seemed nice enough and the robot puppets, Tom and Crow, instantly resonated with my inner Henson fan. I knew at that moment I would be a fan for life.
After programming our VCR to record the show for a few weeks, no easy feat mind you, I caught on to the “fan letters” portion that aired at the end of each show. I hastily jotted down a note of approval, complete with a sketch of Joel and the bots, and fired it off to the good folks at the MST3K Fan Club in Hopkins, MN. Unfortunately, my letter was never read on the air. I do know that they received it, however, because about a month later I received the following unexpected treat in the mail:
Yep, I became a card carrying member of the MST3K Fan Club, member #15670 to be exact. After getting my introductory package from the show, I ordered a T-shirt from the merchandise catalog and let the world know of my fandom. I must have worn that shirt a hundred times. It eventually started to fall apart so it had to become a dust rag for my mom.
Anyway, I settled in and kept watching and recording the show each week. I thought that would be the end of my interactions with my favorite show. I was wrong, however, because down the road I received another piece of mail. I remember it clearly. It was a Saturday morning, I was finishing up my bowl of whatever sugary cereal was en vogue at the moment, when my dad slapped this little gem down on the breakfast table beside me:
It’s hard to describe the feeling of excitement that coursed through my body at that moment. It was kind of like the first time I saw a Paula Abdul video, only not so pervy. More editions of the Satellite News would follow over the years. Classic segments like “Scraped From the Cutting Room Floor” by TV’s Frank and serialized fiction from Crow T. Robot standout in my mind as favorites. Sadly, the newsletters eventually stopped showing up, probably because it made more sense to move the show’s newsletter to the web. Satellite News continues online to this day and makes for a great daily read. Their Twitter account is a nice way to stay on top of things too.
One More Thing
One year I also received a postcard promoting the MST3K “Turkey Day” marathon. This beloved marathon ran on Comedy Central each Thanksgiving in the early 90s. If you look closely, you’ll see where I checked off the episodes I wanted to tape. Also it looks as if I tried to update the start times for my time zone… incorrectly. I hope I didn’t miss out on anything. Bless my heart.