YMMV: Mystery Science Theater 3000

  • Acceptable Targets: The Green Bay Packers. The shows' creators were all fans of the Minnesota Vikings, sworn enemies of the Packers.
    • Wisconsin in general, despite (because of?) both Joel Hodgson and Michael J. Nelson having grown up there.
    • "Hey, you can see the Cubs losing!"
    • In the movies he appears in, Joe Don Baker.
      Crow (as Joe Don Baker's name appears on-screen): Ooh, I wish I was illiterate so I wouldn't have to read that.
    • Not to mention, "ROSS HAGEN?!?!"
    • Sandy Frank. To be fair, he IS the source of all their pain.
      • Coleman Francis as well. Really, any of the show's repeat offenders get this treatment.
    • Crew members with old-fashioned, pretentiously aristocratic-sounding names always get a share of this. "Oh, is the great Hollingsworth Morse going to direct?"
    • Japan. Especially in Invasion of the Neptune Men where the movies use of wartime bombing footage coupled with the abysmal quality made them particularly vicious in their bashing.
    • Canada. Especially in The Final Sacrifice and Zombie Nightmare.
    • Maltese men in the episode Final Justice, at least to Crow T Robot.
    • Britain in Gorgo, The Deadly Bees and any other movie set in the UK.
    • Long story short: There were definitely lines of good taste and class that they wouldn't cross, but generally speaking, if they could get a joke out of something they were most likely going to.
  • Big Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • Valeria (from the movie Robot Holocaust) appearing on the Viewscreen in ep. 201 Rocketship X-M, for seemingly no reason. Joel and the robots seem just as puzzled by her appearance as the viewers. After Valeria leaves, the incident isn't brought up again.
    • In Rocket Attack USA, the crew's reaction to the sudden appearance of the blind man who rather flatly says "Help me" resulted in the scene becoming the show's first stinger.
      Tom Servo: Lucky one. He didn't have to see any of this!
    • Crow, in particular, has issues with the movie showing some rather casual reactions to the pending apocalypse.
      Crow: Cut to New York, where Art Metrano and Harry Connick eat pizza and buy ties for their stupid girlfriends, and Harry Truman gets off a plane by the sewage dump and then a blind guy goes by and says "Help me." WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT SUPPOSED TO BE?
    • In First Spaceship On Venus, Tom and Crow have an encounter with an angry gorilla. It isn't really in context with anything and not even Joel believes that it happened.
    • The infamous "Joey the Lemur" sketch, where Joel flings around a lemur puppet and tries to sing a song about it. He gives it a tough guy voice, a rude attitude, and flubs every single line.
    • Crow's dark counterpart Timmy in Fire Maidens from Outer Space, especially when he pops up in the theater.
  • Better on DVD: The Movie now has the deleted scenes, and deleted theater segments! Fans are already getting to work on a fan edit.
  • Brain Bleach. What do you expect from being forced to watch bad movies? Check the Trope entry for a few examples.
    • It's worth mentioning that it's the only TV show with its own folder under Brain Bleach. One must wonder about the fans...
  • Broken Base: A massive uproar occurred when Mike replaced Joel as host mid-season-five, resulting in a Flame War so bad that it eventually degenerated into personal attacks and pulled entire web communities apart. For years afterward the subject was banned on multiple fan sites, though in the later days of the fights there were more than a few trolls fanning the flames (Joel Hodgson himself admitted years later that he'd been one of them, not really understanding how serious it was). These days, while fans disagree about who was better (and most admit that it really just comes down to personal preference), most find they generally liked both.
    • This has arguably continued into the principals' post-MST projects, with fans debating the merits of (Joel-led) Cinematic Titanic vs. (Mike-led) RiffTrax.
      • Mike Nelson, at one point, proposed to parody the Joel vs. Mike debate by setting up a mock rivalry between Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic, but Joel Hodgson (who is, incidentally, still a close friend of Mike's to this day) turned down the offer.
      • Joel's return in the Soultaker episode pokes fun at the fan rivalry. Mike is somewhat jealous of Joel's new life as the manager of a hot fish shop, but the bots remind Mike not to compare himself. "It ain't healthy."
