3 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' classics you can't miss

The new shows have arrived. But if watching season 11 sends you back to the vault of oldies, here's where to start.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
CNET freelancer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
2 min read

The not-too-distant future is here! The first new season of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" since 1999 arrived overnight on Netflix.

The cult-movie mockery fest has new cast members Jonah Ray, Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt. But series creator Joel Hodgson is the new season's executive producer. The robots Crow and Tom Servo are back. And the original idea is the same: Bad movies deserve to be overlaid with good jokes.

As a Minnesotan, I started watching what's now known as "season zero" whenever I could manage to get local station KTMA to appear on our flickery, old, enormous tube TV. A friend later went on to serve as a grip for the show, and I once ran into prop diva Beez McKeever at a sporting-goods store where she was buying a Thighmaster that Crow and Tom Servo would confuse with a Thawmaster.

Here are three episodes from the original run that I'm convinced you shouldn't miss before jumping into the 14 episodes of season 11:

1. The classic: "Manos: The Hands of Fate"
It's the bad movie so nice they named it twice. "Manos" is Spanish for "hands," making the title "Hands: The Hands of Fate." Fertilizer-salesman-turned-filmmaker Hal Warren had a borrowed movie camera and a bet to try to win. The result is this loopy drama about a cult run by a guy with a hand fetish. Unforgettable is his giant-kneed assistant, Torgo, who as "Mystery Science Theater 3000" alum Mike Nelson pointed out, sleeps on a pile of dirt in a corner of a room. If you don't fall under the spell of "Manos," it's hard to believe you'll like "MST3K" at all.

Best line: When Torgo tries to reach for Margaret: "When carnies flirt!"

2. The underrated: "The Incredible Melting Man"
This seventh-season gem rarely shows up on top episode lists, and I've never known why. From the beheaded Bill Gates lookalike to the scenes apparently shot at a U-Storage site to the title character, who melts on bushes and trees and finally gets swept up by a janitor, this is pure golden cheese.

Best line: Mike singing: "We're free, and it's fun, and we're innocent, and it'll be sad when we find the head!"

3. The Canadian: "The Final Sacrifice"
It starts and ends with the name. Zap Rowsdower. He's a Canadian superhero -- er, ex-cult member who believes that his name is perfectly normal and that there is beer on the sun.

Best line: "So, Rowsdower ... is that a stupid name, or ...?"

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