Accidentally Accurate: The "Johnny Long-Torso" invention exchange just before Monster A-Go Go, which featured an action figure that was sold in pieces to create more revenue. The episode was released in 1993, but anyone familiar with the modern-day video game industry (or the "Build a Figure" accessories meant to ensure that fans will buy every figure in the current assortment) will find the episode chillingly prophetic.
And because Peter Graves showed up in so many MST'ed movies another gag was referencing his role in the last film they saw him in.
The writers were quite proud of themselves for limiting themselves to only two The Brady Bunch refs in one film co-starring Robert Reed.
They also did this for actors who weren't famous, for example the "Coffee? I like coffee" guy from Coleman Francis films (Eric Tomlin), or Depressing Dad (Malcolm Atterbury) who showed up in several unrelated episodes, and yet somehow always played a really depressing dad.
Possibly reached its zenith when they noticed an actor named Merritt Stone had showed up in several of the films they'd done, but no one was sure who he actually was. So the big running gag of The Rebel Set is Mike and Crow giving the name to the train conductor (actually played by Gene Roth, who was another recurring actor), to which Tom keeps shouting "HE'S NOT MERRITT STONE!"
Averted completely when no one at all noticed that Space Mutiny's spaceship was the Battlestar Galactica flying backwards.
Adored by the Network: Though it would wind up getting Screwed by the Network later, the old Comedy Channel considered MST3K its flagship show - when they merged with Ha! to become Comedy Central, they threatened to cancel the merger if Ha! insisted on getting rid of MST3K in spite of the Comedy Channel's anonymity and Ha!'s comparative success. MST3K also scored an unprecedented three-year contract, which was a big factor in producing the stellar seasons 3, 4 and 5.
The only reason the tenth season happened was because the departing director of programming at Sci-Fi was a huge fan and signed off on it as his final act of business on the network.
From one KTMA season to two on the Comedy Channel. The latter channel merged with Ha! to become Comedy Central, and MST3K made the transition—staying for Seasons 3-7. Afterwards, Sci-Fi picked the series up for three more seasons.
Also with their DVD releases. At first, they were handled by Rhino, then they switched to Shout! Factory.
Joel Hodgson famously left due to disagreements with Jim Mallon involving the direction the show should take in the future.
Josh Weinstein also left due to creative differences, specifically over whether riffs should be ad-libbed or scripted.
Creator Couple: Mike Nelson is married to Bridget Jones (no, not thatone) who was also a writer on the show and occasional actress, most famously playing Flavia during the Ancient Rome arc in season 8. Bonus points for when Mike had to, and could not, flirt with Flavia.
The Danza: Michael J. Nelson played a character named... Michael Nelson. He's the biggest example but not the only one. Frank Conniff played TV's Frank and Joel also played a character named Joel, though he at least changed his character's last name from Hodgson to Robinson, except in the pilot and KTMA episodes, in which his character was also named Joel Hodgson.
Defictionalization: An invention exchange (By the Mads no less!) became a reality on Feb 1st 2014 when Crest announced it was going to bring out CHOCOLATE toothpaste! Hope Deep 13 gets a portion of the royalties.
Executive Meddling: Despite signing a show renewal contract saying that they would not re-air Season 1 of the series, Comedy Central did just that. They also reran the "special edition" version of episode 701 (Night of the Blood Beast) that aired as part of the 1995 "Turkey Day" marathon, prior to Season 7's official start.
When the show went on Sci-Fi, the network demanded that there be "story arcs". Kevin tried to explain that "there is no story arc in a puppet show!", but they didn't listen. The result is the stories of Bobo, Brain Guy, the camping planet, and the Rome arc. Unfortunately, since Sci-Fi haphazardly would air 3-4 episodes then rerun them (often out of order none the less), this forced them to have to include recaps at the start of each episode to fill fans in. And then, to add injury to insult, Sci-Fi ordered them to cut the number of host segments in half!
Comedy Central's shoddy treatment of the show was one of the reasons Penn Jillette quit as their spokesman.
