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In the not-too-distant future?
April 22, 2014 8:40 AM   Subscribe

"I've talked to a bunch of fans about their lives and what MST3K means to them. I'm overwhelmed by how people took to that show. It really affected them. I thought, if enough people still love it, maybe we can bring it back." In today's WIRED article "The Definitive Oral History of a TV Masterpiece," Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson announced his intention to reboot the series online with a new host...this spring. (The lede is buried all the way at the end of the article.)

Could Joel have been inspired by the success of Turkey Day 2013 (previously on MeFi)? READ THE BOOK.
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught (103 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
There IS beer on the sun!
posted by Think_Long at 8:47 AM on April 22 [3 favorites]


*QUICKLY PREPARES APPLICANT PACKET*
posted by The Whelk at 8:48 AM on April 22 [22 favorites]


Somehow my mom knew about this at least a month ago, and I did not believe her because she's my old fuddy duddy mom.

Well damn, mom, you had the scoop of the century! And d'awww, I know she only saw that and remembered because she knows how much I love MST3K.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:49 AM on April 22 [6 favorites]


Whelk, you should come down to Austin and see Master Pancake at the Alamo Drafthouse. They're doing TVs Frank's work by somehow being actually better than MST3K.

Seeing it live in a theater full of people drinking probably helps.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:51 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


MST3K was so important to me growing up in small town midwest America®. Here was this crazy treasure trove of wit and weirdness that I didn't see anywhere else in those pre-internet days. It is the reason why I - and I suspect so many 20/30 somethings - enjoy watching shitty movies. Would we love the Room as much without MST3K? Or Nicholas Cage? Doubtful.

That said, maybe we've internalized the whole smarty-pants snark of MS3TK and this isn't really something we need anymore. As a culture, maybe we moved on? Or am I just concerned that reviving another beloved show will suck?
posted by boubelium at 8:51 AM on April 22 [5 favorites]


Can't be worse than the web cartoon, which we shall never speak of again.
posted by SansPoint at 8:58 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


The Werid thing is how much of the shows's sensibility has crept into a lot of different media THINGS. If you keep an ear out you hear all the references all over the place. It's not as pervasive as say, classic Simpsons quotes but the tone, style, and even vocabulary have all burst forth in new, terrifying growths.
posted by The Whelk at 9:02 AM on April 22 [3 favorites]


It's all part of a new program we like to call "Deep Hurting!" DEEEP HURTINNGG!!!
posted by entropicamericana at 9:06 AM on April 22 [13 favorites]


I wondered what they'd do next after closing up Cinematic Titanic. Though it has to be hard coordinating that many schedules.

Cautiously optimistic. On the other hand, if it is not great, I already have a pre-prepared verdict: IT STINKS!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:06 AM on April 22 [9 favorites]


Thank you!
posted by ardgedee at 9:13 AM on April 22


Does Hodgson actually have the rights sorted out to put on a reboot? It's undeniably his creation, but I thought that Jim Mallon still officially owned the rights to the show; To be perfectly (TV's) frank, I was under the impression that Mallon's squatting on the MST3K property (see the sleepy, rarely-updated official MST3K.com website) was the entire reason why the two camps of active MST3K alums decided to independently rebrand themselves as RiffTrax and Cinematic Titanic.
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:14 AM on April 22


Does Hodgson actually have the rights sorted out to put on a reboot?

That is absolutely the question. The phrasing in the article, and the timeframe mentioned, seem to suggest some sort of Mallon-Hodgson Accord may have been reached.

OnTheLastCastle: ask your mom how she knew and report back!
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught at 9:19 AM on April 22 [2 favorites]


The Joel run on MST3k (the only part I watched--the rest just seemed like . . . oh you know, you date that really cool guy--the one who knew all the best obscure stuff and who made you feel smart for knowing it too) in high school. Then you break up with him because you're going away to college. And you move, and your parents move, and you never go back to the old neighborhood. Then a friend from high school gets married and you go. And you're a little excited because that really cool guy you dated in high school will be there, but you're also feeling weird because you don't know any of those people anymore. Plus, you're different. And well, anyway. You go. And it's awkward. It's not just that it isn't like you remember it--that that guy is not like you remember him--it's something else. It's that things are supposed to have an arc and then end. It's something he never quite got and now the only thing he can do is dangle in an increasingly stale middle).

Anyway. The Joel run on MST3k was one of the very best things about college for me. And the Joel run on MST3k (on lousy quality videotapes that a guy who cheated on me eventually stole) got me through an impossibly dreadful recovery period. A bootleg DVD of the Day the Earth Froze forged an important relationship for me.

And I LOVED the TV Wheel.

Hi, my name is crush and Joel was my best imaginary friend and I often panic whilst making sandwiches.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:20 AM on April 22 [20 favorites]


OnTheLastCastle: ask your mom how she knew and report back!

