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Why the world needs “Mystery Science Theater 3000”

in Movies, Movies & TV, Television

Image Copyright Best Brains / Comedy Central

Image Copyright Best Brains / Comedy Central

I have something I’ve been wanting to admit for a long while. It’s high time to own up to the fact that I have a gaping hole in my geek cred, and it’s something of which I’m fairly ashamed– I didn’t get into “Mystery Science Theater 3000” until its penultimate season.

I do also have a pretty good excuse, however: growing up in suburban Long Island, our basic cable package didn’t include Comedy Central. I had to wait until a visit to my grandparents in Florida to catch up on great, hilarious shows like “Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist” or “The Daily Show” in it infancy (with original host Craig Kilborn). And then suddenly, around my 18th birthday, Cablevision of Suffolk County adopted a broader selection of channels. By that point, “MST3K”, as fans call it, had already moved to the SciFi Channel, and when I stumbled upon it there late one spring night in 1998 it was an instant love affair for this lonely geek.

My current MST3K collection
My current shrine to MST3K

The show’s premise, in a nutshell: a hapless Midwesterner is shot into space by a couple of mad scientists who force him to sit through some of the worst movies ever made while they monitor his reactions. Fortunately for the audience, his response is to build a couple of smart-aleck robots to watch (and relentlessly mock) the movies with him.

And ow, in this time of trepidation and growing political unrest, I’m extremely glad to know that a new season of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” is on its way. If anyone can funnel our current mounting distrust of authority and befuddlement at international affairs into wisecracking comedy gold, it’s the crew of the Satellite of Love.

Let’s take a look at where it all began, “In the not-too-distant future…”

WATCH “MST3K” OPENING THEME SONG:

During the summer after high school, I took my graduation money to the local Tower Records and purchased all the MST episodes that had been released on VHS by that point, along with a copy of the now-hard-to-find paperback “Amazing Colossal Episode Guide” to help me get acquainted with the mythology and behind-the-scenes history of the long-running series. It was worth the investment.

In college I met some fellow fans of the show for the first time and later I bought bootleg DVD copies of all the Joel episodes (Joel Hodgson, the show’s creator, served as host for the first hundred or so episodes before moving on and being replaced on-screen by head writer Mike Nelson, a move that was not without its controversy when it happened, but as a latecomer fan I appreciated both personalities).

My copy of the "Amazing Colossal Episode Guide", signed by second host Mike Nelson
My copy of the “Amazing Colossal Episode Guide”, signed by second host Mike Nelson

Long story short, “Mystery Science Theater 3000” is one of my favorite things ever, even though I missed out on most of it the first time around. I love the show’s unique brand of sarcastic humor, its giddy irreverence with regard to all things Hollywood, its small-town DIY production values, everyone in its cast, and of course those nifty-looking puppets.

“MST3K”, like “The Simpsons” before it, became a sort of comedic shorthand for a very specific view of the world. After a while it was difficult to see someone deliver a karate chop in a cheesy movie and resist the urge to yell out “Hi-keeba!” or witness the end of a bad musical performance without giving someone the “OK” sign and remarking “It stinks!”

WATCH “IT STINKS!”:

The early aughts represented a bit of a slow period for self-branded MSTies. After the series came to a close in 1999, its cast and crew drifted around to other projects for a while before forming two separate movie-riffing troupes: Rifftrax (starring Nelson along with second Tom Servo performer Kevin Murphy and second Crow T. Robot Bill Corbett) and the somewhat lower-profile and shorter-lived Cinematic Titanic (made up of Hodgson, original Servo Josh Weinstein, original Crow Trace Beaulieu, “TV’s” Frank Conniff, and Pearl Forrester herself, Mary Jo Pehl).

After the demise of Cinematic Titanic, Joel began to cook up another idea in secret- a relaunch of the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” we know and love, but with an all-new third cast. When the Kickstarter project launched in November of 2015, it was met with trepidation by some fans who wanted Joel or Mike to step back into the host position once again, or at least to have confirmation that the old creative team would in some way be involved.

