‘Mystery Science Theater 3000′ Creator Wants a Reboot & New Hosts – Can It Work?

Published 12 months ago by

Mystery Science Theater 3000 silhouette Mystery Science Theater 3000 Creator Wants a Reboot & New Hosts   Can It Work?

Since the end of its run in 1999, fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 have had their memories, re-runs, and similarly themed alum-powered projects like Cinematic Titanic and RiffTrax to hold them over, but in a new oral history interview, series creator Joel Hodgson has expressed an interest in rebooting the series.

Though details are presently thin, the new iteration is primed to be a web project that starts up in the spring (so, soon?), and it will feature a new host (so, not Hodgson or Mike J. Nelson?) while also allowing for occasional guest appearances by the old cast.

Here’s Hodgson on Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s enduring appeal and why it’s ready-made for a new crew:

“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.

“Even avid viewers sometimes don’t realize that every major role in the show had been swapped out over time. So in my mind, the show is built to be refreshed with new people and new ideas. It’s like Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle as it applies to ‘MST3K’: If it doesn’t change, it’s not the same show. And fortunately for us, as long as there are movies, there are always going to be cheesy movies.”

It’s actually charming that Hodgson still seems surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response to the show that fans have. But while the question about whether there would be enough goodwill out there to warrant a few more episodes seems silly – the show has been lauded by critics and fans during and after its run and it’s one of the key cultural/comedy inspirations of the last 25 years – we’re not sure that that same goodwill would extend to a full reboot and a new cast. Nostalgia only goes so far.

mystery science theater 3000 joel Mystery Science Theater 3000 Creator Wants a Reboot & New Hosts   Can It Work?

Not only did Hodgson and Nelson (and the rest) cast a long shadow, but the show really does seem time-locked when you watch it. For better or worse, Mystery Science Theater 3000 helped lay the tracks for the chugging internet revolution that has made us all commentators and quip-wielding humorists. But while it is a forefather, it’s entirely possible that the format might fall flat if put in front of contemporary audiences without the cover of its original hosts and the nostalgia that their appearance would generate. Dr. Frankenstein, meet your monster.

Today, audiences want edge and they want the line to be pushed. But while that’s certainly what Mystery Science Theater 3000 delivered in its heyday, it’s hard to know if Hodgson (and, for that matter Jim Mallon – the co-producer who would seemingly have to sign off on a reboot despite the past “tension” between he and Hodgson) would be comfortable watching a new gang take the show to the darker and more adult-themed humor that might be required to push that line today.

mystery science theater 3000 mike Mystery Science Theater 3000 Creator Wants a Reboot & New Hosts   Can It Work?

Besides that, there is the waning level of familiarity with some of the classic films that were born to riff on. Younger viewers (watch as I deftly avoid saying “Kids today”) don’t necessarily know Colossus and the Headhunters and Invasion of the Neptune Men, whereas original Mystery Science Theater 3000 viewers often grew up watching these movies and those like them on lazy Saturday afternoons.

To update the show with newer, more relatable films might not just be a challenge, it could also be quite costly – something that the RiffTrax team avoids by selling their riffs as free-floating commentary tracks that can play alongside any film without worrying about rights issues.

Based on these observations, a rebooted Mystery Science Theater 3000 seems like a bad idea, but a show featuring a comedian, a few puppets, cheesy movies, and ample sarcasm probably seemed like a bad idea in 1988 and yet here we are. The fact is, the rules of the game are clear now, but they can always change.

Maybe older viewers will embrace a rebooted show and maybe the right kind of millennials will embrace a new version of Mystery Science Theater 3000 as their favorite thing in the way that the original spoke to teenagers and twenty-somethings in the ’90s. Stranger things have happened.


Keep an eye on Screen Rant for more details about the possible Mystery Science Theater 3000 re-boot.

Source: Wired

Follow Jason Tabrys on Twitter @jtabrys
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  1. In the not too distant future…

  2. Keep the non human characters and I will be willing to give it a chance.

  3. I came into this show pretty late (it was 2004, a friend suggested I put a movie channel on because the MST3K movie was on) but honestly, I think Mike was the best human host. As long as he returns and they remove the parts of the show that didn’t revolve around making fun of movies and TV shows (because I thought those were the boring bits, hated when they stopped watching This Island Earth to screw around with interrossiters midway through the movie) then it’s cool but I could deal with it as long as the show actually returned.

    It’s about time we had some decent snark on TV because the medium’s been plagued by snarky characters on shows that just come across as pretentious and annoying d-bags rather than likable characters with hilarious and memorable lines. The last great character on TV like that was DCI Gene Hunt in Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes but he was more cynical and insulting to others due to being a product of 1970s Britain rather than making fun of bad B-movies like MST3K.