She saw it on her interocitor.

...Who doesn't have an interocitor?
posted by delfin at 9:20 AM on April 22 [10 favorites]


Very nice, Clambake.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:24 AM on April 22


The phrasing in the article, and the timeframe mentioned, seem to suggest some sort of Mallon-Hodgson Accord may have been reached.

It seems like it was everybody against Mallon for most of the nineties. Was he just the bad corporate overlord for the entire run?
posted by Think_Long at 9:28 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


I think that part of why I haven't gotten too excited about any of the various spinoff projects is that for me, seeing MST3K on TV was always part of the experience. It was essentially taking the "Quirky host + cheap movies" formula from hundreds of local TV stations and perfecting it to the point of transcendence. Watching it on a computer screen - or even on a Roku screen - takes away some of the fun.

If I were Joel, I'd partner with a TV network - maybe even MeTV or Bounce or one of those other old TV networks. Have each episode premier once on TV before putting it online. You'd gain more sales from channel-flippers than you'd lose from Tivo.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:44 AM on April 22 [2 favorites]


IFC would murder a thousand Birthday Boys in the street to get MST3K on their network.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:51 AM on April 22 [6 favorites]


We watch it a lot on Netflix, but I get the inexplicable feeling of needed to get up and clean. The two hours on Saturday morning MST3K was on, was when I did my housekeeping when I was young and single.

It wasn't like you needed to be watching the movie intently, and you could still get all the jokes.

Gamera is really neat, Gamera is full of meat!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:52 AM on April 22 [5 favorites]


That's not the Art Bell, is it?
posted by jquinby at 10:00 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


This spring? That's definitely in the not-so-distant future!
posted by dr_dank at 10:02 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


Cautiously optimistic. On the other hand, if it is not great, I already have a pre-prepared verdict: IT STINKS!



Oh yeah? Well, WE LIKE IT VERY MUCH.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:06 AM on April 22 [5 favorites]


I've watched a couple of Cinematic Titanic episodes and listened to a bit of RiffTrax and I think I've decided that riffing on movies doesn't work for me without the wonderfully compact backstory they devised and squeezed into the original 90 second MST3K opening, and the interstitial sketches that break up the DEEP HURTING. If they have to watch these movies then the riffing is a survival mechanism and/or way to get back at the mad scientists. Without that framework, riffing on movies is just kind of snarky. I will watch the hell out of an MST3K reboot (though no host is ever quite going to live up to Joel.)
posted by usonian at 10:06 AM on April 22 [10 favorites]


Attack of the the Eye Creatures
posted by GrapeApiary at 10:06 AM on April 22 [6 favorites]


I'd like to see them take on something different, like Fargo.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:07 AM on April 22


ohmygodohmygodonmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod
posted by Chrysostom at 10:09 AM on April 22 [3 favorites]


Can't think of MST3K without thinking - they're really very Minnesotan.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:16 AM on April 22 [2 favorites]


Also, it's gratifying to read them verifying that Sci-Fi was run by humorless tools.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:17 AM on April 22 [2 favorites]


Somehow I never even heard about the Turkey Day thing in the FPP:

At the end of the last Host Segment, Tom Servo and Crow made a brief cameo, joining Joel at the dinner table. Neither of them spoke.

Maybe it's just the way the article phrases this, but I feel sad now.

That said, maybe we've internalized the whole smarty-pants snark of MS3TK and this isn't really something we need anymore. As a culture, maybe we moved on? Or am I just concerned that reviving another beloved show will suck?

I feel like MST3K has lived on through these newer projects. Rifftrax has done the occasional old-and-obscure film, but their financial meat and potatoes is riffing the new and popular. To me, their snark is only the richer when it targets Hollywood's high-budget drivel. I mean, sure, hearing them make fun of Gamera vs. Guiron was very funny, but it's kind of an easy target, and no one really takes it seriously. Hearing them mock the Nolan Batman movies, or The Hunger Games? Priceless.

So maybe it's just the part of me that loved Mad Magazine as a kid, but I think there will always be a place for this. There will always be some big stupid piece of entertainment that desperately needs to be mocked, and by someone who knows how.

Anybody who dug this article should get their hands on Return to Eden Prairie. It is also an oral history of the show, but it has copious interviews, actual footage of the original cable access version of the show, and all kinds of wonderful behind-the-scenes anecdotes and details.
posted by heatvision at 10:24 AM on April 22 [8 favorites]


They should have had John Saxon as host. He's literally in everyone of the movies. (Sometimes you have to decipher his presence based on the trembling of leaves.)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:54 AM on April 22 [5 favorites]


To go off on a tiresome tangent… the definitive oral history? I mean, it was an OK oral history, but definitive? Is there a competing oral history of MST3K they're trying to distinguish themselves from, like The Real Ghostbusters? Isn't the term "oral history" grandiose enough on its own?
posted by savetheclocktower at 10:54 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


ZeusHumms: "Also, it's gratifying to read them verifying that Sci-Fi was run by humorless tools."

