by James Toal
I had been made aware of the show countless times due to its references in popular culture, I recall the first time of its existence when in an episode of Futurama when the MST3K characters Tom Servo, Crow T Robot, and maybe Joel Robinson (or Michael Nelson, it’s hard to tell on a cartoon silhouette guys) appeared and told the Futurama crew to not talk during the movie. For those not aware of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, here is the run down.
In the not too distant future, two scientists send their janitor Joel onto a space station and force him to watch bad B-movies in order to find the perfect weapon to use in their scheme for world domination. Joel managed to create a few ‘bot’ friends to help him on this secluded location, mainly the two best friends Tom Servo and Crow T Robot. Together they watch all these god-awful films, riff over them, and managed to make a show that nerd culture remembers today and has even been brought back to Netflix for our viewing pleasure.
What truly makes this show stand out is how unique its presentation and premise is. They took the idea of commenting on movies and making jokes which I feel like most us do with our friends casually. They then developed an entire scenario that gave them a unique look and charming characters. The first season, in fact, reminded me of the early days of the British sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf. The set design sent me back to the grey interiors, the miniature models of spaceships and landscapes automatically put this show in my good books. When working with a limited budget and you still manage to bring a visually interesting look, you know that you’ve got something intriguing in your hands.
Fortunately for myself, Netflix has added a robust number of episodes to enjoy and it would be a safe bet to say, that they all manage to get you entertained and interested in this series coming back for another run. An average episode goes like this; The main character Joel/Michael interacts with the bots while the evil scientists talk to them about the film that they have chosen to subject our heroes too. We get them riffing over the film, intercut into segment breaks where the main characters do mini skits revolving around elements of what they saw in the film so far. For example, in the episode ‘Manos: Hands of Fate’, they constantly make fun of the robe that the villain is wearing. When we transition back into the main part of the ship, we see Joel trying to imitate the villain’s actions but with little effect on the other characters.
If I had to select an episode to watch to sum up, what MST3K is to an unassuming viewer, then I would choose to let them watch ‘Manos: Hands of Fate’ or ‘Hercules vs the Moon Men’. Both these episodes are littered with hilarious lines and moments that can keep you going through these bad films. Particularly with the episode focusing on the Heracles film, we get hints to the worst part of the film early on and we as the audience question the relevance of the hint. But, when we get to that part and it all becomes clear, “deep hurting” indeed.
One other reason that I enjoy MST3K is that I partially grew up watching films with family and friends where we would talk and make jokes about what we were seeing on screen. We’d all have a good time especially if it was a particularly bad film. So, to see a show, that takes that idea of comedic commentary over bad films and combine it with charming characters is utterly fascinating and makes every episode enjoyable.
Will the new series live up to the challenge? With the likes of Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt taking part and even some of the returning members of the original show, maybe lightning can strike twice. If you’re interested in seeing some good humour and find even the worst movie enjoyable, or even if you if you don’t like bad movies. Mystery Science Theatre will just about entertain you in every way with its charm, its witty humour, and its overall likeable and enjoyable tone. Highly recommended viewing.
Created by: Joel Hodgson
Written by: Kevin Murphy, Joel Hodgson, Michael J. Nelson, Jim Mallon, Trace Beaulieu, Bridget Jones, Paul Chaplin
Directed by: Jim Mallon, Kevin Murphy, Trace Beaulieu, Vince Rodriguez, Michael J. Nelson
Cast: Kevin Murphy, Joel Hodgson, Michael J. Nelson, Jim Mallon, Trace Beaulieu, Mary Jo Pehl, J. Elvis Weinstein
Channel: KTMA, Comedy Central, Sci-Fi Channel, Netflix
Number of Episodes: 211
Episode runtime: 95 mins