While in high school, Joel Hodgson bought Elton John's 1973 album "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road". The album had accompanying artwork for each song in the liner notes. The artwork for the song "I've Seen That Movie Too" showed a silhouetted couple watching a film in a dark theater. Hodgson thought a series about silhouetted people talking back to the film would make a great idea for a series.
The show gained popularity after fans taped episodes and gave them to their friends. In seasons 2-4, a line at the end of the end credits says "Keep circulating the tapes." That ended after Best Brain's lawyers questioned the show's support of piracy.
The Crow and Servo puppets used in the theater segments were spray-painted black, to ensure that they appeared completely black in silhouette, and to prevent the film from being projected through Servo's transparent head. The black Crow puppet was used in a host segment as Crow's alter ego, Timmy.
Creator Joel Hodgson revealed in an interview how the robots got their names. Crow got his name because Hodgson thought it would be cool if one of the robots had a Native American feel. Servo was named after a candy dispenser called Servotron. J. Elvis Weinstein, who played Servo for the first two seasons, gave him the first name Tom. Gypsy was named after a pet turtle Hodgson had as a child.
The Satellite of Love set was made entirely of toys that the show's creators bought at Goodwill. All of the robots were made from common household items. Items on the interior walls include: a toy Millennium Falcon from Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), a Darth Vader action figure holder, a plastic reindeer cut in half and glued over the theater door, plastic toy trumpets, silverware trays, bundt cake pans, and extra bowling pins that would've served as Crow's beak.
In an interview, Joel Hodgson said he left the series due to creative differences with executive producer Jim Mallon over a proposed film version of the series. Mallon and Hodgson argued about who would direct it. Hodgson felt that by leaving, the series could continue.
On KTMA, the riffs by Joel and his robots were completely improvised. After the move to Comedy Central, all of the riffs are scripted. The writers would watch the movie together twice to write jokes. In the scripts, each joked is timed to the second.
Writer/star Kevin Murphy said in an interview that creator Joel Hodgson seemed to have a number of different philosophies behind the show whenever he was questioned about it. Murphy said Hodgson often made them up on the spot during interviews.
In the first season, the Hexfield Viewscreen's iris mechanism ranged from nothing to a window shade to a slightly more advanced window shade. Shortly into production of season 2, Jim Mallon saw a magazine ad for a person who manufactures large irises. The builder was located near Best Brains' offices. He turned out to be a fan of the show, and built the Hexfield for the cost of materials.
The show was conceived as a parody of Silent Running (1972). Joel was a captive on a satellite going nowhere, wearing a blue jumpsuit with patches all over it. The robots were companions to help him keep sane. The first episode was more of a direct parody.
A green screen was used behind the first door to the theater because the set for the long tunnel was a model about four feet tall. Nearly every member of the cast and crew operated a part of the model while the camera was pushed through with a two by four.
When the Sci-Fi Channel picked up the show, network executives demanded a "story arc", so Mike and the Bots constantly travel to new planets during season 8. The executives lost interest in the idea by season 9, so the space and time traveling motif was dropped.
Joel Hodgson's original concept for the show was a post-apocalyptic series based on The Omega Man (1971). Entitled "You Are Here", Joel and a robot named Rex the Robot would watch movies together. Joel decided the concept was "too dark".
At Comedy Central, the cast and crew had the freedom to choose whatever film they wanted, and total creative control over scripts. At the Sci-Fi Channel, executives demanded only science fiction films, and every script had to go through the network's standards and practices department, which limited which words could be used.
Joel and Dr. Forrester were originally employees of Gizmonic Institute. When Joel Hodgson' left the show, he wanted to use "gizmonic," which he had trademarked, for his own projects, so it was never mentioned again. However, Gizmonic Institute was rarely mentioned before that. The first episode on Comedy Central began with the revelation that Forrester and Erhart were conducting the experiment without their employers' knowledge.
Pearl calls Crow "Art" because in an earlier season Joel introduced the bots the same way Jackie Gleason would introduce the cast of The Jackie Gleason Show (1966), with Art Crow instead of Art Carney. A fan then sent a picture calling Crow "Art".
Whenever the characters see the "movie sign", a blue-screen sequence shows the camera moving toward the theater through a series of doors. When the characters exit the theater, the "doors" footage is played backward to show the camera moving away from the theater. The props in the hallway (such as flames) also move in reverse.
On December 11th, 2015, the "Bring Back MST3K" Kickstarter campaign became the largest Film and Video Kickstarter to date, raising $5,764,229. The official goal was $2,000,000 for 3 episodes, but the desire was for $5,500,000 for 12 episodes.
According to Barb Tebben, the second Info Club Poobah, the "classic" Satellite of Love set, used until the end of Season 7, was built for $200. Many of the same pieces were used when the set was remodeled for Season 8.
After the end credits, a five-second clip from the movie is shown, highlighting a particularly stupid moment. The cast and crew called them "stingers." The first, aired with Mystery Science Theater 3000: Rocket Attack U.S.A. (1990), featured a blind man saying, "Help me." The stingers appeared until season 8. Three episodes replaced the stingers with a repeating clip of the Observers holding their brains up to the camera. Mystery Science Theater 3000: The She-Creature (1997) shows a clip of Professor Bobo lying on an asteroid in pain after falling out of Pearl Forrester's space-traveling van. The four "stingers" followed Sci-Fi's strict new story arc guidelines for the show.
The invention exchange at the beginning of each episode ended shortly after Joel Hodgson left the show, since Joel always came up with the inventions. The tradition continued after Mike arrived, but only for a few episodes.