It’s hard to pick out all the reasons I’ve been so much more excited for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 revival than for other, bigger things, like the Star Wars revival. It may be partly because they are bigger things, and I have the tendency to pass up bigger things because plenty of other people are already fanatically into them (see: Harry Potter). It’s undoubtedly partly because the other big things have been the Hobbit trilogy, when I wasn’t fond of the last two LotR movies to begin with, and the new Star Trek series, about which Paramount has yet to rise to the level of dull excitement and the first two reboot movies were not very good anyway.
But what about MST3K’s own qualities?
First off, it’s my kind of humor: looking around and making snarky, witty, or just goofy comments in reaction. Running gags. Just horsing around for the pleasure of it. That’s sort of the core of the show’s appeal for me.
Also, there’s the fantastic chemistry between the cast members. Everything clicks so well because everyone involved clicked with each other. After a while, it becomes a joy to watch them play off of each other even when the underlying idea isn’t all that amusing.
The show took its low budget and made it into an advantage; obviously your mileage will vary, but the props generally looked as charming as they did cheap, and there was enough showmanship on hand to allow everything to look professional. Basically, it looks like it’s cheap on purpose rather than through ineptitude.
It’s also a flexible format. A person and some puppet-robots make fun of a cheesy movie and do little skits, while one or more other people act mad-sciencey. Even if it might be difficult to recapture the feel of the original show, that’s not a hard format to follow. Whereas Star Wars has to continue a story that, for me, was pretty well wrapped up with the original trilogy. And both it and Star Trek have to conform to some basic rules to feel like part of their respective universes, and let’s face it, Trek hasn’t been doing so hot since First Contact at least.
And then there is the fanfiction, the MSTings. I was something of a MSTing junkie during the early aughts, despite knowing little about the show proper beyond a shareware episode guide, a few minutes of one episode (Invasion of the Giant Spiders or whatever, so I switched off pretty quickly), and vague cultural osmosis. That helped to encourage me to actually check out the real show on Hulu and elsewhere.
So I was interested to find a Kickstarter was going to happen to fund a new season, with Joel himself in the driver’s seat. Excited, even. We wound up contributing more than I care to admit. But why? With Star Wars, I looked at Pixar and Marvel and said, hey, Disney knows how to leave their creative sections alone to do their respective things. I bet the new Star Wars films will be just fine. With MST3K, well, I looked at the body of work and said: this is a guy I can trust to get it right. Joel ran a superb campaign. He got his message across, he (and certain committed backers) kept the excitement up, he parceled casting reveals out as the thirty days went along, and at the end he got not only a full season funded but two more episodes than he was aiming for. It was kind of a magical experience, especially at the end, with the big wrap stream with people performing and the look on Joel’s face when he heard the goal had been met and the connection cutting out to give that true low-budget experience.
All of this is to say that while MST3K isn’t the greatest show ever, and I don’t know if I would even put it on my list of very favoritest shows, it’s still a very special thing, and a good thing, and I like it a lot, and I have confidence that Joel Hodgson is the man to catch riff lightning in a bottle again. So I’m going to do reviews for the new episodes as I see them. They won’t be as in-depth as my Doctor Who reviews, some of them may be barely a few lines for all I know, but they’ll be there. I’ve already seen the first two episodes, and I’ll write their reviews up to drop tomorrow once Netflix flips the switch on them. Spoiler alert: my confidence in Joel and the crew is unshaken: this is gonna be a real good season.