A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mystery Science Theater 3000 is the very definition of a cult show: It's not for everyone, but those who like it really like it. Because the show's premise relies on an old movie being played as the main characters watch, iffy content can vary depending on which movie is the focus. Occasional scenes of violence or scantily clad women appear in these movies, but the humorous tone of the series lightens any heavy scenes. The humor runs the gamut from toilet humor to truly erudite geek jokes. Older teens, particularly those with a bent for sci fi, fantasy, and technology, can appreciate the show, though they may need a geeky, well-read mom or dad to explain a lot of the references.
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What's the story?
MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000's theme song sets up the entire plot of the show: Joel (later replaced by Mike) is just another guy in a red jumpsuit at the Gizmonic Institute. His mad scientists bosses didn't like him, so they shot him into space. There, with the help of his (puppet) robot pals, he's trapped on the Satellite of Love, forced to watch the cheesiest bad movies of all time, while the Mads keep track of his reactions back on Earth. Joel and the 'Bots cope by roundly mocking the movies they must watch, commenting wryly in silhouette on the lower right of the screen as the movie plays. The Satellite of Love also competes with the Mads to invent the wackiest objects, such as canine antiperspirant or the scratch-n-sniff report card.
Is it any good?
Profoundly ridiculous and shockingly smart, this series became an instant nerd classic when it premiered in 1988 on an obscure Minnesota television station, and time has not diminished its luster. Though the idea of a guy in a space suit and a couple of robots (one shaped like a gumball machine!) wisecracking about bad movies is admittedly goofy, the lightning-quick wit and astonishing cleverness of the cast's quips will first kill you with laughter, then send you running to Wikipedia. You may find yourself looking up Werner Ehrhard or Merchant-Ivory or the cast of Starsky & Hutch after each episode; rest assured that there are annotated guides of obscure MST3K references online.
The quality of the movies mocked on Mystery Science Theater 3000 varies widely, but the quality of the jokes made about them absolutely doesn't. Thus pretty much every two-hour episode is genius, and beloved by smart science-y types the world over. Not everyone will enjoy the show, but those who enjoy it become the kind of slavish fans who would happily attend a Mystery Science Theater 3000 -con or -o-rama. Watching any episode is (about) two hours of guaranteed fun.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Mystery Science Theater 3000 takes on obscure bad movies. What makes these movies "bad"? How are they different from the kinds of movies you go to see in the theater? Is the dialogue different? Plots? Costumes, lighting, scenery?
The Satellite of Love characters and the mad scientists compete over who can invent the most interesting or useful objects. Do you ever see anything on the show that you think is a good idea? Do you ever have ideas for inventions?
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