  4. What makes Mystery Science Theater work, at least in part, was for instance, what did I and my friends often do on a Saturday afternoon when we were bored? We’d go to the theater and sit through a movie making wise-guy smart-arse comments and crude insulting remarks about the show and each other, sitting there buzzing away with our jacking-jaws like a bunch of locusts while the flick played up on the screen, because we just knew we were funnier and more entertaining then what was up on the screen. A goofy concept, but it was reality in everyone’s face, and it worked! By golly, the idea did work! And you and your friends probably did it too! That’s why it was good…forced us to recognize a zany reality about ourselves.

  5. They could try a couple of DVD releases of turkey’s they never got to on the show and see how that works. DVD releases could be the way to go. Anyway they do it, I’d want to see it as it was one of the funniest shows on tv.

  6. How much fun would it be to hear them tearing up the Green Lantern movie.

  7. I think this is a fantastic idea! This kind of programming has a HUGE base to it. Mike, Kevin, and Bill’s Rifftrax have at least 4-5 live shows through Fathom events every year in addition to the numerous riffs they post. And then Joel’s own Cinematic Titanic was a great traveling show with sellout crowds – there is a big demand for this show, especially if it’s done well. I couldn’t be happier with this news!

  8. LOVED THAT SHOW! Bring it back with the same puppet/characters and every week have a new comedian its Host. It would work

  9. As Its Host*

  10. God, it’d be so sweet if they brought it back. I couldn’t care less about who plays the human host as long as they have Crow and Tom servo. Hopefully they’d have the same writers as well

  11. I have a hard time seeing how MST3K could be “rebooted” but still retain its old school charm. If the production moves from the midwest out to California, then forget it. It could still be funny, but Hollywood would stick the likes of Daniel Tosh in the human role, and the cleverness will be gone.

    If fans are interested in the entire crew of (arguably) the best MST cast riffing on modern movies online (and riffing cheesy B movies they missed the first time around), then RiffTrax is already doing **exactly** that. Some fans even cut paper silhouettes of the cast and mount it on their computer monitor when watching a Riff.

    Plus, RiffTrax has a huge fan community and they help promote fan-made riffs.

    Anyway — I wouldn’t be opposed to watching a reboot, I would just go into the experience knowing that it won’t be the same. I would be royally upset, though, if the new show stole away support for RiffTrax (which it likely won’t do).

  12. I still faithfully buy new albums by Paul and Ringo when they come out, but they’ll never again be the Beatles by themselves. This is the way I feel about MST3K. I think that RiffTrax is good, but that Cinematic Titanic was better. And the only explanation I can come up with is that CT was 100% a product of MST3K alumni, while RiffTrax seems to be relying too heavily on kids who want to be on that level, but are falling short (in my opinion). I’ve read that Mallon’s supposed argument against bringing the show back basically amounts to “Who’s going to play Crow? Which Servo will we have? Are we going to start the whole Joel vs. Mike thing up all over again?” I can understand his argument; what I wonder is, Has anybody asked the cast members? Maybe Josh Weinstein won’t want to come back; maybe Mike would be happy to write, but has no interest in putting on the suit anymore. Maybe I prefer one Crow over the other – and I don’t, by the way, I loved this show in every permutation – but if Bill Corbett was the only cast member to pass, I wouldn’t boycott the rest of the show, even if he was my favorite. If I knew he was shut out from the beginning, I might feel differently; and maybe that’s the sort of situation that Mallon is concerned about.

    If I had the money to finance a return of the show, what I’d love to see would be a mix and match effort. Do this week’s show with Forrester, Frank and Joel; do next week’s show with Pearl, Bobo and Brain Guy. Put Corbett’s Crow with Weinstein’s Tom. There’s no need to break in a new host and puppets, because that will risk putting everybody off, rather than just igniting the typical “Trace vs. Bill” or “Josh vs. Kevin” feuds. If it takes off, they can gradually work in someone new that could organically replace an existing member, just like they did within the show. From what I’ve read about Joel’s leaving the first time around, it sounds like the key to starting over would be to make everyone an equal partner, or at least give everyone some ownership. This appears to be how it’s working for RiffTrax and how it worked for CT. I’d love to see this show live again, but even with Joel’s involvement, I don’t know if I’d be interested in a reboot.

    • How is RiffTrax not a 100% MST-alumni startup? Yes, it had DisembAudio prior to Corbett and Murphy being fully invested, but the whole thing truly is Mike Nelson’s brainchild. It came from Mike Nelson (solo) riffing on Legend Films’ B-Movie releases. No DisembAudio or guest riffers.

      After that, Corbett and Murphy came on board (with the occasional special guest star) so really, the whole operation is MST-alumni driven. I can assure you, there was no creative pressure given to any of the comedians from the-powers-that-be regarding what direction they would take in their riffs. In fact, RiffTrax may have more creative freedom than MST3K did!

      I know there’s a huge fan riff community supported by RiffTrax, but if you’re not into their stuff, you can just filter through the riffs done by the MST3K cast members.

      Anyway, sorry — my Mike Nelson bias is showing.

