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Bingeable: Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return

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When? 2017  |  What's it rated? NR  |  Where's it available? Streaming on Netflix.

One of the best things about being a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan is bumping into other people who love the show just as much as you do.

It almost never fails. Go to any social event and drop a classic MST3K reference–mention Zap Rowsdower, sing a few bars of "Patrick Swayze Christmas" (just pick one)—and you're almost guaranteed to find at least one other person (sometimes two or three) who will follow up with some of the show's other comedic gems. Even though the long-running show was canceled way back in 1999, MST3K fans are legion, and meeting fellow travelers makes it feel like you're an initiate in some vast and secret brotherhood dedicated to the show's greatness.

And I think that group will grow even larger with the recently released Netflix reboot of the series. Spanning 14 episodes, the new MST3k managed a nearly impossible task of keeping its hardcore, longtime fans happy, while still being accessible to viewers who have never seen the show before.

The new show doesn't deviate much from the classic MST3K format. Again an employee of the Gizmonic Institute named Jonah Heston (comedian Jonah Ray) becomes trapped in a moon base with a gaggle of robots and is forced to watch terrible movies at the behest of a mad scientist and her assistant (played by Felicia Day and Patton Oswald, respectively). Much of the show involves Ray and the two main robots (in puppet form), Tom Servo and Crow, cracking jokes while the movie plays, with the occasional narrative comedy bit in between.

BACK AT LAST:  The classic comedy television show 'Mystery Science Theatre 3000' is back after 18 years off the air, thanks to a massive online crowd funding campaign supported by its longtime fans. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NETFLIX
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF NETFLIX
  • BACK AT LAST: The classic comedy television show 'Mystery Science Theatre 3000' is back after 18 years off the air, thanks to a massive online crowd funding campaign supported by its longtime fans.

Despite the massive, near-obsessive hype around the show's coming back after just short of 20 years being off the air, the episodes themselves don't lean too heavily on past laurels. Thanks to the involvement of the show's original creator, Joel Hodgeson, everything from the jokes to the DIY feel of the sets and robot puppets hit all the right notes of the old episodes, while the new cast, many of whom were fans of the old show, give enough of their own spin and interpretation on the franchise to set it apart as something new.

But the best part of MST3K's revival isn't just the show itself, but how it was brought back to life. Hodgeson went straight to the show's fans, and started a crowdfunding campaign to make new episodes. When all was said and done, he raised more than $5.7 million from more than 48,000 people. It's rare to see fans of a show truly put their money where their mouths are, and what's more, most seem very happy with the return on their investment.

In the end, what excites me most is the idea that the already large and dedicated fan base for MST3K will grow because of the new episodes, adding more members to that secret club of longtime fans. One of the best parts of the show is sharing it with the uninitiated, watching them fall in love with this goofy show, and sending them out into the world to spread the word to their friends. I guess it's called a cult television show for a reason. (14, 90-minute episodes.)

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