How Did They Film MST3K?

August 19, 2023
David Sunnyside

When it comes to TV, few shows have earned as much outright affection and devotion as Mystery Science Theater 3000. The rinky-dink series, produced in the middle of the country by smart, funny people who hadn't been ground through the glitzy mills of New York or Los Angeles showbiz, connected with a sprawling subculture of pop obsessives who shared the same nerdy media diets, the same schlubby Midwestern fashion sense, and a certain love for bargain-basement special effects and stiff acting.

Despite the fact that most of its riffing was done in front of a live audience, MST3K was actually quite a technical undertaking for the time. As we learn in this surprisingly informative new special, the crew spent a great deal of energy and resources on building elaborate sets for the theater segments and then painstakingly filming them with multiple cameras. The results are incredibly detailed and fascinating, and the gang's riffing of their own behind-the-scenes footage is often as hysterical as their riffing of the films themselves.

The documentary also delves into the early days of MST3K, when it was still being filmed in the Twin Cities and before it had the luxury of a network backing it. This is the era when the team struggled to keep their vision pure while negotiating with Universal Studios, and this period has long colored many fans' perceptions of the series. Fortunately, things turned out well and MST3K has since found new life on Netflix. It's currently in its second season with Jonah Ray as host and Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn reprising their roles as Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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