Every once in a while, I wake up in a cold sweat when I realize that some cherish aspect of years past has all become extinct in my current life. No, I haven’t seen PCU in almost five years now. No, I haven’t wallowed in the pathos of Tori Amos in perhaps ten. It’s part of getting older, moving on, moving forward. What used to be a huge part of your geek life has been replaced with something else. The price for that is unexpected sadness (and sometimes unexpected joy at the same time) when you are reminded or rediscover a long lost love.
Recently for me, this has been Mystery Science Theater 3000. Few TV shows have shaped my geek development as this did during the 90s, and yet it’s been years and years since I’ve queued up an episode to watch. And yet all it took was stumbling over the episode guide I had tucked away on my bookshelf to trigger an outpouring of memories. The time I watched Cave Dwellers with a date and laughed so hard I threw up a little. Sharing the show with my wife on my old VHS tapes. Going to see the movie in the theaters. And, most notably, watching it every afternoon with my friends in college after class.
MST3K became a staple of our lives and one of the more popular subjects of the early internet. It had a good run, a great run, over four networks and a major motion picture, and has spiritual successors in both Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax. It’s still fondly remembered, I’m sure, although it doesn’t seem like it’s nearly as much of a geek household name as it used to be.
How influential was it? There was an era, from 1991-1995, when MST3K singlehandedly took over Thanksgiving. It was called Turkey Day. And it was incredibly awesome.
The idea behind Turkey Day was pretty simple: Comedy Central needed to fill some air time during this holiday when most TV viewers were either comatose from eating or watching football. So the network handed over the reins to Best Brains, Inc. and gave them license for an epic 24+ hour marathon. Hour after hour of MST3K aired in a row, giving fans of the show easy access to holiday laughs. The best part is that the crew filmed new bumper segments to air between and during shows, adding a dash of new to it all. We’re talking a lot of bumpers here; the first Turkey Day had 29 such segments.
As the show increased in popularity, so did Turkey Day (in proportion, I believe). For my part, I only saw snatches of a couple of them, usually due to where I was at and whether or not they had cable access. But it’s one of those things that I truly did wish was still going on today, because you can best believe it would be a tradition in this household. Of course, with DVDs and Netflix and the INTERNET!, it shouldn’t be too hard to stage my own.
Turkey Day stopped after MST3K hopped over to Sci-Fi Channel, although there was an unofficial marathon in 1997. In any case, it lives on in some of our hearts, and I will at least be watching an episode of the show today in honor of this, the greatest of TV holidays.