We Kickstarter backers got to see the first episode on Sunday. I was quietly, warmly excited in the days leading up, confident that it would be something special. Sunday came, and KJ and I had lunch and sat down to watch the first fruits of our patronage.
We were not let down.
First off, the movie for the first episode was chosen well. It’s in color, the print and audio are good, the plot is basic and easy to follow, it’s got palpably bad effects and acting (that journalist, ugh) without being too painful to watch. All of this, I’d say, is good to keep the first-time viewer’s attention.
The intro exposition and new theme are mostly fun — I love how they went for a cinematic “showstopper” feel on the first part of the theme song. But the stop-action was jarring. Not bad, just jarring. The same when it occurred in the door sequence. That said, when I watched the second episode, it all looked fine, so no problem there. I do wish the “showstopper” part had been played up a bit more — one weakness of the show is it sometimes doesn’t press an idea all the way home — but all in all, two thumbs up.
I like Kinga’s “skeleton crew” and the opportunities it opens up. I liked they made sure to include musical and letters segments to let oldbies know those will continue and show new viewers what the show is capable of. My weird little brain also really likes the Circle Display Of Movie Torpedoes or whatever. Watching that fill up one slot at a time is going to be very satisfying. It also signals to the casual viewer, maybe someone who just sees a clip on Youtube, that hey, there are a lot more episodes to go looking for.
The new, “normal” voice of Gypsy is going to take some getting used to, especially if she follows her historical pattern of not saying much on average. I liked Jonah’s explanation that he hears music in the Midwestern woman’s voice, or whatever, although that tied in with another minor concern (see later).
The riffing is great. Just solid, old-school MST3K snark and alternate characterization and puns and references, although now the references are later to the point I get them fully. I enjoyed all the host segments as well, with the rap being a highlight. That’s what I come for first and foremost, riffs and movie and host segments, so don’t take my further concerns as anything major.
Kinga has two gears. Her lower gear, seen in that great little exchange with Max/TSoTF over what to call him, is good. Her higher gear will hopefully get toned down a little. I can kind of see what’s going on there — she acts overly dramatic because she thinks that’s what she’s supposed to do to be a proper Mad Scientist and get that sweet Disney deal. But I do hope it gets toned down. She’s got good chemistry with TV’s Son otherwise. And TV’s Son looks good in this episode. I think the cast is largely a winner.
It’s also a little odd to see the occasional flicker of self-awareness. Jonah explaining Gypsy’s radically altered voice was fine, and the Netflix namedrop was amusing. But one of the characters referring to the show by its title was, AFAIK, unprecedented and a little odd, as I said. I forget the other thing I wanted to bring up from this episode, but episode 2 has another, similar thing. It’s just odd to see the more aggressive direction of meta the show has opened up for itself.
Anyway, to sum up: Very funny, I like nearly all the changes, I like everything they kept the same, just a few corners to sand off. And this particular episode is going to be on my shortlist of favorites/bests.