Netflix Review – Mystery Science Theater 3000 Season 12: THE GAUNTLET (Spoiler-Free)

MST3K returns in a glorious Thanksgiving Marathon to remind us of better times and also terrible movies.


Jonah Heston (Jonah Ray) has somehow survived being eaten by a robot monster at the end of the last season, but he is still stuck on-board the Satellite of Love with his robot friends Crow T. Robot (Hampton Yount), Tom Servo (Baron Vaughn), Gypsy (Rebecca Hanson), and Cambot. However, he is still the captive of Kinga Forrester (Felicia “You Make My” Day) and TV’s Son of TV’s Frank, Max (Patton “You Make My” Oswalt) who have prepared the most sadistic torture imaginable: Binge-watching 6 terrible films in “The Gauntlet.”

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Heroes, one and all.

The films are: Mac and Me, Atlantic Rim, Lords of the Deep, The Day Time Ended, Killer Fish, and Ator, the Fighting Eagle. All of them are a special version of awful.


Many of you are aware that I love MST3K. At my brother’s wedding, my groomsman gift was a set of MST3K cufflinks. I’ve written papers on copyright law that referenced them on topics I picked just so I could mention Tom Servo in a legal essay. I was a backer in the kickstarter to revive the series and regret not giving more due to not having money. I considered robbing a series of consignment shops, but I believed that Joel and the Bots (or Mike) wouldn’t want me to commit crimes in order to get them back in space. I’m a fan, is the gist of this. One of my favorite things was always the Turkey Day marathons that would air either on Comedy Central or on local channels. After all, the first MST3K was aired on Thanksgiving, so nothing could be more appropriate. So, imagine how pleased I was when, on Thanksgiving, 30 days after the initial premiere, Netflix gave us an actual in-show marathon of glorious bad movies.

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Yes, these are the ones.

Look, it’s not like I can really spoil these episodes. The entire point of MST3K is listening to the comics riff on the movies. However, there are certain rules behind what film makes a great MST3K episode:

1) The movie should have some gimmick or recurring element that they can make into a running gag.

2) Some of the dialogue should sound like it was written by an English poet, Google translated into Arabic, Yahoo translated into Greek, translated by a sixth-grade student into Japanese, then translated by a drunk guy back into English.

3) The more fundamental technical flaws the movie has that it refuses to recognize, the better.

4) Logic within the movie should be thrown out the window into a pile of flaming hippos. Why hippos? Because origami octopus butternut squash.

All of these movies meet these criteria and then some. Mac and Me, in particular, has been a movie that has been requested for riffing ever since people first decided that they liked hearing three grown men make jokes about cinematic tragedies.

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This is the E.T. rip-off we didn’t deserve.

The key to this season is that it is meant to be binged. It’s shorter than any previous season except for the last episodes when Comedy Central ended the series and, even within the show, the Mads (Kinga and Max) are challenging Jonah and the Bots to try and sit through six bad movies in a row. Each of the episodes feeds directly into the next one, with the next film being “flushed” to the Satellite of Love at the end of the episode. If you do binge this one (and it takes like 9 hours to do that, so be prepared), it actually forms a solid narrative and has a number of surprising throwbacks to the entire history of the show and the fandom.

Take the time out of your life and watch this season. It’ll make you happy and help you forget about how horrible reality can be for most of a day.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (, follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

51) Manos, the Hands of Fate (Mystery Science Theater 3000)

Mystery Science Theater 3000 has a very simple premise, summarized in the epic opening song: Two mad scientists (Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff) launch Joel Hodgson, a janitor, into space and force him to watch B-movies in order to find out if there’s a B-movie bad enough to be used for world domination. I know it sounds crazy, but even the theme reminds you to “just repeat to yourself, ‘it’s just a show, I should really just relax.’” In order to deal with the strain, he builds four robots for company: Crow T. Robot, Tom Servo, Gypsy (Trace Beaulieu, J. Elvis Weinstein, Jim Mallon), and Cambot (who films silently). They proceed to sit through terrible B-movies and mock them endlessly, in a process they call “Riffing.” With some people, this would create an awkward experience. Fortunately, this was a team of professionals who turned the movies into fascinating works of satire.

I have this on cuff links. I regret nothing.


This episode features 3 distinct parts. First, it contains the short “Hired,” which is basically a hilarious satire of Glengarry, Glen Ross. It is also referred to as “Hired 2: Electric Boogaloo.” The second part is watching the movie Manos, the Hands of Fate. Manos is the worst movie ever made. Cinematography, acting, directing, effects, lighting, sets, costuming… if there’s an Oscar for it, Manos did it worse than anyone else. Hell, the title barely makes sense. In fact, the movie was produced, directed, and written by a fertilizer salesman as the result of a bet he made with a screenwriter in a bar. The only upside to the film is the character of Torgo, who is pointlessly over the top in every way, including that he has cloven feet and goat legs… that are never really shown. The third segment is the appearance of Torgo’s pizza. Yes, the mad scientists order pizza from a character in the movie they’re watching. It takes 2 hours to arrive, and when it does, Torgo (played by future MST3K host Mike Nelson) forgets the soda in the car, has sat on the pizza to warm it… and tries to keep the crazy bread in his pants.

Look, there are Manos on his robes!

In between these parts, Joel and the robots tend to mess around during the “commercial breaks,” doing things such as the Invention Exchange, where Joel invents a machine that combines two bad Sunday comics into a good one (Like Mrs. Lockhart murdering Cathy).

Dare to Dream


The key to this episode is that the crew of the Ship of Love (the set of MST3K) have so much to work with. Never before has a movie been so gloriously bad as Manos. It is the unicorn of terrible movies. Were I to live to be 1000, I might never see its like again. It even has the Mads show up occasionally during the breaks to apologize for how bad the movie is, and they’re the ones supposedly looking for the world’s worst movie. The cast takes almost every line, scene change, lighting change, and the ever-glorious Torgo’s theme music (which replaces the closing theme of the episode) and make them into hilarious critiques of everything from film to society to family to goats.

It’s telling that the only positive review of Manos on Rotten Tomatoes is actually based on the MST3K episode.

PREVIOUS – 52: Buffy: The Vampire Slayer

NEXT – 50: Dexter

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (, follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.