With a weirdly-misplaced commitment to "hard" sci-fi, considering that their programming is now: posted by Strange Interlude at 10:56 AM on April 22 [2 favorites]


heatvision: You can just download the original cable access versions of the show. They lack a certain... luster.

Rifftrax does quite a few old and terrible movies, and quite well. For their newer riffs, I've only watched the twilight ones, which are great, but start to taper off, as they admit themselves, because the movies are all exactly the same.

Cinematic Titanic kept the interstitial skits and breaks, but they lacked the charm of the little robots.

I prefer the variety of Mikes movies, and while Joel had so many memorable ones (Hercules, Manos, Mitchell), I find that my favorites (Werewolf, Incredibly Strange Creatures, The Final Sacrifice) are usually in the Mike era.

I've got the whole run downloaded somewhere (including TV spots, turkey day skits, Season 0), sometimes I just put it on a random playlist and leave it running for days.

Its how I fall asleep.
posted by lkc at 11:03 AM on April 22 [5 favorites]


[huge slam on anteaters out of nowhere]
posted by shakespeherian at 11:13 AM on April 22 [13 favorites]


I was born and raised to love MST3K. MST3K was created to entertain me. It was the perfect intersection of time and tide.

Now I've got to make dinner for Cabot.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:23 AM on April 22 [2 favorites]


lkc: "You can just download the original cable access versions of the show. They lack a certain... luster."

...Betty Luster, to be precise.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:28 AM on April 22 [2 favorites]


it is, indeed, fun to have fun.
posted by angrycat at 11:32 AM on April 22


Because it seems as timely a piece of advice here and now as it ever was:

Watch out for snakes.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 11:35 AM on April 22 [6 favorites]


ROWSDOWER!
posted by valkyryn at 11:54 AM on April 22 [7 favorites]


I want to be the one who jumps off the stage!
posted by The Whelk at 11:57 AM on April 22


Robot roll call...
posted by sfkiddo at 12:06 PM on April 22


There was a Cinematic Titanic riff where a butler in the film is firing one of the servants. He starts to giggle maniacally and tells the servant "You're stupid! Nobody likes you!". Josh Weinstein then chimes in, "This reminds me of when I left MST".

If all the stuff that MSTies hear about Malon is true, then this (possibly true) annecdote makes perfect sense. Of all the original cast and crew, it seems to me Josh would have been the least able to put up with Malon's bullshit (and thus most likely to leave the show for greener pastures).
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 12:30 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


If you're like me, and I know I am....
posted by Chrysostom at 12:39 PM on April 22 [8 favorites]


Josh told Ken Plume in his chat what actually happened. Long story short, Josh found out accidentally that he was making way less money than the rest of the cast and confronted Jim about it and there was a big fight and he left.
Per Wikipedia, regarding Mike, Kevin and Bill's riffing project The Film Crew:
"The episodes were produced in association with Rhino Entertainment, which was to distribute the episodes on DVD. However, Rhino was approached by Jim Mallon of Best Brains, who threatened to pull future releases of MST3K from Rhino's distribution unless they passed on the series (Mallon claiming that it was "too similar to MST3K" and that Rhino had to choose either MST3K or Film Crew)."
Of course, this is followed by a citation needed, so a grain of salt might be needed.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 12:41 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


Rifftrax does quite a few old and terrible movies, and quite well. For their newer riffs, I've only watched the twilight ones, which are great, but start to taper off, as they admit themselves, because the movies are all exactly the same.

I certainly didn't mean to imply that they don't do older movies. I screwed up and conflated Rifftrax facts in my earlier post: they make the most money off of their streaming titles, which are largely older titles since they include video and you don't have to sync anything as an end user; in terms of their mp3 commentaries though, the newer ones are the successful ones because so many people already own Harry Potter/Avatar/whatever, and whenever they do something slightly dusty like Over the Top, it loses them money.

FWIW (probably not much), my favorites are Road House, The Phantom Menace, Firewall, Reign of Fire, Troll 2, The Wicker Man (with Nic Cage), The Two Towers, and the recent redo of the remastered Manos.