    • Also notable is that the change was largely just cosmetic: Mike had been the show's head writer since the first season.
  • Crack Is Cheaper: Given the way they're released (four episodes at a time, about forty dollars a set) and how many of the older Rhino sets and single releases are out of print, trying to collect all the commercial DVD releases is a nightmare.
    • A set of four is usually around $60, a single episode is about $15. Assuming all 198 episodes are released, plus the movie and the home-game episode, the entire series would cost around... sigh... $3000.
    • At last, we know the real reason the show's name ends in '3000'!
  • Critical Research Failure: Many of the movies the crew riffs on are guilty of this, but it's also invoked intentionally for comedic effect during some of the host segments.
    • In Tom Servo's planetarium show in the prologue for the Skydivers episode, he refers to the speed of light as "well over five hundred miles an hour" (which is true but also incredibly imprecise: the speed of light is 670.6 million miles per hour) and calls Mars "the brightest star in our galaxy". Needless to say, Crow and Mike can't resist derailing the show.
    • During Crow's Public Service Announcement on how to treat women, he treats women as if they're a cryptozoological phenomenon, like Bigfoot.
  • Crowning Moment of Funny: So many that the show has its own page.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome:
    • The Main Theme, the Tibby song from Gamera, and A Patrick Swayze Christmas
    • While there are enough songs to warrant its own page, special mention is deserved for the United Servo Academy Men's Chorus Hymn. Why? Well, the combination of hilarity and soul lifting beauty earned this song at last count 578 'likes' and only 3 'dislikes'. Have fun.
    • What happens when you stretch the MST3K End Credits by 800%? Something amazing.
      • The end credits themselves, called "Mighty Science Theater" is just that...pretty damn mighty and cool to boot!
  • Dude, Not Funny!: the Mads' "Tragic Moments" figurines from Being from Another Planet. This example was intentional; Joel and the 'bots agreed that making said clay figures was, indeed, the greatest evil Forrester and Frank had ever committed.
    • Until Johnny Longtorso came along.
    • Also the general reactions whenever the movies watched would introduce an Ethnic Scrappy.
  • Ear Worm: The theme song in every incarnation.
    • Watermelon Man...
    • "It's an areological, autoerotical, toobular boobular joy! An exposularegional batchical-pouchular fun for girl and boy!"
    • "Idiot control, now...."
    • "Oh, let's have a Patrick Swayze Christmas this year..."
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: He only appeared for four episodes, but Peanut was instantly adopted by the fans - and by Mike's relatives, it seems.
    • Torgo, especially Mike's humorous portrayal of the character.
  • Fandom Rivalry: Joel fans vs Mike fans, which was pretty much the debate topic back when the Internet was young (well, besides "Kirk vs Picard", of course).
  • Fan Nickname: Chastain Justine
  • Fanon: Many online sources contend that Joel Hodgson pulled an all-nighter finishing the robots before the first episode, and that this is the source of his on-screen character's sleepy-eyed, laid-back persona. All-nighter notwithstanding, Joel's relaxed attitude was a holdover from his stand-up/prop comedy act prior to MST3K. Evidence abounds on YouTube.
  • Foe Yay: Mike and Pearl could get very friendly when she wasn't trying to kill him...
    Mike (over beers): So, Pearl... how come you're so evil?
    Pearl (considering the question thoughtfully): Hm... I'm filled with hate... I'm not sure if that helps.
    • Pearl and Crow are close friends, though Pearl refers to him as "Art". (See I Am Not Shazam)
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: During the host segment for The Girl in Gold Boots where Crow strips, one of Tom's reactions to Mike's horror is to call him "Mike 'Taliban' Nelson."
    • The MST gang were among the few comedians who would reference the Taliban pre-2001. Back then, they were simply thought of as a Real Life version of the town leaders from Footloose. ("I can't believe it, but I'm starting to agree with the Taliban Militia. Dancing should not be allowed.")
    • There are numerous school shooting jokes in "The Home Economics Story".
