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Does the New Mystery Science Theater 3000 Meet Expectations?

By  · Published on April 10th, 2017

The Satellite of Love is back in business.

Way way back in 2015, Matthew Monagle wrote a column about the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Kickstarter that was going on. Show creator Joel Hodgson had this crazy idea to bring the franchise back via crowdfunding and was asking fans of the franchise to donate. Monagle wrote that the original show held a special place for him. It made his dreary demeanor open up and he would bellow into laughter as he explains here:

That show made me laugh, big, whooping, ugly laughter that prevented me from ever watching the show in the presence of new acquaintances or adolescent crushes.

Even though he would be what we should call a “legacy fan”, he was uncomfortable with donating to the creator who had given him so much joy. The Kickstarter was asking for a ton of money, where if only $2 million was funded there would be three new episodes. Certainly, fans would take whatever they could get from the much-beloved show, but that would be only the tip of the iceberg. In order to get a whole season worth of episode, fans were being asked to shell out upwards of $5 million. This was especially troublesome after it was announced that Shout! Factory purchased the rights to the franchise. If they believed it was that lucrative of a franchise that they wanted to purchase the rights, why didn’t they believe there was enough money in bringing it back? Finally, if the Kickstarter was successful would MST3K be relevant in 2017?

Needless to say, the campaign to bring MST3K back ended up being a great success story. The show crushed its most sought after goals and ended up raising over $6 million. After Monagle covered the Kickstarter, the extended cast was announced including Jonah Ray, Hampton Yount, Baron Vaughn, Patton Oswalt, Felicia Day, and a plethora of exciting young talent and guest cameos. It is funny that Monagle would mention Netflix in his original piece because that is exactly the partner Hodgson would find in airing his MST3K revival.

So since that Kickstarter at the end of 2015 – the show has been reborn, found a new home with Netflix, got an exciting new cast, and somehow made their deadline. With the new season preparing to air shortly, Hodgson has to be super excited in how this endeavor has played out. Even if the final countdown in the Kickstarter was plagued with production problems, no such problems exist in the finished show. This is a high-grade production that makes the old MST3K really look like a relic in comparison. Even if the team of Ray, Yount, and Vaughn were extremely burnt out by the end of production. When they spoke to Nerdist, they explained some of the madness that went into that final push. They said,

“[We were doing] two movies a day,” recollects Yount, who voices Crow T. Robot in the renewed series. “Two a day, but you’re not watching it at movie speed, you’re watching it at production speed, which is like a 14-hour day.”

That is pretty intense especially when the movies they are watching are decidedly, well, not good.

*Spoilers for Experiment 1101 follow*

The new season of MST3K starts with off with a bang, as Jonah is introduced playing a set of drums. He quickly gets captured by the new mads played by Day and Oswalt, and then he his robot friends are sentenced to watch a crummy movie. The movie in particular is 1961’s Reptilicus, but that doesn’t matter as much as the chemistry and the show itself. The challenges of meeting Kickstarter needs are extremely apparent in this season premier.

Some things have certainly changed including featuring Gypsy more often and a flying Tom Servo, but mostly things are exactly how you remember them except bigger. The production has a big live band that is introduced at the beginning of the show and continues through the MST3K’s traditional commercial breaks. Yes, even though this show is on Netflix, the format of the show still calls for a break in the riffs. Then the issue with cameos comes into play as they show off some actors at the beginning of the episode. While they promised these moments in the Kickstarter, it is going to run a little thin by the end. Finally, there’s a musical number in the middle of the episode that didn’t work on me during the broadcast, but it is played again over the credits and it seems solid. It was a song written by Paul and Storm who did promise some new specials songs for the show during the campaign.

It is exciting to hear what pop culture references the writers have chosen to mine for the new season. Perhaps that is one of the things that kept some of the jokes from the older episodes from hitting their mark with me. The riffs are completely up-to-date with what is happening in the world today and even in the first episode, it looks like a lot of care was put into making this comedy show match the times. While MST3K isn’t the only show on the block doing movie riffs anymore, there are countless YouTube sites and past MST3K veterans who have their own projects, few will have the production quality and flair that MST3K can provide. Unless you don’t want to watch really bad old movies. Then you are out of luck since the show seems poised to continue the trend of digging up especially bad films from earlier eras.

The new season of MST3K has a lot of expectations to meet. Not only does it have to meet the expectations of the backers who donated money to see the show return, but even those fans who are discovering the series for the first time on Netflix and will be inspired to check out old episodes. It has to succeed on Netflix in order to secure another season, one that won’t have the commitment to a Kickstarter. Monagle did finally decide to part with his money and donate for the new season of MST3K. Hopefully, he is among many fans, old and new, that are pleased with what Joel Hodgson has brought to the table.

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News Writer/Columnist for Film School Rejects. It’s the Pictures Co-host. Bylines Playboy, ZAM, Paste Magazine and more.