In the not-too-distant future/ Next Sunday, A.D./ There was a guy named Joel/ Not too different from you or me.
For the uninitiated, those lyrics are from the opening theme to Mystery Science Theater 3000 (referred to by fans as MST3K), the beloved Generation X television show that ran on-and-off from 1988-1999. It had a simple set-up with a hapless hero Joel (played by series creator Joel Hodgson) forced by mad scientists to watch (and mock) terrible movies with his two robot friends Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo aboard a spaceship called the Satellite of Love.
While Hodgson departed from the show in 1994 due to creative differences (replaced by new host Mike J. Nelson), his fondness for his pet project never withered, and after nearly two decades he decided to resurrect the property. This led to a crowdfunding effort in 2015 to revive his iconic series. And while the MST3K panel at San Diego’s 2016 Comic-Con updated fans on the progress, it didn’t give all the details away. But we now have a pretty good idea of what to expect when the series returns later this year. With that in mind, let’s look at the 15 biggest reasons you should be getting pumped for the revival.
15. Joel Hodgson Is Calling The Shots
When a beloved media property is being resurrected, it’s usually the cynics who react the loudest: This will suck. It won’t be as good. They’re just doing it to make money. Why can’t they leave it be?! The sheer nostalgia factor from MST3K is huge, and no one wants to see the show’s memory tainted. With Hodgson at the helm, it’s still a mom-and-pop operation, and that helps to alleviate anxieties.
The fact that it’s happening with Hodgson behind the wheel is a pretty big deal. That’s because Hodgson left MST3K after feuding with original series producer Jim Mallon. This resulted in plenty of bad blood and Mallon holding most of the rights. But the rights have now reverted back to Hodgson and that’s a good thing, folks. We can’t guarantee 100% how it will compare to the original, but from the cast to set design, this is Joel’s baby and his level of quality control should be apparent.
14. It’s The Most Successfully Crowdfunded Video Project (Ever)
If you need further proof that the MST3K revival is a big deal, look no further than its crowdfunding campaign. It set a new record for fundraising, raising over $6.3 million, with $5,764,229 from its Kickstarter campaign alone and an additional $600,000 from online merchandise sales. That adds up to over 47,000 generously passionate fans (aka, MSTies).
This exceeded Hodgson’s original goal of 12 episodes: the first season will now consist of 14 new episodes, including a holiday special. This not only shows the interest from its fanbase, it also means the show will be fan-driven, with creative control from Hodgson. This lack of corporate interference is a welcome change from previous conflicts during the original series runs on Comedy Central and Sci-Fi Channel, which hurt cast and crew morale. The fact that beloved cult classic home video custodians Shout! Factory will handle the show’s distribution is further proof that things are in very good hands.
13. The Theme Song Remains (Mostly) The Same
It’s impossible to think of Mystery Science Theater 3000 without immediately hearing their ear worm of a theme song running in your head. Wisely, the theme will remain intact thanks to original composer Charlie Erickson, but Hodgson noted at Comic Con that it would be updated with a contemporary sound. Likewise, the more ethereal instrumental closing theme is also returning in an updated form.
MST3K was one of the last shows with a theme that wasn’t only catchy, but with lyrics that fully explained the show’s premise, so that even a first-time viewer could get up to speed. In other words, it’s an indispensable part of the show, one that would be sorely missed if not included. And while there will surely be some old-time fans bummed that the song won’t be exactly like its wonky 90’s incarnation, to quote the theme itself: “Just repeat to yourself, it’s just a show/ I should really just relax.”
12. Jonah Ray Will Rock As The New Host
While some fans may balk at there being a new host of MST3K, it’s not without precedent. Those same fans complained when Mike J. Nelson first replaced Hodgson. But Nelson eventually won his own legion of fans, and now both are mostly equally revered for their specific comedic talents and personalities.
In his executive role, Hodgson knows that to attract a new generation, the show needs a younger face, which lead him to cast comedian Jonah Ray. While Ray may not a household name, he has a strong pedigree that makes him uniquely suited for the role, writing for other snarky institutions like The Soup and Web Soup, performing on The Sarah Silverman Show and @Midnight, as well as co-hosting the standup series The Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail and appearing on The Nerdist Podcast.
In other words, he’s a geek movie aficionado clearly influenced by MST3K. And fans got a taste for his movie riffing gifts during his appearance at the Rifftrax Live: MST3K Reunion Show. This proved an excellent trial-by-fire for fans to see how he fit in seamlessly with the veterans, offering witty jabs in an relaxed style that is essential for the role. He passes the sniff test.
11. Elliot Kalan is Head Writer
Kalan is a huge get for MST3K. The former head writer for Jon Stewart’s tenure with The Daily Show is ideally and uniquely suited to helming scripting duties. An Emmy award winner lauded for his scalpel-sharp satire of American politics, he has the required skill set for employing the kind of snappy rapid-fire banter that’s perfect for riffing on amazingly bad movies.
