The MST3K presentation of The Painted Hills has examples of the following tropes:
- Artistic License – History: The only things Crow's term paper got right were that Rutherford B. Hayes was President and ended Reconstruction.
- Call-Back: The "Reel Life vs. Real Life" music appears as demo music for the Back-Talk.
- Death Is Cheap: "Well, Frank's dead again!"
- Mondegreen: While reading the credits, Joel and the Bots are surprised to learn that "Pile-on Pete" is actually "Pilot Pete".
- Running Gag:
- Tommy, can you hear me?
- Squick: Joel and the bots give a collective "Ewwwwwwwwwwwww!" when Pilot Pete says he's as irregular as they come.
- Subliminal Seduction: Invoked, Joel's answering machine allows anyone to record backwards messages for subconscious reminders.
- They Fight Crime!: Invoked in Body Care and Grooming;Servo: Body Care! And Grooming! They're cops!
- Toilet Humor: The crew's use of the name "Pile-on Pete".
- Unnecessary Makeover: In Universe, In the second Host Segment, Crow and Servo have a debate over whether the girl from the short is more attractive sloppy or clean, with Gypsy moderating and Joel deciding the outcome.Crow's argument: I like her sloppy. While her well-groomed — in other words, square — classmates were listening to Pat Boone and Patti Page, she was at the local jazz club, groovin' to Miles, Monk and Coltrane. While her classmates were struggling to make it through an issue of Reader's Digest, she was the only woman on campus who can freely quote Henry Miller. She may be sloppy, but she fits deeply into my idea of paradise.
Servo's argument: I like her clean, 'cause it just shows that she wants to change the system from within. Sure she's a seething cauldron of passion, but she wears clean underpants, and she knows where her shirt is in the morning. Call her what you will — a Scoop Jackson democrat or a Jacob Javits republican — either way, she's the stuff that dreams are made of.
Joel's verdict: Both of these issues are complex, and there are no easy answers, but Crow's right.
Servo then argues against Joel's verdict, stating that the subject of cleanliness and grooming is important to him, and proposes a more effective way to resolve the issue: "A spitting contest!"