The all-new MST3K is back and as good as always
My life changed in a variety of ways when I was thirteen or fourteen. My parents had built a house away from the neighborhood where I grew up. I moved away from my friends, to a different part of town, and for the first time in my life, I had cable television. I spent countless hours consuming the media I had missed—scouring MTV and VH1 for pop culture facts, watching all the Nickelodeon I’d been denied, and discovering the joys of late night stand-up on Comedy Central.
But above all, the greatest discovery I ever made, was a weird little show on Sci-Fi where the host and a pair of badly designed robots mocked the worst movies I’d ever seen.
“Mystery Science Theater 3000” taught me more about comedy, sarcasm, and filmmaking than any other source. I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed harder at anything than when watching the low speed go-cart chases in Space Mutiny.
I came to the show during the Mike J. Nelson era, and while some might call that sacrilegious, I haven’t seen as many of the Joel Hodgson episodes as I should have, but I like them just as much. Any MST3K is good MST3K.
This extends to the newest incarnation, now with Jonah Ray as host, which I can say without a doubt is the best reboot of any show I’ve ever seen.
Crowdfunded and headed by original host Joel Hodgson, the revival of show is the culmination of plans that began in 2010. Casting differences aside, it is note-for-note the same show, almost as if it never went off the air. Along with a new host, Tom Servo, Gyspy, and Crowe are all voiced by different actors, and there is a different “Mads,” the scientists performing sanity experiments through B-movies on poor Jonah.
Gone are Dr. Forrester and his daughter Pearl, TV’s Frank, Bobo and Brain Guy, (though Pearl and company do make a cameo appearance), and in their place are Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day) and Son of TV’s Frank (Patton Oswalt).
There are a variety of celebrity cameos throughout the series, and they’re all as pleasing as they can be, but the skits were never my favorite parts of the show.
The movies, as most would agree, were always the stars, for reasons that should be immediately obvious. With titles ranging from The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy to Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and everything in between, MST3K was masterful at reminding the audience that there are more bad movies out there than good ones, but the bad ones all have their moments. The revival is no different.
The new season starts off with the infamous Reptilicus, a Danish-American giant monster movie about a prehistoric lizard that sprays acid and regenerates. Like most films of its type, it features long scenes of boring actors talking about the problem interspersed short scenes of low-budget monster rampages.
The monster effects are truly terrible even by 1961 standards—Reptilicus looks like a rubber bath toy and is about as threatening—but the riffing is on point, as always, and the jokes make the film more than watchable. It’s a good a beginning to the new series as any.
But the series then follows Reptilicus with Cry Wilderness, a poorly dubbed adventure movie starring actors with bad haircuts, inconsistent settings, and tons of stock footage. Cry Wilderness reminds us that terrible movies transcend genre. Even films that feature well known stars aren’t immune to the good natured ribbing of MST3K—Avalanche starring Rock Hudson and Mia Farrow is just as terrible as anything else found in the new season.
There is simply nothing out of place with the new series, a rarity when bringing back a beloved show. Granted, the MST3K formula is a simple one. There are far more moving pieces when trying to return a show like Arrested Development to the air and maintain the same quality and consistency as the original series.
But the revival is still essential—most of us have tried to bridge the absence of MST3K with something like RiffTrax, and while they’re funny and entertaining, it’s hard not to feel that something is missing.
For whatever reason, be it nostalgia or comfort, the audience needs to have three oddly shaped silhouettes at the corner of our screens. It lets us be a part of the experience, which helps us laugh even more.