    • This line from the otherwise hilarious classic, Hike Up Your Pants song, "...Yank your trousers higher than Corey Haim, oh wow..."
    • What was previously an Actor Allusion for This Island Earth with "and his coffin will be made entirely out of coconuts" is now slightly less funny after Russell Johnson's death.
    • The quip in 'Prince Of Space' "Woody Allen asked me out", then a reference to Woody Allen's marriage to his stepdaughter Soon-Yi took a much darker tone after his stepdaughter Dylan accused him of having molested her.
      • Same goes for the joke "The Woody Allen Story!" when the title screen of "A Date With Your Family" comes up.
  • Genius Bonus: How many other comedy shows make casual references to Bedřich Smetana or Margaret Chase Smith?
    • Bre-ke-ke-kex, co-ax, co-ax.
    • During Devil Fish: Mike makes several Double Entrendres involving outboard motors, making reference to the Evinrude brand (observing Peter "grabbing at his own Evinrude", etc.). Not only is Evinrude a vaguely naughty-sounding word already, it's a substitution for another famous outboard motor manufacturer/dirty word: Johnson.
    • In the Agent for H.A.R.M. episode, Mike is put on trial for blowing up multiple planets, and during the trial Professor Bobo manages to destroy Observer's testimony thanks to his encyclopedic knowledge of pies... or so it would seem to most people. The real joke is only noticable to people who know a thing or two about baking: Observer's entire testimony is a litany of pie-making Dont's and the mistake Bobo called him on was the most minor of them.
  • Growing the Beard: The cast and crew themselves have acknowledged the uneven quality of early episodes. This was largely because the on-screen talent were watching the movie for the first time, and many of their riffs were being made up as they watched. By season three, they had a more organized approach where the writers watch the movie in its entirety before approving it for MSTing, then watched it a second time to write the jokesnote , and a third time to film the episode. Season three's Pod People is frequently cited as the first truly great episode.
    • Also a literal version, as Joel grows some chin whiskers late in season two. At the same time, the quality of the episodes was increasing rapidly. It's an aversion because the whiskers disappeared by season three, yet the quality kept improving.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: As if the Reality Subtext with Crow's script ordeals in The Incredible Melting Man episode wasn't enough, it gains yet another dimension if you think of what Bill Corbett (who later voiced Crow) went through with his pet project Starship Dave
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The Russians have launched their own comedian into space! Cue Project Popcorn.
    • The jokes about America's Funniest Home Videos that make Crow the Butt Monkey in the episode covering The Unearthly. Trace Beaulieu (the voice of Crow, who even uncharacteristically addresses Crow directly as Dr. Forrester at the moment) would later be a writer for AFH from 1998-2007.
    • Tom Servo starts to sing 'Tiptoe Through The Tulips' in The Giant Gila Monster to mock the main character's awful song. Fast forward a little more than a decade later and that very song is used as an Ironic Nursery Tune in the movie Insidious. May be Harsher in Hindsight for some.
    • MST3K invented the Rick Roll!
    • At the end of Zombie Nightmare, Mike and the bots rip on the movie's metal-infused soundtrack, claiming it has "some of your favorites" for only $0.85. The kicker? The film opens with Motorhead's "Ace of Spades", which is routinely ranked as one of the best rock songs of all time (most recently in tenth place on VH-1's list).
      • They were well aware of who the bands were, such as Fist.
    • The episode with The Amazing Colossal Man has Mike as the title character read the letter of the week, which includes the line "My favorite is Joel." See Broken Base above for why it's funny.
    • In the Space Mutiny episode, Crow notes that the Internet-linked "State O' The Art Encyclopedias" Mike gets has "twenty-seven pages on Gwen Stefani alone!" Became even funnier when Wikipedia became a thing.
    • In Werewolf, Crow notes the "high gas prices"...of $1.34.
    • During The Skydivers, Mike and the bots latch on to the characters' obsession with coffee, Crow riffing "Wow, coffee! It's better than sex!" when offered some by a female character. Fast forward a few years later to Grand Theft Auto San Andreas...