WATCH “MST3K” KICKSTARTER VIDEO:

Regardless, the campaign was a smashing success, breaking all sorts of Kickstarter records and introducing us to the next host of “MST3K”: comedian Jonah Ray of “The Meltdown” and the “Nerdist” podcast. Most backers seemed to embrace Jonah or were at the very least willing to give him a chance. I felt the same way, and donated more than I’m willing to publicly admit in order to get my hands on some of the exclusive rewards and to help ensure the relaunch saw the light of day. And now, like thousands of other MSTies around the globe, I’m anxiously (but optimistically) waiting to see the results.

The eleventh season of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” is (thankfully) currently in post-production, and will debut on Netflix later this year. We’re gonna need it.

WATCH “MST3K” TRUMP REFERENCES:

17 Comments

  1. EricJ

    Thank you….But why do WE need it, though?
    (And did you have an actual point, besides a neurotic geek-fear of talking about mice and castles on the page?)

    1. Mike Celestino

      Hi Eric,

      I think you’ll find we spend a tremendous amount of time talking about mice and castles on this site. And we talk about a whole bunch of other stuff, too.

      Always appreciate your input, though. Thanks for reading!

      1. EricJ

        No: You, Adam, and the other Mike talk about “a whole bunch of other stuff”, and NO ONE KNOWS WHY…

        1. Mike Celestino

          Yes, that’s the “we” I was referring to. The people who write (and wrote) for this website.

          1. Gare.chicago

            Mike,
            Please just ignore EricJ. He’s a massive troll on MST3K sites all over the net.
            And you’re right – we need MST now more than ever.
            Gare

          2. EricJ

            Twelve Batman stories a week on ITM, and you think this is an MST3K issue??

          3. Earl Rogers

            Eric (from what I’ve seen over the past several years at various MST3K fan sites) is someone dead set convinced that any post-Joel era MST3K happenings are part of a vast and evil conspiracy that only he is wise to. Everyone else is either part of it or too evil and stupid themselves to realize it.

            So, yeah, basically, get ready for a lot of nonsense.

  2. Claude Richards

    PLEASE bring it back!

    1. Mike Celestino

      It’s coming back!

  3. Tom JK

    I’d like for it to come back. But please,leave politics out of this. This was just a show that made fun of tons of things that defined the ’90s. I don’t know how long this one will last, though.

    Here’s hoping they get the rights to 2008’s “The Happening.” I’d love to see Crow and Tom rip the heck out of that travesty.

    1. Mike Celestino

      All I’m saying is sad times need funny people. And Joel-era MST was pretty unapologetically left-leaning.

      “The Happening” would be great, even though Rifftrax already covered it wonderfully. And MST tends to opt for the lower-budget cheesy movies.

      1. Tom JK

        Maybe we’ll agree to disagree, but what may feel like sad times to you may be great times for others. But in the end, politics is one subject matter that angers and divides people.

        Another movie I want them to do is Melancholia, which is one of those films I thought was overrated and amateurishly filmed. I bet Tom Servo could really jab at the beginning spoiler and how horrible Kirsten Dunst’s character was. Actually, they should also do Jupiter Ascending, which was really bad compared to the last film I mentioned.

  4. gail

    The giant Gila monster is still one of my favorite mst3k episodes. Miss those old comedy Central shows

  5. Garaan

    Since I don’t have netflix, I suppose I won’t get to see these either (the main reason I’ve never done Rifftrax too). Don’t feel like forking out for another service on top of TV/Internet. Maybe they’ll put them on youtube.

    1. There’s a bunch of episodes on YouTube. Check out the Shout Factory or Mystery Science theatre 3000 channels.

  6. Great article Mike. I’m a lifelong fan and I too was a kickstarter backer. I was lucky enough to get a role as puppeteer on the new season and it gonna be great. Even though I worked in them, I can’t wait to see them. And I too spent way too much backing the kickstarter.

    1. Mike Celestino

      That’s amazing, Grant! I’m looking forward to seeing your work. Please let me know what your contributions were after the new season comes out. I’d really like to know.

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