      • No need to apologize! There’s no point in expressing an opinion if I’m going to get upset about someone expressing a different one. And please don’t take my preference for Cinematic Titanic over RiffTrax as a Joel vs. Mike thing, because I honestly have no preference when it comes to MST3K episodes. In fact, if I was forced to pick one favorite cast member from the entire group, I’d probably have to go with Kevin Murphy. (Post-MST3K, if you’re going to follow the group on Twitter, none of them are as consistently funny as Corbett, except maybe Weinstein.) I don’t dislike RiffTrax, I just prefer CT. (I won’t comment at all on any of the fan riffing, because I’ve sampled just enough to know that I’m not interested in any of that at all.)

        RiffTrax was (and I assume still is) Mike’s baby. Bill and Kevin worked with him on the Film Crew, then naturally followed him to RiffTrax. But check out the credits on the back of their DVDs. You’ll see Mike, Bill and Kevin listed as “Riffers”; starting in 2009, they added “Writers”, first Conor Lastowka, then adding Sean Thomason later on. Which makes it unclear how much Mike, Kevin and Bill still contribute to the writing.

        Again, this is all personal preference. RiffTrax has a huge following, so clearly I’m in the minority, maybe even on my own. I think the reason I think CT is funnier is that a) CT has five MST3K members doing the writing and performing, versus RT’s three, with work farmed out to others less funny; and b) there’s much more RT product, which means less time (perceived, at least) spent writing and perfecting each script.

        I’m glad Mike, Kevin and Bill are still going strong, and will keep buying the DVDs and taking in the live shows as long as they keep making them. The thing is, it’s more out of loyalty than enthusiasm at this point. Which was my initial point about a potential MST3K reboot: I’ll feel obligated to give it a try because it’ll be Joel’s baby, but the potential for new cast and writers doesn’t fill me with optimism. There was something special created with the original crew – and by “original”, I’m referring to the entire life of the original show, not just the first season’s crew – that I’m afraid won’t be recreated with new people. With MST3K, the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.

        • I hear ya. I used to work for RiffTrax as the poster-art and web graphics guy so there’s a serious bias from me in that regard. Plus, I always thought Mike to be funnier than Joel in the MST format (personal pref). Conor is actually DisembAudio, which I think is okay to say openly now as it is published on the website (that used to be way hush-hush). But yeah, the joke writing is essentially all Mike and the “bots”.

          I’m def down to see MST return to television, but I would just hate to see the overall franchise and memory tarnished by a new set of “in-with-it” hosts. If they could, I would love to see them get everyone on board that is interested and just cycle through different cast members frequently — maybe Pearl can summon certain hosts to view certain movies ala Iron Chef?

          +1 on the awesomeness of Kevin Murphy. I think Tom Servo actually lives inside of him — or, rather, Tom Servo IS him. I once offered him cream for his coffee and without hesitating said, “I drink nothing that isn’t black as my sins.”

          • *he said

          • Whoops! I hope I don’t sound like I’m insulting any of your friends, then. I’m sure they’re nice guys. I doubt Mike would work with anyone who wasn’t. Working with them must have been great. I know I’d love it.

            I think some of my favorite episodes are probably Mike’s, but way back when a friend of mine first “circulated the tapes” my way, those episodes were all Joel’s. “Fugitive Alien” and “Catalina Caper” were my first exposure. I caught a few shows with Mike when they were originally broadcast, and I had no idea what happened to Joel or why Crow sounded funny. It wasn’t until they started coming out on DVD that I really got into him. For me, the toughest one to get my head around was Weinstein’s Servo, only because the episodes were pretty rare, and the writing was still a bit slow. Once I discovered Cinematic Titanic, and was able to get more comfortable with Weinstein, the first season episodes started clicking with me.

            It seems like they’re all still friendly with each other, apart from maybe Mallon. And they all seem as dedicated to the fans as the fans are to them. I hope if Joel puts out the call, he extends it to everyone. (Plus, I can’t find out anything about Paul Chaplin; it would be nice to know he’s okay!)

            • Oh no worries! No insults at all (plus we’re not very close anymore). I hope for the same — get everyone involved who can be. If the format is online, maybe MST3K can just engulf CT and RT. I mean, RT already has the online player tech and a solid following.

              PS, totes watching Mixed-Up Zombies ep on Netflix right now!

  13. Really liked the show when I was a kid. Really interested in seeing where this goes.

  14. Really? Could this be any worse than the drivel that passes for comedy on TV now. There are a ton of unfunny shows with laugh tracks on them. Bring on MST3K.

  15. i will ask the question.why won`t the original hosts(joel or mike) work if they brought the show back?

    • Because Jim Mallon, who owns the rights to MST3K, and Joel Hodgson fought over the direction of the show. They aren’t the best of friends. Mike Nelson seems to have fallen off the face of the earth.

      • Check out RiffTrax.com, and you’ll see that Nelson has been pretty productive over the last few years. Not only far from falling off the face of the earth, but keeping Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett steadily employed as well.

  16. Let us not forget the devastation of the Flame Wars of ’93! The houses torn asunder, the fallen souls, and scorched earth. Whatever the outcome of this new potential venture, let us never forget that is it just a show and we should really just relax.