LearnBoost welcomes Harriet Tubman High
TV's Frank, played by Frank Conniff, is mad scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester's lab assistant in the television comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000. He appears at the beginning of Season 2, with the departure of Forrester's earlier co-scientist Dr. Laurence Erhardt, and continues through Season 6. According to The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, Dr. Forrester discovered Frank working at a nearby Arby's. Early on he was simply called Frank; later he acquired the more ostentatious name which is a reference to how a TV personality would sometimes be introduced as "TV's" so-and-so on talk shows and other programming. Frank wears a black chauffeur's uniform and his hairstyle includes a spit-curl (resulting in a resemblance to that of Marlon Brando's Jor-El role in the 1978 Superman film). He has an unusual habit of calling Dr. Forrester "Steve". He is listed in Deep 13's employee records as "Frank comma TV's," indicating "Frank" is actually his surname and "TV's" his given name.
Little is known about Frank's past save that he attended Harriet Tubman High School (a real high school in Compton, California), where he was held back at least twice. While working at Arby's, Frank was allegedly nicknamed "Zeppo" due to his supposed sense of humor. Frank had a surprisingly large personal fortune which surfaced whenever a large amount of money was required for a particular skit.
TV's Frank's first MST3K episode was episode #201 Rocketship X-M, where, apparently still in his Arby's mindset, he took fast-food orders and, rather to Dr. Forrester's annoyance, almost brought the Satellite of Love down so the crew could "dine in." His last regular appearance was episode #624 Samson vs. the Vampire Women, during which he was assumed into "Second-Banana Heaven", where sidekicks and henchmen could live in a peaceful paradise without fear of reprisal from their cruel masters, by the angel Torgo the White. Dr. Forrester was actually very saddened when Frank left him for Second Banana Heaven, even lamenting his loss in a song entitled "Who Will I Kill?". Frank later appeared to the despondent Forrester as an otherworldly entity and "reconciled" with him, even agreeing to "push the button" one last time. After his departure, he was immortalized in the following year's Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie as a door handle on the way to the theater.
Frank also made a guest appearance in the Season 10 opener Soultaker, having gotten a job in the afterlife as a Soultaker after complaining that Second-Banana Heaven was "too political" and that Pat Buttram "had it in" for him. (This episode also features a cameo by Joel Hodgson, the show's creator, who played SOL resident Joel Robinson for the show's first six years.) In this appearance, he took the soul of Bobo and played ring toss with it in Castle Forrester. He is also mentioned in episode #822: Overdrawn at the Memory Bank; as the Novacorp chairman, who bears a resemblance to a grossly overweight Frank, appears during the opening credits, Mike says, "Wow! TV's Frank! Hi, Frank!" Servo adding, "He's come up in the world!"
During TV's Frank's tenure, the catchphrase "Push the button, Frank!" was a staple of most shows and the last thing heard before the credits would roll.
Frank usually serves as a foil to his evil boss, Dr. Forrester, and is frequently on the receiving end of many of Forrester's experiments or punishments. He is subjected to many painful deaths but always returns alive and well shortly afterwards; whether this rapid recovery is a quality bestowed upon him by Dr. Forrester or a talent that Frank always possessed (making him uniquely qualified as a mad scientist's guinea pig) was never explained, since it was, after all, "just a show." In the episode "Laserblast", Perl finds his spare head in a box, Dr. Forrester having made Frank's head explode years earlier in "Gunslinger." Occasionally, however, Frank gets revenge on his taskmaster by directly or indirectly causing Forrester harm. One significant example of sidekick payback occurs in episode #619 Red Zone Cuba, when Frank, supposedly owing the mob "50 large", passes Forrester off as himself, earning the evil scientist two severe beatings and an episode-long stint in full-body bandages.
Frank participates in the weekly invention exchanges that are primarily a feature of the Joel Robinson years. His first invention was a rip-off of Joel's invention, the BGC-1.9 drum machine. He repeated his thievery by introducing the "Cheese Phone", which Joel had supposedly recorded in his notes from the '70s. Unlike Forrester (who rarely even remembered Crow and Servo's names), Frank took a liking to Joel (and later Mike) and the 'Bots, who reciprocated his friendship.
In Season 6, Dr. Forrester discovers that his mother, Mrs. Pearl Forrester, has had a strong friendship with TV's Frank that he'd been unaware of. When she comes to visit, she winds up spending all her time with Frank and neglecting her son, suggesting some of the formative influences that made Dr. Forrester an evil scientist.
Frank Conniff was one of the MST3K writers, providing his share of the movie "riffs" that defined the show. He also frequently screened the movies that ended up as MST3K fodder. Occasionally, Frank's multiple roles had an impact on the show's storyline. In episode #621 The Beast of Yucca Flats, one host segment sketch features Crow T. Robot continually asking if it's 11:30 yet, based on breakfast-skipping Conniff's obsession with having lunch at 11:30.
On two occasions, the Mads try their hand at riffing. In episode #323: The Castle of Fu Manchu, taunted by Joel and the Bots, they make a weak attempt at riffing, and fail miserably. In episode #611: Last of the Wild Horses, in a parody of Star Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror", TV's Frank and Dr. Forrester become the SOL captives and spend part of the episode providing all the riffs. Dr. Forrester comments as they enter the theater that he wasn't going to carry Frank in, a reference to Joel or Mike regularly carrying Tom Servo into the theater.
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