The show didn't exactly explode or anything, it was slow going and the jokes were not developed yet. They didn't write anything for the jokes, they would watch the movie maybe once or twice to get an idea of what it was, then they would sit down and film themselves in front of it. Long silences, half thought out ideas, and people stepping over each other's jokes did happen. But the show garnered enough interest that a new channel, called simply The Comedy Channel, decided that they wanted to pick the show up for a season. Thus, the show went on and 11 years later in 1999 it finally ended. During that time, it spawned one movie, in 1996.
Of course, virtually everyone who has been familiar with bad movies for a long time has heard of this show, and has come across it multiple times. In 11 years, they covered virtually every known bad director, actor, writer, producer, etc. They also did their best, I think, to cover films that were not "known of". Sure, they did some Ed Wood or Roger Corman works, but they also dug into the unknown, unearthing films that truly no one had heard of or remembered.
When I was younger, during the time MST3K was on, I didn't have cable TV and I was pretty unaware of what was on TV. I remember seeing part of the episode Jack Frost at my friend's house in who knows what year, and that was my sole experience watching MST3K when it was actually on TV. Unlike other shows, MST3K was not something they could keep playing reruns of, because the nature of the films they lampooned on MST meant that rights were usually difficult to acquire and attain. Plus, several people and companies did not want the lampooned versions of the films shown, and thus could deny MST the right to show it, or could at least make it difficult for them.
One day, I remember, I simply picked the MST3K film up from the comedy section and I decided to rent it. That was it. The great thing about this show was that initially Joel Hodgson made it very child-friendly. Although there were jokes that would certainly go over a kid's head, the robots in the show and the friendly atmosphere, as well as the movies they showed, all appealed to kids. It was almost treated as a kid's show at first, I've always thought, and that retained in the film. I mention this because I was probably.......12 when I saw that movie. That's my guess. So I wasn't like, 6 or whatever, but I was still a young, idiot kid who would still enjoy childish things.
Now, I do not mean to say that MST3K is childish. It certainly is not. It's one of those shows that can truly appeal to anyone, and everyone will enjoy it for different reasons. I was, and still am, one of those people that loves classic science fiction movies. For that reason, I loved seeing This Island Earth, which is the film they made fun of, and I loved the hilarious jokes they made at the expense of This Island Earth.
MST3K will always have a special place in my heart. In a world where you're told to take everything seriously, where you just accept what you're given, MST showed us that you don't have to do that. You can make fun of it! Of course everyone does that! But they brought it out in the open, they said not only can you do this, you SHOULD do this. You should openly mock these awful movies. But they also did it from a place of love.
One enduring discussion has always been Joel versus Mike. Fans know that in season 6, Joel the creator and star abruptly left the TV show, and they switched stars to Michael J. Nelson. Now, I'm not going to go into a whole thing about this, but I mention it because I talk about Joel in most of this blog entry (which by the way, is very much not a real review) while Mike is actually the star of the movie. This was almost exactly after Joel left the show, and the "feel" of the show was still very much Joel. So that's why I mainly talk about him.
Hilarious, quotable, re-watchable to the extreme, and great looking, the movie still holds it's ground almost 20 years later. I love, love love the movie. I have been quoting it for almost 15 years now. That's pretty fucking cool. It obviously gets 5 stars.