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Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Lighter Side of the Moon: MST3K's Triumphant Return

In the not too distant past, Stephen Fitzpatrick introduced me to Mystery Science Theater 3000, a television show unlike anything I'd ever seen before. The concept was deceptively simple: in the near future, a mad scientist kidnaps a blue-collar worker and forces him to watch the worst movies ever made, monitoring his mind to see how the movies impact the man's sanity. Joel, the victim, builds some robot friends to help him endure the agony. We, the audience, watch as Joel and the robots screen the films, making fun of them with "riffs:" well-timed bon mots and sometimes quite obscure literary and cultural references. Stephen secured episodes via a friend who had satellite television - a rare luxury back in the late 80s - and Stephen dutifully "circulated the tapes," as the show itself exhorted, with his circle of friends. Those get-togethers remain a fond memory.

Throughout the late 80s and early 90s, I watched the show infrequently on VHS tapes, mostly borrowed from Stephen; I don't think I ever watched the show live, not having the requisite cable TV channels. Later in the 90s, I picked up episodes on DVD, and since then I've probably seen about a third of the show's near-200 episode run. To this day, I quote riffs from Joel, his successor host Mike, and the robots whenever it seems appropriate.

Yesterday, a new batch of episodes appeared on Netflix, made possible by original creator Joel Hodgson and a massively successful crowdfunding effort. I watched two of the new episodes ("Reptilicus" and "Cry Wilderness") yesterday, and I'm happy to report that, if the rest of the 14 new episodes are true to form, the rebooted MST3K is a wondrous success. The cast may be new (led by Felicia Day, Patton Oswalt and new host/victim Jonah Ray), but they've done an incredible job of capturing the goofy je ne sais quoi that made the show so special. Most importantly, the riffs are as sharp and funny as ever, transitioning seamlessly into the 21st century as if the show had never gone off the air back in 1999.

I look forward to watching the rest of the revival episodes over the course of the next couple of weeks. Maybe even today and tomorrow, AKA "Next Sunday, A.D...."

1 comment:

Tara said...

I'm so glad you posted this, Earl! Stephen introduced me to this show as well, and I am looking forward to introducing husband Jerry to the series!