I am fascinated by which movies do and don't get the treatment. There have been multiple films in which they jokingly mention Gymkata, yet they have never done it, and I would guess that they never will (probably because it's inadvertently funny on its own). I know that there is a certain set of ingredients that make a film ripe; the recent Reddit AMA with the Rifftrax guys pointed out, for example, the "juicy" pauses in the Twilight films. It seems like a big common denominator is that the film is oblivious to the fact that some aspect that it takes seriously is in fact ridiculous, whether you're talking about Vanilla Ice or Gamera. So I don't understand why they chose to do Sharknado now, because to my knowledge, those Syfy movies are totally self-aware, and doesn't that ruin it?
posted by heatvision at 12:53 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


To me, a big part of the charm, if you will, of MST3K was Tom Servo and Crow. Even though Trace Beaulieu and Kevin Murphy still riff(ed) with Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax, somehow they were a bit more irreverent and funnier when they hid behind their puppet personas.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:54 PM on April 22 [6 favorites]


Whelk, you should come down to Austin and see Master Pancake at the Alamo Drafthouse. They're doing TVs Frank's work by somehow being actually better than MST3K.

Fighting words.
posted by JHarris at 1:08 PM on April 22 [4 favorites]


And I've certainly seen other of the new RT stuff, I misspoke. I mostly just watch their streaming shorts and crappy old movies, because thats what I like, dammit!

/wharwulf
posted by lkc at 1:20 PM on April 22


Rifftrax has gotten away from providing manually-synced audio riffs for movies people own on DVD (which led to odd choices like Wrath of Khan and other actually-too-good movies receiving the treatment). Now most of its releases are shorts and VOD movies.

Some of those VOD hold up as well as any classic MST3K episode. I haven't seen everything -- each movie is $10, so getting them all can be steep -- but at the very least check out Santa & The Ice Cream Bunny, The Guy From Harlem, The Apple, Viva Knievel, and Night of the Lepus. There's also the "I can't believe they got the rights" VODs, which are delightful in their own way: Super Mario Bros, Cool as Ice, Psycho II, Fist of Fury (with Bruce Lee), McBain (with Christopher Walken).
posted by frogstar42 at 1:28 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


Many of the Rifftrax shorts are hysterical as well, and cheap if you are feeling a bit caveat emptor.

ThE MasTEr wOuLd wANt yOu tO TrY Them.
posted by wittgenstein at 1:42 PM on April 22 [6 favorites]


MST3K was so important to me growing up in small town midwest America®. Here was this crazy treasure trove of wit and weirdness that I didn't see anywhere else in those pre-internet days.

Same here. MST3K was a lifeline for me growing up in Brunswick, GA, and I think watching it was the beginning of my changing attitudes away from the cultural norm of the place.

That said, maybe we've internalized the whole smarty-pants snark of MS3TK and this isn't really something we need anymore. As a culture, maybe we moved on? Or am I just concerned that reviving another beloved show will suck?

There is that danger. Cinematic Titanic was pretty good though. As to whether we've internalized the snark of the show, well, it is true there are a lot of people who mock without the degree of thought former MSTies put into things. Now any two-bit host with a webcam and a YouTube account can make fun of things, and sometimes even build up a decent web following, without supplying any of the wit, the charm, or the surprising amount of heart of the original show.

I've not read the article yet so I can't reply to any of Joel's statements about how he'll reboot it. A new host could certainly work, after all we've been down that road before. I remember at the time being very conflicted about Joel's leaving. I still prefer him to Mike, maybe actually because of his relatively unpolished performance, but can now see that Mike was a great host himself, and it's a case of a million being a greater number than 999,999.

The bots will be the thing. I don't know if there will be different voices. Both Crows and Servos are still around. How the MST guys have divided into the CT and RiffTrax camps might be a problem there, as might all the character voices' increasing age. I think it's possible that new robots might work out, or another change in voice actors. I do wish that rift would heal though, even if it's largely economical in origin rather than personal.

Does Hodgson actually have the rights sorted out to put on a reboot? It's undeniably his creation, but I thought that Jim Mallon still officially owned the rights to the show

They are co-owners, I believe.

It seems like it was everybody against Mallon for most of the nineties. Was he just the bad corporate overlord for the entire run?

I don't know, but he's always been the least-visible of the major Brains, producing, writing and sometimes directing, but other than being the voice of Gypsy until late in the show's run, staying away from the camera. All the writing Brains (which includes a fair number of relatively obscure writers, like Mike Dodge, who played the A-Bomb in one on-screen appearance) added their own unique quirks to the mix. The writers were always the unsung heroes of MST3K.

It wasn't like you needed to be watching the movie intently, and you could still get all the jokes.

MST3K supports multiple viewing styles, from slightly-aware-doing-other-things to intense-like-a-hawk-obsession. When I first watched it I followed the first style, now I'm edging towards the second.

I'd like to see them take on something different, like Fargo.

First time I read that I thought you said Faygo, and had a brief but vivid spontaneous hallucinatory nightmare of an Insane Clown Posse take on MST3K.

Can't think of MST3K without thinking - they're really very Minnesotan.

You know, Peter Graves went to the University of Minnesota.

Somehow I never even heard about the Turkey Day thing in the FPP:

We have a FPP about it, and a number of us even watched it together on Chat. Unfortunately I had to miss most of it. SIGH

Now I've got to make dinner for Cabot.

