MST3K Turkey Day: The Long History of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Thanksgiving

The episode – and really the entire KTMA-TV season – wasn’t great. The idea was there, but they hadn’t come close to hitting its potential. It still found an audience and about a year later, it was airing on the Comedy Channel. That first season, which had Joel Hodgson as Joel Robinson, Weinstein as Tom Servo, and Trace Beaulieu as Crow T. Robot, was also pretty rough. It wasn’t until the second and third seasons (where Kevin Murphy had taken over the Servo role) that MST3K really started to find its footing.

On November 28, 1991, to celebrate MST3K’s third anniversary, Comedy Central put together the very first Turkey Day marathon. Starting at midnight and ending at 6 AM on the following day (!), they would air fifteen episodes in a row, accompanied by various Thanksgiving-based bumpers and sketches.

Keep in mind, this was long before the days of The Daily Show and South Park, so Comedy Central’s pool of popular shows wasn’t the deepest. This was back when you’d turn on the channel in the middle of the day and see episodes of Soap or some ’80s movie about a mime joining a ninja academy. No really, that was a thing. They played it all the time.

In 1992, they kicked up Turkey Day a notch. While still a 15-episode marathon, it started on Wednesday, November 25 at 6 PM with the debut showing of The Beatniks. By the time they reached the home stretch at 10 PM on Thanksgiving night, they played the episode premiere for Fire Maidens of Outer Space. At midnight, to finish things off, a half-hour special called This is MST3K was aired.

They kept many of the bumpers from the first Turkey Day, added some more, and each episode was introduced with a segment where Dr. Forrester would force-feed TV’s Frank some kind of turkey dish themed to the featured movie.

1993 went even bigger by adding one more episode to the marathon, making the whole thing 32 hours long. This time, the framing bumpers took the form of clips from a party that an MST3K fan won via contest. Initially, Comedy Central wanted the guys from the show to put together some segments with a tiny budget, but it was probably for the better that they didn’t. By the time Turkey Day ’93 aired, Mike Nelson had taken over for Joel as the show’s host and that major transition was still less than a month old.

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