In late 1988, a new show debuted on KTMA, a small public access cable channel in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro.
“Mystery Science Theater 3000” (“MST3K” from here on out), featured a hapless janitor (Joel Hodgson), getting trapped on a space ship by two mad scientists (Trace Beaulieau and J. Elvis Weinstein) and being forced to watch bad movies with two robots (Beaulieau and Weinstein). The show’s concept was something that hadn’t been done before. It was a new product in the ever-changing landscape of television.
After being canceled by KTMA after one season, the show happened to find Comedy Central (The Comedy Channel back then), and lasted for seven seasons plus a movie along with a host change (Hodgson to Michael J. Nelson) before being cancelled again.
Then, it moved to Sci-Fi for three more seasons with a mostly new core cast and the show sped up about 40 years into the future (2037 from 1997) before being cancelled in 1999.
The cast members moved on to different projects, and the show looked to be gone forever until just recently.
It was in December 2015 that Hodgson launched a Kickstarter to bring back “MST3K.” The campaign was very successful, earning far over its top goal, thus securing the funding to make 14 new episodes and hire several big names including Jonah Ray, Felecia Day and Patton Oswalt.
The filming process began and 16 months later the new “MST3K” dropped on Netflix on April 14.
The new show is about the same as the original. A hapless janitor (Ray) has been trapped on a spaceship by two mad scientists (Day and Oswalt) and is being forced to watch bad movies with two robots (Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn).
Other than that, there are only a few minor differences, most of them coming from Kinga Forrester’s (Day) plot to revive “MST3K,” the experiment that was “very successful for her family.”
Whereas the old show wasn’t very conscious of its world and wasn’t breaking the fourth wall very often, this new version does it all the time. It’s almost like you’re watching a reality show as if the characters were real live people.
There’s now a house band of skeleton people, a clone of Kinga’s grandmother Pearl (Mary Jo Pehl) and even a channel for them called “Moon 13 The Moon” Oswalt announces during each break in the episode where commercial breaks would have started in the old show.
Each episode also starts with a cold open before Ray is sucked into the “theme show trap” that requires him to preform each theme song “live in-person” for each show.
I find this new cold open to be rather useful, as I’ve always been someone who’s enjoyed watching a little bit of the episode first before the theme song plays.
Lastly, I’d like to mention how awesome these new cast members are.
Ray and the bots are so perfectly played it’s like the show never truly went away. To me, that’s a good thing. Day and Oswalt are delightful as the new Mads, and the skeleton crew walks around so creepily that they make quite the nice addition.
“MST3K: The Return” is currently streaming on Netflix.