1991 was a year that changed many things. Nirvana performed on Saturday Night Live and ushered in the grunge age. The Soviet Union collapsed. Mystery Science Theater 3000 gave us all an alternative to watching guys in helmets and pads hit each other as a Thanksgiving tradition.
Marking the third anniversary of MST3K's debut episode (which aired on Thanksgiving day in 1998 on Minnesota's KTMA channel), Joel and the bots paid tribute to the day we dedicate to consuming copious amounts of turkey by serving up a generous helping of cinematic turkeys, roasted to perfection by their witty banter.
"It was an experiment," Hodgson recalls in the bonus features of the Volume XXXI - The Turkey Day Collection DVD set. "We didn't know it would work, we didn't know people would care about it or they would actually stop watching the Detroit Lions play football and watch our bad movies. So obviously we didn't put a real lot of resources into it. We did wrap-arounds and we did intros and kind of let them know that they were watching the Turkey Day Marathon on Comedy Central."
The marathon would go on to be a yearly event and became inextricably linked to the holiday for MSTies across the country. After airing on Comedy Central during five Thanksgivings (plus an unofficial Sci-Fi Channel event in 1997), the marathon's absence after the 1995 season left a void in the hearts of MSTies everywhere who were forced to rely on their trusty VHS tapes (and later DVD sets) to keep the beloved tradition alive in their own homes.
Fans were delighted when, in 2013, Shout! Factory teamed up with Joel to bring the Turkey Day Marathon back to life as an online live-streaming event, where it quickly found its way back into the homes of eager MSTies whose turkey day recordings were beginning to wear out. The streaming events featured new introductions by Joel as well as a few cameos from everyone's favorite robot sidekicks. In 2015, the marathon interstitials took place in the offices of Kickstarter while the wildly successful #BringBackMST3K crowdfunding campaign was in full force.