Mystery Science Theater 3000’s Thanksgiving Holiday History Explained


Mystery Science Theater 3000’s Turkey Day Marathon is a long-held tradition for MST3K fans, but what tied this cult classic to Thanksgiving?

Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans worldwide will queue up their television this year on Thanksgiving day to enjoy the annual Turkey Day Marathon, which is a long-standing tradition for the iconic series. MST3K is a classic, long-running movie-riffing show in which one man and his robot friends are subjected to terrible B-movies in an experiment by their mad scientist overlords.

Created by Joel Hodgson, Mystery Science Theater 3000 originally premiered on KTMA-TV (now WUCW) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on November 24, 1988, moving first to Comedy Central for seven seasons, and then later to The Sci-Fi Channel for another three seasons. In 2015, Hodgson led a crowdfunded revival of the series, which premiered on Netflix and successfully ran for two more seasons.

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How did Mystery Science Theater 3000 become a Thanksgiving tradition? Is there something about the holiday that makes people want to riff on classic B-movies, or perhaps the TV show itself is somehow linked to thankfulness and turkey? Here’s the history of this classic holiday television marathon, explained.


Mystery Science Theater 3000 aired for the very first time on Thanksgiving night, creating the first connection between the show and the holiday. However, the tradition of Turkey Day marathons wasn’t solidified until 1991, when the newly formed Comedy Central aired the first MST3K Turkey Day marathon in celebration of the show’s third anniversary. On Thanksgiving Day, Comedy Central aired a solid 30 hours of MST3K episodes with bumpers featuring the cast in new, Turkey Day-themed sketches especially for the marathon.

The marathon would go on to become a long-standing tradition, even after the first seven seasons, when it was cancelled by Comedy Central. The Sci-Fi Channel picked up the series and carried on the Turkey Day marathon for another three seasons before the show was cancelled once again. Then, in the modern day, when Joel Hodgson set out to revive Mystery Science Theater 3000, he did so during a Thanksgiving livestream marathon. Since acquiring the rights, Shout Factory has streamed Turkey Day marathons on Thanksgiving since 2013, each including six MST3K episodes and introductions from Hodgson alongside other cast members. While the first Turkey Day marathon event in 2013 was intended to be a one-off, the fans’ reaction to it led Hodgson and Shout! to continue the tradition in subsequent years.

The 2015 Turkey Day coincided with the Kickstarter for the show’s revival, while the 2016 Turkey Day marathon brought the revival’s new host, Jonah Ray, along to co-host with Joel Hodgson. The 2017 marathon was hosted by Hodgson, Ray, and Felicia Day, and concluded with the announcement that the show had been renewed for season 2.

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Now, with Shout Factory owning the rights to Mystery Science Theater 3000, they run the show on the designated Shout Factory TV channel 24/7, which is also viewable on Twitch, similar to Twitch channels that run non-stop episodes of Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting. This allows MST3K fans to watch marathons of the show any day of the year, but that doesn’t stop their appetite for the yearly Turkey Day Marathon.

Like the resurgence of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, now is a time where viewers yearn for a sense of community that comes with watching a live show; these types of marathons provide that to people worldwide. Though rights issues continue to limit the availability of certain episodes and the possibility of the complete series home video production, Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans can still enjoy their B-movie riffing at full force during the annual Turkey Day Marathon on Shout Factory TV.

Next: Why A Mystery Science Theater 3000 Movie Got A Sequel 50 Years Later

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Updated: November 26, 2020 — 3:30 pm

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