    • While Joel never interacted with Pearl, he later ended up playing Mayor Dewey on Steven Universe, where he has a crush on another character named Pearl. This has led to a few fanart crossovers between both Pearls, especially since both Pearls are intelligent, somewhat uptight moms who have trouble getting people to listen to them.
  • Ho Yay: Tom's got a roll of singles as thick as a pork roast for stripper Crow in the host part of the The Girl In Gold Boots episode.
    • The bots loved to pick on Mike, especially in the Sci-Fi Channel episodes, even going as far as to having mixed Tsundere traits towards him.
    • Occasionally we get a bit of this with Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank. (There's at least one sketch — the infamous "let's call the Mads" host segment — which blatantly implies that neither of them are straight.)
    Dr. Forrester: Oh my God — Frank, switch on the game! Switch on the game!!
    • In the episode where Dr. F and Auntie McFrank open a Bed and Breakfast, we get this exchange:
    Kevin (Kevin Murphy): So, Clay? You and Auntie McFrank? Are you...?
    Dr. Forrester:...Partners?...Yes, we're...oh, look! Here comes breakfast!
    • Dr. Forrester is also a little too affectionate towards Joel, giving him Affectionate Nicknames and whatnot.
  • Informed Real Life Fame: Frank being referred to as "TV's Frank" as if to suggest he's a well-known television star even though he's not famous for anything. The creators just thought the convention of adding "TV's" or "Hollywood's" to an actor's name is funny
  • Internet Backdraft: Mike Vs Joel spawned many a flamefest back in the 1990s, to the point that Joel himself (allegedly) decided to have a little fun with the show's fanbase on USENET by anonymously picking fights SAYING his replacement was better than Joel was.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Dr. Forrester has his moments at times, especially around his mother.
  • Memetic Badass: The Movie has The Amazing Rando.
    Tom: Watch as Rando The Great constructs sets with only the power of his mind!
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: Most fans will rank "Manos" The Hands of Fate as one of the all time funniest episodes of the series. However, series creator Joel Hodgson admitted in an interview that he honestly didn't think that episode was their best work. He recalled that in the writing room they were all too caught off-guard by the oddness of the film, distracting them from writing really good riffs. He has said a few times that I Accuse My Parents is his personal favorite MST3K episode, which most fans probably don't even have in their Top 10 (though the fans who have seen it consider it very good).
  • Misblamed: A criticism that mostly got aimed at The Movie, though sometimes gets made of the show as well, is that Joel/Mike and the 'Bots just make fun of the films being shown, rather than providing a fair, balanced commentary on their merits and flaws. Leaving aside the fact that the show was always pitched as a comedy show and not a film review show, they did comment when films did things right, and Joel even made a point of forcing the 'Bots to say at least one complimentary thing about each film in the early seasons... it's just that most of the films were so awful that it got kinda hard for the writers to actually find anything nice to say.
  • Mondegreen:
    • The theme song for the Mike episodes in seasons 5-7 feature Cambot saying "Show yourself!" But the muffled way Cambot speaks makes it sound like he's actually saying "Kill yourself!" Similarly, when Crow appears, he says "That's one O." But it almost sounds like he's saying "That's guano!" instead.
    • In the original theme song for Joel, "shot him into space" can sound like "shot him in his face".
  • Poor Man's Substitute: Paul Chaplin and James Moore as Crow and Servo, respectively, in the 2007 webtoon.
  • Replacement Scrappy: Pearl Forrester managed to be this twice during the show's run; in season 7 when she replaced TV's Frank (it didn't help that her relationship with Dr. Forrester was almost the opposite of what Frank's had been), and then in Season 8 when she took over Dr. Forrester's role as the main bad guy. A lot of fans did warm up to her during the last three seasons, though, as she came into her own.
    • A large portion of the fanbase considered Mike this when he first took over for Joel as the main host. This would eventually lead to the infamous Joel VS Mike flamewar, where the fans fought over which was the better host, and it got so nasty that for years afterwards, the subject of who you preferred was taboo within the fanbase.
    • Largely averted with Bill Corbett's portrayal of Crow, who most fans grew to accept over time and in some cases even preferred to Trace Beaulieu's.