CABOT??

So I don't understand why they chose to do Sharknado now, because to my knowledge, those Syfy movies are totally self-aware, and doesn't that ruin it?

The Asylum movies might sometimes have self-aware marketing, but that actually doesn't show up much on the screen. Whatever their many thousands of faults, their movies actually don't seem to mock themselves.

Rifftrax has gotten away from providing manually-synced audio riffs for movies people own on DVD (which led to odd choices like Wrath of Khan and other actually-too-good movies receiving the treatment).

When the movie is actully good they tend to admit that. They have Casablanca on there for example, and are up-front about their appreciation for the film. You don't have to hate something to riff on it, although it does open up an avenue for a certain kind of black comedy, when the jokes come across as being a defense mechanism.
posted by JHarris at 1:45 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


(If you want to see a really bad movie that does try to mock itself, watch Eldorado. UGH.)
posted by JHarris at 1:48 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


I remember at the time being very conflicted about Joel's leaving. I still prefer him to Mike, maybe actually because of his relatively unpolished performance, but can now see that Mike was a great host himself, and it's a case of a million being a greater number than 999,999.

Yeah, Mike comes off as more polished, which frequently makes him funnier, but can also lend itself to his seeming too slick - like he's just a joke machine. Joel's rawness can seem charming and organic, but on the other hand sometimes he *really* flubs jokes (I seem to remember Pod People being cringeworthy for that).

MST3K hosts are a land of contrast, is what I'm getting at, I guess.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:51 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


I love going to the live RiffTrax at the real movie theater. It's a freaking hoot to be in an audience with my people, all of us sharing the same collective memory.

In July it's SHARKNADO!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:55 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


The best thing I ever heard about Joel vs Mike is that Joel seems like a guy who woke up, smoked one, and rolled on in to the studio to play with some puppets, while Mike gives the impression of wanting to be the best damned guy stuck in space and making fun of movies with robots he can be. Both have ups and downs.

Personally, Joel for the skits, Mike for the riffs.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:03 PM on April 22 [8 favorites]


This, from the article, is new to me, and makes sense of a lot of things:

Beaulieu: One of the most frustrating things for me was finally realizing that all we were going to produce out of Best Brains was Mystery Science. We had such a beautiful environment, we had our own studio, our own production facility, we had a shop, we could build anything, we had the talented people. But the way it was structured, from a business standpoint, it was just impossible to produce anything else and be fair to everyone involved. Jim Mallon was going to own any new show produced. And that didn’t really sit well with a lot of us.
posted by JHarris at 2:12 PM on April 22 [4 favorites]


Hodgson: When they told me, my only objection was that he was kind of like me—a white doughy guy from the Midwest.

Huh, I never thought of Joel or Mike as being doughy. Supplementary material: the Doughy Guy sketch.
posted by JHarris at 2:16 PM on April 22


Joel for the skits, Mike for the riffs.

Mike in the streets, Joel in the sheets.
posted by sparkletone at 2:21 PM on April 22 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'm increasingly of the view that Mallon and his financial arrangements are the root of all evil here.

On the other hand, he led the Pail & Shovel Party while at UW, so he's not all bad.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:23 PM on April 22


I can't even hate Jim Mallon that much. It's just, when it comes to notions of direction and ownership and exclusivity and control, there often aren't easy answers. It's disappointing, though, that any attempts to revive the show have to go through him.

I will say that Mallon does his legacy no justice when he says:

I think Joel operated under the idea that this was his show, and everyone was working for him. And everyone else was into this sort of cooperative mode—that it’s all of us working together. So it would be somewhat analogous to John Cleese saying, “Oh, by the way, this is my show, and you guys work for me.” The rest of the Pythons would have probably taken exception with that.

Uh-huh. Not supported by anything that's come after. This is a classic case of a property owner being only authoritative in a strict legal sense. He is the barrier in the way of reviving the property. Everyone else would love to do it except for the little thing of actually wanting to receive more than a plain financial remuneration for their work. The Pythons, as Pythons, were never controlled by any of their members; the Brains, as Brains, can't do anything without the approval and control of the one who's installed at the top of the spinal cord.
posted by JHarris at 2:45 PM on April 22 [13 favorites]


Not to mention the reason CT and RiffTrax don't have the characters is because Mallon was trying to make an unrelated childrens show with Servo/Crow/Gypsy because he thought it was more marketable.

That might be apocryphal, but I've certainly seen that in the lamentation of the death of the old format.

Also, those guys are all 25 years older, so maybe not quite as charming, though I think Murphy looks the same, and Mike and Joel have aged pretty well.
posted by lkc at 3:45 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


That said, maybe we've internalized the whole smarty-pants snark of MS3TK and this isn't really something we need anymore. As a culture, maybe we moved on? Or am I just concerned that reviving another beloved show will suck?

