In the not too distant future, as in right this very minute, the retooled and revitalized Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) has landed on Netflix. The show created by Joel Hodgson in 1988 made the leap from public access to cable, landing on the little known Comedy Channel which would soon become Comedy Central. Over the course of its initial run on Comedy Central and eventually The Sci-Fi Channel (now known as SyFy), MST3K earned possibly the most loyal cult following a television show has garnered, rivaling even the biggest die-hard fans of Star Trek. Though the show was eventually cancelled in 1999, it endured on home video releases from SHOUT! Factory and spinoffs created by the cast and crew, RiffTrax and Cinematic Titanic. When the unexpected news came about that MST3K would be returning and Joel Hodgson took to Kickstarter, the MSTies (pronounced MIS-teez) came out in force and made the MST3K revival the biggest Kickstarter ever.
Over the years, MSTies have become used to changes in the cast and crew of the Satellite of Love, with Joel being replaced by Mike Nelson and the voices of the bots and the mad scientists changing too over the show’s initial run. But the show was still up and running and those changes were superficial, as once MSTies got used to the minor changes they embraced each variation as MST3K always retained a certain level of quality. This was different. The show had been off the air for 18 years and this revival would be rebuilding the show entirely from the ground up.
There were tons of questions: Would the movie choices be as strong as they once were? Would they choose the same style of classic B-movies or would this new incarnation aim to be riffing more modern, blockbuster-type movies? Would Jonah Ray step in and be a fitting host? Would Baron Vaughn make an adequate Tom Servo or Hampton Yount a good Crow T. Robot? How would Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt handle the duties of being the new “Mads”? Fear not, fellow MSTies. Mystery Science Theater 3000 is back! With the first two episodes made available for review, I can say with confidence that there’s not a single MSTie out there who will be disappointed in this revived MST3K. It captures the spirit of the show that we all fell in love with and the riffs are as good as ever.
The first episode of the revitalized MST3K has a prolonged opening that give a bit of backstory as to how Gizmonics Institute employee Jonah Heston (Ray) was captured by Kinga Forrester (Day) and her evil sidekick TV’s Son of TV’s Frank, aka Max (Oswalt), and forced to watch bad movies with his robot pals. The theme to the show has been updated to accommodate the new cast and characters, as the series has always done over the course of its history. Most surprisingly is the revival of the invention exchange, a piece of prop comedy goofiness that was abandoned in the show’s later seasons. Very early on you get the sense that things are moving the right direction on this new incarnation of MST3K. The cast and crew get the tone and are unafraid to tinker with things, including a new look for the bot Gypsy (now voiced by Rebecca Hanson) which can only be seen as an improvement.
The first movie the new crew of the Satellite of Love are subjected to is a 1961 Danish monster movie that had two versions filmed, one in English and one in Danish. This B-movie was distributed by the schlockmeisters of American International Pictures and features no names of recognition. The movie is inept on the level that plays right into the hands of this new crew. It only takes a few minutes to understand the rhythms that Jonah Ray, Baron Vaughn, Hampton Yount are bringing to this incarnation of MST3K, and once that adjustment period passes it’s as if MST3K has been on the air for the intervening 18 years.
The riffs are consistently hilarious. I was howling time and time again as Jonah and the bots eviscerate this terrible movie. The jokes are very much in the vein of classic MST3K, with sharp observations into the foreground and background of the movie and pop culture references old and new. Every once in a while, Jonah and the crew will slip in a reference to a riff from a classic episode, but this revival doesn’t overplay its hand when it comes to matters of nostalgia. Never at any point do the references to the show’s history come across as lazy rehashing of jokes that are only supposed to make you laugh because you remember the joke’s origins. Each riff matches what’s happening in the movie and the riffs are coming at a rapid fire pace that you’re likely to miss a joke here and there as you’ll be busting up laughing.
The second episode features a 1987 movie that features a young child befriending Bigfoot. It’s another solid episode of MST3K, featuring an array of riffs that are just howlingly funny. The movie leans heavily on ridiculous moments of stock footage and that just gives Jonah and the bots ample ammunition to unload a barrage of comedic riffs. This second episode is on par with the first in terms of quality, and proves that the level of quality in this new MST3K isn’t a single fluke. This show is back in all of its madcap glory.
Have no fear, MSTies. Mystery Science Theater 3000 is back and they haven’t missed a beat. The series is the same but different, and consistently hilarious over the course of its first two episodes. There’s an assortment of surprise cameos, musical numbers, and off-the-wall segments that each have a vibrant energy that is comically effective and comforting to the most die-hard of fans. I didn’t expect to get a little bit emotional at the return of this beloved show, but a feeling of warmth swelled within me during the first trip through the colorful corridor into the theater. That feeling only grew as every single concern I had about the revival of MST3K were assuaged through repeated sighs of relief delivered through laughter. We’ve got movie sign!
Mystery Science Theater 3000
We’ve got movie sign! Mystery Science Theater 3000 returns with new episodes on Netflix, and the new cast and crew of the Satellite of Love don’t miss a beat in a hilarious revival guaranteed to please MSTies young and old.