    • Also averted, or even inverted, with TV's Frank versus Dr. Erhardt, and Kevin Murphy's Servo versus Josh Weinstein's.
  • 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.
  • Scapegoat Creator: Poor Jim Mallon. Every cast member the show lost was immediately blamed on him not getting along with them, including Joel, who created the whole show and couldn't possibly be made to leave if he hadn't wanted to.
    • In an interview, Hodgson stated that he ultimately decided to leave the show for the good of the show, as he knew tensions between Mallon and himself would only escalate further, causing the show to cease production prematurely. There were too many people Hodgson respected working on the show who would be devastated, financially as well as emotionally, if that happened, so Hodgson wanted the show to go on for their sakes. Which is why, in the end, Hodgson was happy that the show lasted for as long as it did without his involvement.
  • The Scrappy: Professor Bobo tends to be this for many viewers. Many people cite his obnoxious voice and antics, as well as his incompetence, as a main source of criticism. Most likely invoked however, seeing as the rest of the cast tend to find him rather annoying at times.
  • Special Effects Failure: Both purposely invoked and played straight. Invoked due to the hodgepodge nature of the show's props and puppets (they were made from household appliances, knick-knacks and broken toys. after all). But played straight largely in the season one opening (Crow's head reveals the chroma-key effect used for the doors and his puppeteer can be seen before the "Robot Roll Call" begins).
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Joel returns for Soultaker, and he doesn't do any riffing with Mike and the Bots? (Joel explained that he wasn't able to help in the writing in this episode and didn't want to do anything he didn't contribute to.)
  • Uncanny Valley: During the opening host segment of The Violent Years, Servo replaces his dome with a ventriloquist dummy's head, which frightens and disgusts the others. Crow suffers unbearable Brain Bleach.
  • Values Dissonance: The references to PETA, which were common in the Joel era, can come across as this. At the time PETA was a respected animal rights group that no one really had much problem with. These days... let's just say they're a bit more controversial.
  • Vindicated by Cable: This happened to many riffed films.
    • This actually backfired a bit. Some rights-owners saw the chance to actually make some money from a film which was only featured because it was a flop and tried to charge MST3K through the nose for the rights.
  • Vindicated by History: Josh "J. Elvis" Weinstein's tenure on the show falls under this. Since the first season episodes were rarely shown on Comedy Central, and the KTMA shows weren't widely available, Weinstein's tenure was frequently dismissed by many. (For example, one notorious CC promo referred to Weinstein's character of Dr. Laurence Ehrhardt as "a fake Frank".) However, recent DVD releases of first season shows, KTMA shows being available via the Internet, and his later work with Cinematic Titanic, has given fans the opportunity to favorably reappraise Weinstein's work, particularly his talent for ad-libbing riffs.
    • Weinstein would reference this during CT appearances by introducing himself as "the Tom Servo you don't like as much".
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: Kids do like the puppets. Yessir. And the humor in the puppet segments is fun; however, the actual movies they cover may still be scary to small kids, even with the riffing—which we should add often goes over the heads of a lot of grown-ups, let alone children.
  • The Woobie:
    • Cambot at the end of Danger!! Death Ray. The movie had a large number of security cameras shot out by the protagonist, which ends up causing an emotional breakdown in Cambot.
    • The other bots have their moments, too, but the one with the most of these is Tom Servo, usually when frustrated, scared, or infatuated. He may be a Large Ham, but inside he's a vulnerable, insecure individual who, when pushed too far, can become a tearful wreck in only a few minutes.
      • As evidenced when he goes into the Satellite's ductwork in pursuit of an alien. Crow bets Mike $20 that it will take ten seconds for Tom to panic and start crying — and wins.note 
      • Even sooner than that, when Crow and Servo decide to run away from home to the other side of the satellite. Joel lets them.
      Joel: Magic Voice, keep track of them.
      Magic Voice: They are fifteen yards away. They appear to be arguing. Crow has dropped his bundle and is hitting Tom Servo in the shoulder. Tom is crying. They're heading back.