Probably more the latter. I don't think we've moved on from snark culturally, and I don't even think MST3K snark was true snark. I think, especially in the Joel days, there was a goodheartedness to it. Less so in the Mike days. Part of the reason I liked MST3K was that it was like a salve for the soul. It wasn't just funny, it was a pleasant way to spend time—and you had to spent a lot of time to get the funny. People who have high expectations for amount of funny per given unit of time never really liked MST3K and the question is maybe how much of a person like that are you now when you weren't before.
posted by bleep-blop at 3:50 PM on April 22 [6 favorites]


But this year Mystery Science Theater may finally get a long-­rumored, heavily anticipated reboot. This spring Hodgson is hoping to start a new online incarnation of the show, one that will feature a fresh (and as-yet-unannounced) host

Calling it now: fucking Matt Mira. And it will be terrible.

(My predictions never ever come true, so I'm using my powers for good for once.)

(No, don't thank me)
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:15 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


bleep-blop, I think you're right about the MST snark. Joel's voice always had a tone of compassion, of an earnest 'bless these guys for trying' kind of thing. You never really heard an rancor under his jokes, which I think made it as good as it was.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:06 PM on April 22 [4 favorites]


Joel created and built three chatty pals to join him: the pseudo-suave, sarcastic Tom Servo; the bigmouthed, perpetually eye-rolling Crow T. Robot; and their sweet (but appropriately spacey) sidekick Gypsy.

No mention of Cambot? Definitive history indeed!

Push the button, Frank.
posted by TedW at 6:44 PM on April 22 [4 favorites]


The realization that Frank Conniff, et al. have apparently never seen a dime of residuals or merch money makes me mad. Mallon then seeming to blame it all on Joel makes me madder.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:19 PM on April 22 [4 favorites]


Fingal was my first dopple.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:26 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


The Rifftrax Live shows are the absolute only things I enjoy going to the cinema to see anymore.

I suspected it was problems with Mallon that drove Joel away long before it was confirmed; I didn't buy that he would get tired enough of a brainchild he so obviously loved to just "pursue other projects" without somebody souring the milk.

Don't get me wrong; I love the Mike-hosted years, too. Asking me to choose is like asking me to choose between my kids. Jokes per minute, Mike. Heart and soul, Joel. Did-he-really-just-say-that smarts you'd never hear anywhere else on TV, Mike. The kind of silliness that makes you laugh 'til you hurt, Joel.

Somewhere out there, there's someone who can wear Gypsy's hand-knitted "JOIKE" sweater.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:32 PM on April 22 [6 favorites]


The realization that Frank Conniff, et al. have apparently never seen a dime of residuals or merch money makes me mad.

Yeah but think about all the money he must have raked in from inventions like Bird Cage Vacuum and Breakfast Bazooka and Lederhosen-hosen.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:34 PM on April 22 [3 favorites]


Will there still be a clown in the sky ... for ... me?
posted by benzenedream at 9:16 PM on April 22 [5 favorites]


Yeah but think about all the money he must have raked in from inventions like Bird Cage Vacuum and Breakfast Bazooka and Lederhosen-hosen.

"Oh, it's a beefcake!"
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:42 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


What about the spare organ vending machine? You only need 75 thousand dollars in quarters!
posted by lkc at 11:23 PM on April 22


Some tidbits found on Joel's website:

I am currently voicing the character of “Mayor Bill Dewey” in Rebecca Sugar’s beautiful new cartoon on Cartoon Network “Steven Universe”.

Aaa, how did this information not come to me?!

I am also the “creative lead for media” for an aerospace company, called Cannae.com – I kid you not.

Wow.

Also, too, I started touring with my first “one man show” titled “Riffing Myself” which is basically the creation story of MST3K –check below for appearances, I may be coming to a town near you!
|
August 29 -31 Dragon Con Atlanta – “Riffing Myself” and Meet and greet


Argh, I really have to make it this year.
posted by JHarris at 12:34 AM on April 23 [2 favorites]


People seem to mostly remember the show for the in-theater wisecracks, so I'm glad to see some of the comments here expressing appreciation for the characters, skits, songs, and heart. If it had just been a few frat boy smartasses talking back to bad movies, it wouldn't have been nearly as memorable.

The variety of the host segments was just as integral, and I like the observation that Joel was a father figure to the bots, while Mike was more a friend. And unlike a lot of modern comedy, the show could be witty without making a big deal of how witty it was, and sarcastic without being mean-spirited.

I wasn't quite as much a fan of the Mike years, and I think some of it had to do with the earlier seasons relying more on the 50s sci-fi/horror genre. And, incidentally, I think that may have subconsciously fostered my preference for black and white movies.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 2:08 AM on April 23 [2 favorites]


People seem to mostly remember the show for the in-theater wisecracks, so I'm glad to see some of the comments here expressing appreciation for the characters, skits, songs, and heart.