Not only that, but he’s no newbie to goofing on bargain basement cinema: his work on The Flop House podcast is noted for hilariously dissecting what makes a movie suck, and he’s also appeared in the zine I Love Bad Movies, which might as well be the motto for MST3K. In other words, he’s a master of barbed wit, weaned on the show that will now bear his influence. Jonah and the Bots should have no shortage of belly-laugh-inducing punch lines on hand for whatever awful film comes their way.
10. MST3K deserves credit for inspiring modern pop culture snarky commentary
For the uninitiated modern fan of geek culture snark, MTS3K is deserving of respect, even from those who’ve never seen an episode. Joel Hodgson’s series pioneered the art of snarky meta humor that has immersed modern-day pop culture. That whole “ironic deconstruction of a bad movie, simultaneously mocking it and admiring it at the same time” thing? They were doing it way before it was cool. Way before it was even recognized as a new method of comedy.
But Mystery Science Theater 3000 made it cool. The whole live-Tweeting phenomenon? Hodgson and co. pioneered it. The whole kitschy phenomenon of making cute plush toys of horror movie characters? The cosplay explosion? Bloggers goofing on vintage decor, or horrible album covers, the weird minute trivia peddled on Geeks Who Drink? Everything on Adult Swim? The very concept of hate-watching? That whole pop culture dissecting/referencing mindset originated with Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the mind of Joel Hodgson. It was internet culture in a pre-Internet culture. You’re welcome!
9. There Are So Many New Movies To Goof On
Seriously. It’s been 17 years since MTS3K departed the airwaves, and there have been a ton of bad movies released in the interim. From noted blockbuster stinkers like Green Lantern and Divergent, to 2002’s indie turd The Room or SYFY original films. Not to mention recently discovered older oddities like Miami Connection, Turkish Star Wars, Roar, andDangerous Men. There’s a lot of uncharted territory to be explored.
Sure, some of those films have been featured on Rifftrax and the like, but MST3K is its own unique animal. Doesn’t the thought of seeing a crap classic like Troll II getting eviscerated by Jonah and the Bots bring a big dumb smile to your face? And who says MST3K must only be limited to riffing on films? Given the show’s pronounced influence on Internet culture, it seems only natural to poke fun at cyberspace as well. There are plenty of weird YouTube clips and online ephemera that would make great pre-movie fodder.
8. A Crash Course In Best Worst Movies
MST3K is like a film class about those movies that really shouldn’t exist, but are bizarrely enriching because they are so wretched and strange. It’s a treasure trove of weird oddities that were cast out from humanity, yet dragged back kicking and screaming for our amusement and horror. Films like Joe Don Baker as the world’s worst police detective in Mitchell, or the excruciatingly mesmerizing Manos: The Hands of Fate (a horror film with all the tension of a Drivers Ed video) are introduced to viewers. Not to mention Werewolf, Laserblast, Daddy-O, Soultaker and a ton of Roger Corman films.
These are gifts from the bad movie gods that MST3K unleashed upon the world, launching mini cult followings in the process. It even feels somehow appropriate that notorious filmmaker Michael Bay would get sued for ripping off MST3K favorite Parts: The Clonus Horror for his box-office dud The Island. So if you’re up for a crash film course in movies that veer from the boringly hypnotic to the transfixingly unhinged, you’re in for a treat.
7. It’ll Expose New Fans To The Original Series
The best hope for any sequel, prequel, or reboot is that it inspires viewers to check out the original. While the vast majority of viewers to the Netflix MST3K series will be fans of the old show, it’ll need some new converts to stay afloat. And once they get hooked and finish the 14 episodes… now what? Well, with a nearly a decade of programming, there’s a lot of magical lunacy to catch up on.
Be forewarned: once you get sucked down the MST3K wormhole, you’re there for life. But rather than feeling trapped on the Satellite of Love, you’ll never want to leave! Why would you want to? With nearly a decade worth of movie riffing mayhem, there is a seemingly endless amount of content for you to consume in the form of DVD box sets or to (more on this in a minute) add to your Netflix queue. Being able to watch new and old MST3K episodes in a binge watch blitzkrieg will make your life all the more satisfying.
6. It’s On Netflix
When news of the MST3K revival spread, elation gave way to concern: how will the show be delivered? Would it be online only? Straight to DVD? Require a subscription to some obscure region specific cable company? Well a sigh of relief washed over the Internet when it was announced its home will be Netflix, the most popular and easily accessible streaming service. As long as you live in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or the U.K., you’re all set.
Not only will this allow for binge-watching, it’ll sidestep all the commercial breaks that broke the momentum when the show aired on Comedy Central (back when it was called The Comedy Channel) and The Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy). And there’s another bonus: Netflix will likely get the rights to air many old episodes as well. This is a welcome return, as they used to air on the streaming service until the rights expired. In other words, there will be a whole lot of MST3K to watch, and that is a very good thing indeed.
