When Joel Hodgson, the original creator and host of cult-classic TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 announced that he was crowd funding a new season of of the show, the crowd funded it. The Internet spoke, and it said loudly “WE WANT MORE MST3K! Please! If it’s not too much bother!” (MSTies are a generally polite bunch), and Hodgson raised over $6 million, making his effort one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns ever and blowing through every stretch goal (Full Disclosure: I backed the MST3K Kickstarter). With funding secured, the show went into production, and after a bit of shopping around, the crew of the Satellite of Love landed on Netflix, premiering April 14th, a.k.a. “This Friday A.D.”
Now those Kickstarter backers (including me) have had a chance to see the first episode of the new season. Joel and the team have asked (again, very politely) that we not disclose any of the movies that will be riffed for this new season before April 14th, so this is a review more on tone than content. With a new cast, including fan favorites Jonah Ray as Jonah Heston, Felicia Day as Kinga Forester (daughter of Dr. Clayton Forester, the original “Mad”), and Patton Oswalt as TV’s Son of TV’s Frank, along with some (very slightly) updated production value, the show looks a little different, but keeps to its core values intact. In this case, the core values of MST3K are generally lighthearted and genial riffing by Jonah and his robot friends at the expense of the cheesy movie meant to destroy their minds. MST3K has always excelled at presenting a less cynical version of the jokes people often make to anesthetize themselves to he horrors and madness of the world, and the new version is no exception, riffing its way through a truly terrible movie. The new crew of the Satellite of Love are charming and immediately likable, the Mads of Deep 13 are suitably ridiculous, and the riffs come fast and furious (minus Vin Diesel), so the show covers its bases and fulfills the wishes of longtime fans. I’m also glad to say that instead of trying to be a cookie cutter copy of the previous iterations, the new season plays to the strengths of the new cast, and that’s important, too.
I searched for a metaphor to describe the feeling of watching the new MST3K, and the closest I could come up with was the feeling of a new-old shoe. I realize this is a contradiction, but bear with me, I think it will make sense eventually. For me, I wear Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars almost every day; I own probably close to a dozen pairs of Chucks in various stages of wear. Because I wear them all the time, I know what size I need, and as they wear out, i just order a new pair. Every time I slip on a brand new pair of Chucks, it takes a little bit of time to get used to them and break them (even though it’s the same brand, there are always variations) but then they end up just as comfortable and familiar as the previous pair. That’s what it felt like watching the premiere episode of the new season: some new variations, but with a little time, it will feel comfortable and familiar in the best possible way.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return debuts Friday, April 14th on Netflix