Reviews: Mystery Science Theater 3000

I\'m Ambivalent About the Reboot

Like pretty much every other TV viewer on the planet, I was thrilled at the success of the MST3K Kickstarter back in 2015, and eager to finally see new episodes after a nearly 20 year hiatus But I was also hesitant. Even with Joel Hodgson back on board, I had doubts. Catching lightning in a bottle twice is always an iffy proposition.

Several months after the release of the new show on Netflix, Iím still on the fence about it. On an individual basis, the episodes are just fine. Riffing terrible movies can rarely go badly, especially with a competent team writing the jokes, and theyíve got that. Itís the bits in between that bother me.

Honestly, I think the move from Minnesota to Los Angeles worked in the showís disfavor. Even knowing it had to be spruced up a bit to accommodate moving from 4:3 video to 16:9 HD formatting, everything seems too *slick* now. The host segments remind me painfully of the first Wayneís World movie, where our heroes move from filming on a camcorder in their parents Ď basement to a professionally recreated set resembling their parentsí basement, and the results are as awkward and false as you can imagine. Instead of a handmade Midwestern charm, weíve got a Hollywood recreation of handmade Midwestern charm.

On the previous show the entire cast consisted of the writing staff and whatever interns they could drag onto the set for bit parts. Now we have genuine actors Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt as the Mads, Internet personality Jonah Ray as our kidnap victim/test subject, and two Jim Henson veterans working the bots. And while previously the only Special Guest Stars were Leonard Maltin and a walk on by a Minnesota Vikings linebacker, weíve got one appearing Every. Single. Episode. And itís just as distracting as I feared when I realized it was going to be a thing.

On a more nitpicky basis Iím not fond of Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt as the Mads. Instead of the mildly goofy evil of Dr. Forrester and TVís Frank, or the cheerfully twisted family of Pearl, Prof. Bobo and Brain Guy, weíve got Kinga and Max/Son of Frank. Kinga just comes across as desperate to be as evil as Grandma and Dad and Max is just... kinda there, lacking either Frank Mk. 1ís mellow absurdity, or Brain Guy and Boboís outright insanity.

The host segments come across as scripted and lacking the occasional off the cuff improvisation of the original. Some of that can be probably chalked up to them, all of them, apparently being filmed in one really long shooting day, but they come across as having been scripted so tightly any spontaneity died in the writerís room.

Donít get me wrong, I think the new MST3K is funny. Itís impossible for this show, rebooted or no, *not* to be funny. But the old MST3K was funny and *charming*.

The new one... isnít.

Recommendations for MSTies-to-be

I love this show. I love the service it provides, bringing to prominence to the great art of snarking at movies that are bad. I love the zany characters who do said snarking (as well as the ones who don't). Mystery Science Theater 3000 is one of those "once in a blue moon" kinds of shows, the unique, inspired, and (most importantly) fun.

But I understand that it can be hard for a person to get into the series. It takes a lot of resilience it keep watching a movie if it's just that bad, regardless of whether or not it is being made fun of. So, these here are some suggestions I have for the apprehensive yet eager-to-try-it prospective fan.

  • Ease yourself into the show. As aforementioned, watching a really bad flick can send nigh anyone to punch their TV/monitor/portable movie-watching device (?). If you don't think you have the patience or guts to start with a full episode's worth of movie, try watching some of the shorts first. The hosts would occasionally riff on short, often public domain films before riffing on the movie proper. These could be anything from 50s conformity propaganda ("A Date With Your Family", and yes, it IS as creepy as the title makes it sound) to instructional videos ("Hired!") to even an old episode of General Hospital! While you could find any and (probably) all of these with a quick YT search "mst3k short", I personally recommend starting with the first one I saw, "A Case Of Spring Fever", which is possibly the most insane thing ever committed to black-and-white film. Other comedy goldmines include "Alphabet Antics" and "Mr. B Natural".
  • When ready, choose a watchable movie. We're talkin' So Bad Its Good, not Manos. This is still training. Some of the best ones to start with, in my opinion, include I Accuse My Parents, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, Jack Frost, and Overdrawn At The Memory Bank (the first and latter being personal favorites of mine).
  • Most importantly, if something seems to vex you, just repeat to yourself, "It's just a show. I should really just relax." The show can be hit-or-miss, but at its peak, you'll be dying of laughter. Good luck, and Godspeed.

(Push the button, Frank!)

We've got movie signs!

Holy hell. Welcome to the holy grail of Tv Tropes, and the Lampshade to end all Lampshades. MST 3 K is widely considered to be one of the greatest shows made by mankind, and for good reason.

Now to start, the premise is wonderfully nonsensical and purposefully stupid. While most shows would butcher this kind of set with a poor script, what the writers did was brilliant, and regardless of how little the plot would make sense, they still managed to be gut-bustingly hilarious when the cast wasn't brutally tearing apart films.

Now, when the cast was demolishing the movies, they were at their finest. They embody the very thing (Most) people want to do at a bad film, but either can't or don't want to (What). That, and their humor ranges from lowbrow (Crow) to "Viewers Are Geniuses" territory (Tom, Mike, Joel, and Crow{Needless separation}).

When it comes to longevity, however, it managed to do something damn near impossible for everyone else. It never got old. No matter how long the series lasted, how many episodes had passed, or how long each episode was, it just never got old. So why the hell was this cancelled?! Nevermind, just Keep Circulating The Tapes.

All in all, this show is well worth your time. In fact, stop reading. Now. Stop reading and watch the goddamn show.