New on Video: Giant Spiders and Simian Lawyers in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXIII

Ever since the fateful night in 1991 on which I discovered Mystery Science Theater 3000, a show in which a guy and his two robot puppets heckle bad movies, it's been my favorite television series, bar none. I taped every episode until it was canceled for good in 1999, watched them multiple times, and the show largely defined my sense of humor; it's no coincidence that this past March I ended a ten-year run of show at The Dark Room Theater called “Bad Movie Night,” essentially a live version of MST3K. (Unlike MST3K, “Bad Movie Night” was unloved at the time and forgotten now, but hey, we tried our best.)

In 2009, I decided it was time to do away with the vast majority of the VHS tapes I'd accumulated in the 1980s and 1990s, including (but not limited to) my huge Mystery Science Theater 3000 collection. All the episodes were available on BitTorrent, often in better quality than my SLP-speed tapes, and most importantly, Shout! Factory had recently acquired the rights to release the show on DVD. That was 2009, and Shout! Factory has been keeping up with their end of the bargain: they're releasing Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXIII on DVD on July 28. [jump]

That it's the 33rd volume only refers to the order in which Shout! Factory is releasing them; otherwise, there's no real chronology, as the four episodes Daddy-O, Earth vs. the Spider, Teen-Age Crime Wave, and Agent for H.A.R.M. come from the show's third, fifth, and eighth seasons, and have no thematic connections. That's fine, because the series always resisted serialization, though every seasons has its own tone and flavor, not the least of which because host and creator Joel Hodgson (riffing on Daddy-O and Earth vs. the Spider) left halfway through the fifth season and was replaced by the show's head writer Michael J. Nelson (here hosting Teen-Age Crime Wave and Agent for H.A.R.M.). Also, the voice of Crow T. Robot Trace Beaulieu left after the end of the seventh season, and was replaced by Bill Corbett; also during that time, the show left Comedy Central and reappeared on the Sci-Fi Channel. So, there are a lot of changes between Daddy-O and Agent for H.A.R.M.

Though I discovered the show during its third season in 1991 when Joel still hosted and they were on Comedy Central, my favorite era is the latter half of Season 8 in 1997 on Sci-Fi. It's more polished-in-a-good-way, and the sketches between the movie segments got more complicated and serialized; while Agent for H.A.R.M. is not my favorite episode from that season in terms of riffing, it does have the subplot of Mike Nelson being put on trial for his newfound tendency to accidentally destroy planets. It's also Kevin Murphy's finest hour as Professor Bobo, which…would take too long to explain, actually.

But the beauty of Mystery Science Theater 3000 remains that you can jump in at any time, and it'll feel like it's always been part of your life. Join us.

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