Well said. If this proposed reboot comes to fruition, I think recapturing that sincere and offbeat feel will be the determining factor in its success or failure; everything else will be details for nerds to quibble over. (Example: the Beavis and Butt-head relaunch absolutely succeeded in this domain, IMO. So where did it GO but I digress)

I've always maintained a Swiss-style neutrality in the Joel vs. Mike debate. I started watching when season 2 was airing, so I grew up on Joel—yet never really had misgivings about Mike. Even when I try to pick one, I can't; I don't think Mike could have nailed Joel's best host segment moments, and I don't think Joel could have nailed Mike's best riffing moments, but otherwise they feel distinct-yet-equivalent to me. BUT Joel was so indispensable in establishing the series' feel, maintained even during the dourest of the Sci-Fi years, that the only way I'd give up on any reboot would be if Joel was gonna have nothing to do with it.

So recapturing a bit of the old magic will have a lot to do with the casting of the new host, but the writers' room is probably where it'll truly be determined. The geographic dispersal of the Originals is slightly worrisome to me for that reason. Maybe if they successfully pitch it to Netflix, that'd be sufficient inducement for the gang to truly get back together, or at least a large enough portion of it. Sure wish we had more to go on.
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught at 3:41 AM on April 23


It says something about nerd culture that a long article appreciating what we had is considered less important than a small hint that it might come back. The lede is "An oral history of the show". The "comeback" doesn't seem to be too close to reality yet.
posted by Legomancer at 4:39 AM on April 23 [1 favorite]


It says something about nerd culture that a long article appreciating what we had is considered less important than a small hint that it might come back.

I'm just a casual fan and this oral history didn't reveal too much information that wasn't already known, discussed, and gossiped about online since the mid 90's. We've been appreciating what we had all along, we just want more to appreciate.
posted by Think_Long at 5:39 AM on April 23


Yeah, the only new tidbit from the oral history I got was the dissatisfaction with Jim Mallon being made more explicit - Trace, for example, usually keeps pretty quiet about that stuff. It was interesting, but I already know about Joel's standup career, etc.

For that matter, was pretty clearly not "definitive." No mention of Blood Hook, for example.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:02 AM on April 23 [1 favorite]


It says something about nerd culture that a long article appreciating what we had is considered less important than a small hint that it might come back. The lede is "An oral history of the show". The "comeback" doesn't seem to be too close to reality yet.

I can't speak for the community, but on my part it's just my cynical GenX pessimism showing through. I'll believe there's a possibility it might come back if and when an air date is announced.

Or, as Joel once said, "Yeah, I'll see that when I believe it."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:32 AM on April 23


It's interesting Paul Chaplin never comes up in these discussions. Paul wasn't onscreen much - although he was memorable as Pitch, and (later on) as Ortega - but he was with the show as a writer from season 3 on, and I believe he did the majority of the host segment writing. Yet he seems to be largely forgotten. Interesting that he was the only Brain who aligned with Jim in his ill-fated mst3k animated venture.

Of course, Bridget seems to be largely forgotten, too.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:52 AM on April 23 [2 favorites]


It's dawned on me before, but she points out here that they had no Internet to go to back then, which just adds a whole other level of appreciation for their joke writing. And in turn most of us had no way of figuring out what the heck some of the more obscure references meant.

As I got older it was funny when I stumbled across the source of a reference and went "Oh, so THAT's what that's from." Or watching an old episode and getting a joke I knew I didn't get at the time.

I also liked Mary Jo's lament on the prevalence of satire now, and how nothing is sacred anymore.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:16 AM on April 23 [1 favorite]


Exactly, that lack of easy data access led to things like not being able to figure out exactly who Merritt Stone was.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:23 AM on April 23


(Example: the Beavis and Butt-head relaunch absolutely succeeded in this domain, IMO. So where did it GO but I digress)

Seconded! I actually bought into some of the negative hype the first time the show went around so I never really got into it. In the recent revival though it was wonderful; current-day MTV programming is more suitable for the boys' mockery than ever. Favorite line: when watching Jersey Shore people make a chart of everyone in the group who had ever "swapped spit" with another, Butthead said "I bet if you follow this chart back far enough, you could find out where herpes began."

On Paul and Bridget:
I'd think they're more comfortable being behind-the-scenes people. Paul was Pitch the Devil in a few segments, and Bridget, I believe, was Nuveena. She married Mike, and has actually been featured in one RiffTrax with Mike, on the first episode of Lost.

not being able to figure out exactly who Merritt Stone was.

Frank: WHO ARE YOU MERRITT STOOOOONE???