Joel, during his 2014 AMA said that black and white movies riffed during the early years were blue tinted as Comedy Central thought that people would not see the difference between the Shadowrama and the film.
Sci-Fi Channel (during Seasons 8-9) demanded that the show could only feature sci-fi, horror, or fantasy related movies, though the staff tended to find rather loose definitions of the concept in order to create variety. It wasn't until Season 10 that they were allowed to do drama films again (The Girl in Gold Boots, Final Justice)...though in this case it was because the show was essentially going to get cancelled anyway and nobody at the network cared anymore.
In a more extreme case, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. It was so botched that the cast ended up having to vent their anger in a Season 7 episode where they had Crow's idea for a film be butchered in similar fashion.
Poopie II is INCREDIBLY hard to find, so much some fans don't even know there was a second tape. Half of it is available on the Volume 10 set, but the rest is unavailable. However, those who have seen it don't think it's as good as the first.
Marathon Running: On Thanksgiving Day, during the Comedy Central era; they called each one the "Turkey Day" marathon. Best Brains would produce special host segments and bumpers to tie the episodes together. One year they had Adam West hosting. The show premiered Thanksgiving 1988.
They were less than thrilled when it came around on them, and previously planned episode air dates were abruptly preempted by marathons of other Comedy Central shows. So much so that they cut a promo for their next episode where they talked openly about the possibility of being preempted yet again. (As an additional Take That, the promo featured an appearance by CC's then-opaque and very intrusive network bug.)
McLeaned: Doctor Forrester was killed offscreen by his own mother in between Seasons 7 and 8, due to Trace Beaulieu leaving the show.
The first is the kind where they can't clear the film rights for home video release, and are therefore legally missing. At any given time about half the series falls under that header, but YouTube and file-sharing make it a non-issue.
The second is the kind that are really, legitimately missing, as in nobody has access to them even through more underhanded means. There are only three of these; the first three KTMA (local broadcast) episodes—understandably so, as the series had yet to find a fanbase (and thus no one recorded the episodes) and aired only in one market (driving down the number of potential tape holders). Jim Mallon, the show's executive producer, recently revealed he had copies of said episodes, which he had converted to digital media and put up clips on the show's official site. However, the movie rights for those three episodes remain uncleared, and (due to the crew's low opinion of their KTMA work) are unlikely to see release any time soon, and are therefore still not accessible and therefore still missing.
And then there's the "lost short". There were, at one point, plans for an MST3K CD-ROM. As part of the bonuses on the disc, riffs of two shorts were filmed, Assignment Venezula and What's It To You, the latter being a promotional piece for Mylar. When the CD-ROM was canceled, the shorts vanished. A work print of Assignment Venezula was found and released on DVD alongside The Killer Shrews, but What's It To You has vanished entirely; not even the script is believed to exist.
Name's the Same: No, the Josh Weinstein from this show is not the former writer for The Simpsons. This is why he goes by J. Elvis Weinstein now.
Network to the Rescue: When the Comedy Channel picked up MST3K, it was a little-known, low-rating cable network which was losing viewers to the more popular HA! Network. HA! offered Comedy Channel a merger to boost profits for all involved, but saw the Channel's lineup as being of little value and wanted to scrap the lot of it. Comedy Channel, however, saw MST3K as their flagship series and refused to go through with the merger if it the show wasn't kept around. HA! relented, and not only picked the show up again but signed it for three, 26-episode seasons on the initial contract, and increased its per-episode budget so it wouldn't have to rely on public-domain films. A few years later, Comedy Central, the network formed out of the merger, suddenly had no love for the show that basically put it on the map and canceled it.
Older than You Think: In Mike's first episode as host ("The Brain That Wouldn't Die"), the invention he presents is the Gutter-Bumbershoot; an umbrella with gutters to keep washed off rain from getting you wet. As it turns out, Mike wasn't the first person to come up with this, as there exists a Daffy Duck comic book from 1963 showing Daffy using this very same invention!
Old Shame: They requested that Comedy Central cease airing Season 1 episodes shortly before Season 4's premiere, although they still recycled some of the better material.
