By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
For anyone who knows what the acronym MST3K stands for, driving by the home of Kimberlie and Paul Alvarez on Chemawa Road Northeast will bring a smile to their face.
Look on the south side of the road – just behind the palm tree – and you’ll see silhouettes of Mike, Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo painted on the couple’s blinds facing the street.
“I asked her what she wanted on the blinds and that was it,” said Paul.
For the uninitiated, MST3K stands for Mystery Science Theater 3000, a cult show in which a small crew of one human and several bots on a spaceship are tortured by their overseers using bad movies. The crew makes the best of it by riffing on the movies with one-liners and zingers for the actual viewing audience to enjoy. In the show, the ship’s only crewman – either Joel, Mike or Jonah – along with Crow and Servo are seen in silhouettes as they punctuate bad dialogue and plotholes with their own commentary. That imagery is replicated imagery on the Alvarez’s blinds.
MST3K returned for its second Netflix-exclusive, six-episode season on Thanksgiving.
In addition to the blinds, Kimberlie’s car has a personalized license plate that reads “MST3K” and a model of the moon that appears in the show’s opening credits hangs from her rearview mirror.
“When I had a job, a lot of people would come in and ask about the license plate and I’d have to explain it,” Kimberlie said. When people came and complimented her on the plates, she knew she’d already made a friend.
Kimberlie, like many who are among the most dedicated fans, became interested in the show in the early 1990s. Production actually started in 1988 as a local cable show in Minneapolis, Minn. It made the leap to Comedy Central in 1989 and then the Sci-Fi (now SyFy) Channel in 1997. Not long after reaching the wider audience, it became a cult hit.
For Kimberlie, watching MST3K was a family affair. When Paul was working on Friday nights, MST3K was must-see television for Kimberlie and her older kids, Jasmine and Desmond.
“It was something for us to do together. I didn’t drive, so we would get all the
chores done, pop popcorn and put on our pajamas and watched it in bed,” Kimberlie said.
When Jasmine and Desmond started to “poop out” on the show, Kimberlie enlisted the couple’s youngest daughter, Calista.
“She’s like my sidekick, and she got into it even more,” Kimberlie said.
Calista said she wasn’t sure what interested her at the outset, but the show now part of a shared family fabric.
“I think it was just ingrained at a young age and
our thing. I don’t know if I would have been drawn to it on my own, but it’s part of my history now,” said Calista, a senior at McNary.
Kimberlie has also tried to rope in her grandkids , Elissa, 9 and AJ, 3. AJ seems to be the most promising prospect.
Calista and Kimberlie were both somewhat skeptical when they tuned into the latest version of the show on Netflix. For those more familiar with old hosts – Joel Hodgson, the show’s creator, and Mike Nelson, as well as the original voices of the bots (Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett) – the recast voices and faces were something of a record-scratch on what had been a long-standing melody. But, eventually, Kimberlie and Calista settled back into tradition.
“The first time we watched the new show, we didn’t like it. The first impression, was that it wasn’t going to be good, but we gave it time and the Bigfoot episode (Cry Wilderness) was one of my favorite. The costume was just horrible. He just looked like something that got burned and sent to a mountain,” Kimberlie said.
The decrepitude of some of the films the MST3K crew gets subjected to – from costumes to story to choice of shot framing – is most of the point, but it also makes it a heavy lift for newcomers.
“It’s definitely a certain kind of personality. You’re watching it because it’s a bad movie,” said Kimberlie.
Paul is on the other side of the fence. Despite years of trying, he’s still not a fan.
“I tried to get into it, but I think I’m funnier and my comments are always vulgar,” said Paul. “I always saw the great fun they had watching it and wanted to be part of it, but I feel like I’m bringing Kimberlie’s party down.”
Instead, he tries to support the show that’s brought his family together in other ways, even if it means painting the blinds.
“I always hoped someone was going to go by and know what it is. That was kind of the point,” Paul said.
Maybe, someday, a fellow fan will leave a letter on their door asking if he can write about them for the local paper.