5. Felicia Day
Day is a beloved figure in 21st century pop culture, so her involvement is a major coup for the revival. Affectionately called “queen of the geeks,” she has major geek cred from her performances on series like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Supernatural, and has shown off her comedic chops in projects like Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog and her acclaimed web-series The Guild.
With her YouTube channel boasting 1.3 million viewers and counting, she’s a formidable media presence who will prove a huge draw for the new series. As for her role? She’ll play mad scientist Kinga Forrester, descendant of original series baddie Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu), who will be in charge of picking the horrible movies Ray and the bots will be forced to watch. Between Day, Ray, and another cast-member to be revealed further up the countdown, we have a trifecta of new blood that perfectly fit the show’s quirky aesthetic.
4. Joel McHale and Dan Harmon Are Involved
If there’s anyone who knows how to goof on horrific pop culture, it’s Joel McHale. He mocked the worst in reality TV and talk shows for twelve seasons on the The Soup, so he will fit in perfectly for riffing on lousy movies. In addition, he’ll also be appearing on the show. While details are vague on whether it’s merely a cameo or a larger part, he’s a welcome addition to the team. The fact that The Soup began life as Talk Soup, a show directly inspired by MST3K, is a wonderful bit of serendipity.
And he’s bringing a friend: writer Dan Harmon, head writer for Community, the cult classic comedy series (which also starred McHale) that was filled with geek culture references. He also knows his way around weird sci-fi comedy thanks to his Adult Swim series Rick and Morty. Harmon’s ability to create memorable, well-rounded characters while sneaking in tons of meta-jokes that genre fans eat up like candy could take the proceedings to a more sophisticated layer of storytelling than ever attempted before in the series.
3. The Bots are Back!
Although the show has a new host, venerable robot sidekicks Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo will be returning to the Satellite of Love to keep him company. Which is great, because it’s impossible to imagine the show without them. Having two robots who learn about Earth culture through terrible movies is just a fantastic concept, and their sweet-natured yet sarcastic style gave the show an extra-special dimension. But they’ll be a little different this time around, with new voices to match a new host.
Hampton Yount will voice Crow, while Baron Vaughn takes on the role of Servo. The duo are a pair of young comedians vetted by Ray and approved by Hodgson. While this will take some getting used to for longtime fans, both Crow and Servo changed voices over the original run. So this changing of the bot guard feels appropriate, allowing for repartee that will feel both new, familiar. And it will also be interesting to see if there are any upgrades to the bots’ iconic character design, which will be overseen by prop designer Guy Davis (Pacific Rim, The Strain).
2. Bill Corbett , Kevin Murphy and Mary Jo Pehl Are Returning, Along With Some Big Guest Stars
Anytime you revive a beloved cult classic, there are concerns from die-hard fans: will the revival taint its legacy? Will the threat of nostalgia make any new iteration a letdown? While this new iteration must exist on its own merits, it must give the source material its due. Wisely, Hodgson realizes this, and has added some connective tissue: original cast members Mary Jo Pehl, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy are all returning. They’ll be reprising the villainous characters they established during MST3K’s run on the Sci-Fi Channel from 1997-99 (Pearl Forrester, Brain Guy, and Professor Bobo, respectively).
Corbett and Pehl will also write for the series, providing a sense of continuity that should aid the new writing talent in keeping a consistent tone with the original. But wait, there’s more! MST3K will have some big guest stars too: Hodgson’s mentor and friend Jerry Seinfeld will make a cameo, along with Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill. This will add a sense of star-power and scope that will bring MST3K to an even wider audience than before. Plus it leaves the door open for cameos from other former members. The possibilities are endless. Hopefully Hodgson himself will show up at some point.
1. Patton Oswalt
Oswalt is the most high-profile star to join the revival cast (minus the Seinfeld and Hamill cameos), and his casting was a big part of the Kickstarter campaign’s success. He has a role perfectly suited for him as well. He’ll be playing the son of TVs Frank, the bumbling cohort to Dr. Forrester on the original series (played by the silver-haired Frank Conniff). This means he will be the evil minion for Day’s Dr. Klinga Forrester, which should make for an inspired comedic pairing.
In addition to performing, he’ll be yet another creative force in the show, and his infinite knowledge of all wonderful things geeky will surely lead to some hilarious highlights. On a more sobering note, Oswalt’s recent loss of his wife has led to an outpouring of sympathy from his fans. Seeing him immersed in this role will earn him some extra well-deserved adoration. He’s the perfect ambassador to usher in this latest iteration of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and we can’t wait to see him in his element.
Well, we hope this gets you excited for the upcoming Mystery Science Theater 3000 revival! Now all we have to do is wait. There’s no official release date, save Netflix’s quote from the theme song: In the not-too-distant future. So are you excited for MST3K’s return? Let us know in the comments.
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