To quote the MST3K Colossal Episode Guide: "Q: Why have you requested Comedy Central not air the season 1 episodes? A: Because they weren't very good."
Also the KTMA episodes. As Joel explained in the "So Happy Together" retrospective (from Shout Factory's MST3K: Gamera DVD release):
Joel Hodgson: We don't count any of the KTMA's as "real" shows. I mean, granted, if people really love Mystery Science Theater and they feel they must go back and watch them, I think it's fine just to kind of learn about like, what it was like when we were starting out. But none of us feel really great about them, because we just weren't writing them. It was just the beginning of it. But along the way, we figured it out.
The Other Darrin: Tom Servo's, Crow's, and Gypsy's voice actors were all eventually replaced.
Lampshaded when Mike turns briefly into a "werecrow" and Crow tells him, "Your voice will change about every seven years."
Beginning in the season where his voice changes, Crow's line in the opening song changes to "I'm different!" in his new voice (the only thing different about him).
Also lampshaded in the first episode of the Sci-Fi era (and presumably when the voice-change happened) where Mike actually realizes that Crow's voice has changed and keeps on calling him up on that fact.
And again in the Soultaker episode, when Joel comes back and immediately notices that Crow sounds different: "Oh, you changed your bowling pin!"
When Murphy replaced Weinstein as Servo's voice actor, it was explicitly explained as Joel tweaking Servo's voice box and personality.
Apparently an irate fan sent them a large banner that read "I HATE TOM SERVO'S NEW VOICE!", which Kevin Murphy proudly hung in the Best Brains offices. Years later, Bill Corbett received a nearly identical note, which he interpreted as good-natured hazing from the fans.
Weinstein, at Cinematic Titanic live shows, will frequently introduce himself as "the Tom Servo you don't like as much."
Magic Voice has changed performers more often than any of the others; in the first four seasons she was voiced by various female performers, most often Jahn Johnson and Alexandra Carr, before being played by Mary Jo Pehl in seasons 5 through 7, and then Beth "Beez" McKeever in the Sci-Fi seasons.
The Pete Best: Josh Weinstein. Josh was only 17 years old when the Comedy Channel picked up the show. The age gap between him and the other performers, as well as his objection to the less improvisational and more scripted new nature of the show after its transfer to cable, caused friction which led to his leaving the cast just as the show was beginning to take off nationally. Weinstein described his time on the show as being barely a step above being an unpaid intern as he felt his ideas for the show's direction were not being respected and dismissed out-of-hand because of his age. Even Hodgson, when asked why Weinstein left, dryly stated "He's 18 years old.".
Popularity Redo: When the show made the jump from local low-budget KTMA to the cable station Comedy Channel, they reused some host sketches in their first season and revisited movies from the KTMA era in their third.
Additionally, Mike Nelson's real-life wife, Bridget Jones (no, notthatBridget Jones) appeared several times, including as Mr. B Natural, Lisa Loeb, Nuveena, Flavia, and Slicer the Nanite. She was also one of the actresses who portrayed Magic Voice before Mary Jo Pehl took over permanently. Bridget was also one of the show's writers, including a stint as a full-time member of the writing staff from season 4 onward.
Retroactive Recognition: Michael J. Nelson really stands out now during his bit parts during the Joel years, even more so than other writers like Paul Chaplin or Bridget Jones. The same can be said about Mary Jo Pehl to a lesser extent after joining Deep 13 in Season 7.
In the case of Sci-Fi, Mike Nelson maintains that Bonnie Hammer, after taking charge at the network, said one of her priorities was, "I'm going to kill that #$%&@*! puppet show."
With Comedy Central it was a new president (Doug Herzog) cutting the show loose as part of Younger and Hipper makeover for the network, but Herzog's tone-deaf handling of the situation made things worse.
Talking to Himself: There was always at least one actor overlapping between the mad scientists and the 'bots. It got even worse in the Sci-Fi Channel era, when both Tom and Crow's actors were also playing Pearl's assistants.
Taken to absurd levels in The Atomic Brain when Trace Beaulieu's two characters imitate one another (neither impression is all that accurate but Crow does a better Dr. Forrester than vice versa).