Over the years MST3K changed form as its writers and cast changed and adapted wonderfully, but I was a bit sad at least when all that knowledge of old TV show character actors and obscurities, if it didn't disappear entirely, seemed diminished with the leaving of TV's Frank. Frank Conniff is a prolific Twitter user, BTW.
posted by JHarris at 10:24 AM on April 23


So should we start speculating what kind of host they should get, assuming it's not another doughy-Midwestern guy? Someone in the Kristen Bell mold would be a good fit... smart, loveable, kinda spacey. But preferably not a known actor, if an actor at all.

Or perhaps Stephen Colbert would be available.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 10:28 AM on April 23


Someone on mst3kinfo.com suggested Chris Hardwick. I could certainly see him being interested, but I think he may be too manic.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:37 AM on April 23


Having been to 2 Rifftrax live broadcasts, I can assure you there is still a great need for these guys.
I still have hope they one day do Twilight live...
posted by Theta States at 10:41 AM on April 23


Good piece on Tor.com - Why Do We Want More MST3K?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:50 AM on April 23 [3 favorites]


Chris Hardwick
Oh god, no. Thats exactly the opposite of what a host should be.
posted by lkc at 11:19 AM on April 23 [3 favorites]


Why Do We Want More MST3K?

Because it's good when there are things!
posted by JHarris at 12:20 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


MST3K without a doughy, deadpan Midwestern host? That's like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without peanut butter, jelly, or bread.

MST3K drained of its essential Midwesternness? Excised of its dough? Resuscitated of its pan? I can't imagine… no, I sha'n't!

Nossir. Without that sort of dry, laconic, self-effacing, smart-aleck-average-joe, non-Hollywood, so-goofy-you-don't see-the brilliant-punchline-coming thing going on, you might have a funny show there, neighbor, but it ain't no MST3K. I'm not saying you HAVE to be from the Midwest to have those qualities, but that's where the "type" is associated with.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:27 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


Chris "Andy Dwyer from Parks and Rec" Pratt would be a good host, I think.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:30 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


Joel did a guest spot on Hardwick's Nerdist podcast, which is worth checking out, mostly.

It might be best if they just got another up-and-coming comedian, since it worked for Joel and Mike. Even though Mike was already involved in the show before hosting, the fact that the cast didn't consist of familiar actors helped us buy into the show even more.

My main concern is that the show was a product of the 90s, and it would feel odd hearing Crow and Servo joke about contemporary stuff like Miley Cyrus or Rob Ford, because that's what everyone does now. It's sorta like the rest of the world has caught up to MST now.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 2:23 PM on April 23 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but they also joked about obscure figures, too.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:33 PM on April 23


Chris "Andy Dwyer from Parks and Rec" Pratt would be a good host, I think.

I think he might be a smidge busy, but he does have the smirk.
Maybe they could do a rotating roster of hosts.
Call me a heretic, but I've only ever watched MTS3K sporadically, but the linking segments were never that interesting to me.
posted by Mezentian at 5:26 PM on April 23


Pretty much all the suggestions I've seen here seem way too expensive for the budget a niche-y thing like a rebooted MST3k would be working with.

I think an unknown's a better fit anyway. Having someone even Kinda Famous hosting doesn't feel right to me.
posted by sparkletone at 5:53 PM on April 23


Mezentian, you're a heretic.

Seriously, the host segments are sometimes flat, and sometimes even cringe-y. But then they put together something like "Patrick Swayze Christmas" and all is forgiven forever.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:52 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


The host segments before and after the Forrester/Frank era are okay, but Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank were by far the best.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:02 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


Dr. F. and Frank had some of the best chemistry I've ever seen on the big OR small screen.

I do, however, have a MAJOR soft spot for Pearl. I love how she combined the grande-dame hauteur of a classic silver screen villainess with the small-town bitchiness of your auntie with the big purse.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:24 PM on April 23 [5 favorites]


Yeah, but they also joked about obscure figures, too.

Absolutely, and it was satisfying to hear them riff on something that you wouldn't hear anywhere else.

But the broader jokes that were topical back then weren't also being made by an infinite number of talk/variety shows and social media. Satire and referential humor is just oversaturated now. I guess MST and the Simpsons can sort of be blamed the way Star Wars gets blamed for the summer blockbuster era.

And I loved the host segments as a teen. At the very least they broke up the monotony of the movie. At its best, it was wonderfully inspired comedy.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 8:30 PM on April 23


Fingal was my first dopple.

I thought Fingal didn't doppel?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:07 PM on April 27


He did, in the movie. Into a baboon. Thank goodness not an anteater!
posted by JHarris at 2:10 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]


Apparently the WIRED article linked in the FPP has been expanded, as of a couple days ago. There's a bunch more quotes in it now, starting in about the KTMA section.
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught at 7:38 AM on April 29 [3 favorites]


Wow, Trace was up for the voice of Jar Jar?
posted by Chrysostom at 7:57 AM on April 29


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