Throw It In: The crew frequently left in the less serious bloopers — robots falling apart, the actors cracking up at each other's lines, et cetera — because they felt it added a certain something to the show.
One particular example would be a skit they did when Crow got fried by Servo's Death Ray. Crow's little fire on his head after being shot wasn't supposed to spread to his eyeballs, so his head burst into flame and he started screaming, giving a literal spin of the appropriate trope.
Crow: ... Oh, my God. Well, I'll be in my trailer.
Any time a bot gets damaged - even in takes that aren't used, Trace and Kevin always remained in character. For example, when Crow and Servo are dressed as ninjas and horse playing with "Snacktion" action snacks, at the end of the skit, Crow knocks Servo's head off accidentally, to which Servo freezes and Crow sheepishly states, "Uh... I broke him."
In another segment, Servo and Crow are tackling Mike as Secret Service Agents "for his protection". If his foot is exposed, they yell, "Foot!" and pound it back down. Servo's head inevitably pops off - to which Crow screams, "HEAD!" and both bots scream panicked, "HEAD! HEAD! HEAD!"
In the KTMA days, Gypsy was portrayed as a Cloudcuckoolander prone to bizarre non-sequitors rather than the wise Team Mom she became soon afterward. But one aspect of this portrayal ended up sticking: Upon her being asked "What's two plus two?" she responded "Richard Basehart," which evolved into her being a huge fan of the obscure actor.
Trolling Creator: When Joel Hodgson was replaced by Mike Nelson as the show's main character, online communities were abound with flame wars between two halves of the fandom arguing over which of them was better. Reportedly, Joel intentionally added fuel to the fire by anonymously commenting in these forums that he thought Mike was better than his own character to see people bitch about it.
Unintentional Period Piece: Many of the episodes' riffs and host segments deal with pop culture around the time they originally aired (Mike Nelson is Lord of the Dance, Mystos, etc.) According to Kevin Murphy in some behind-the-scenes material, they tried their best to avoid this trope. The official YouTube channel now releases official annotated episodes of the show to help explain some of the more dated pop culture references.
Once in a while, you can catch a glimpse of someone's mouth moving in the theater (this is most prominent with Crow) but no one says anything.note This is occasionally because the audio has been shifted in order to have better syncing; see the credits to Werewolf. It's likely that they're saying jokes that were cut or perhaps censored. One such example can be found in their riff of Manos: The Hands of Fate:
Bride: The woman is all we want!
Crow:[Mouth moves, but nothing comes out]
A confirmed example of this can be found by watching the rough cut of It Lives by Night, where about 3/4 of the way through the movie, just before an ad break, Bill Corbett (as Crow) says "Fucking squeak." After they stop recording, it's remarked that they'll have to mute that one, but he still got a laugh out of the others.
During the 20th anniversary Comic-Con reunion panel, the cast was asked if they ever found a movie that was too bad to use for the show. They mentioned that a few movies they reviewed for use were great for their concept until certain scenes popped up - like, for instance, a rape scene - but out of all these they said that Child Bride was the worst, with Kevin Murphy calling it "Appalachian kiddie porn".
After Joel announced he was leaving, they actually auditioned outside talent to replace him, but, after he did well in a screen test, they decided that having Mike take over would make for a smoother transition.
Apparently they considered doing the legendary Plan 9 from Outer Space, but decided not to because A) Criswell's narration would interrupt the riffing, and B) making fun of it was considered too easy and cliche, even back then.
You Look Familiar: Mike played several small roles in the host segments (and most notably played the recurring role of Torgo) before taking over as host.
"I was really naive and as far outside of show business as you could get. I grew up in the Midwest. The first time I ever knew of a guy making movies anywhere near me was Bill Rebane. He did ‘Giant Spider Invasion’ not too far from where I lived. I remember him being on TV in Green Bay doing P.R. They were in the process of shooting, and he was trying to recruit people to be in this movie. That was my first experience, and it made me feel glamorous that it was even happening in my state.”