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Rose-Colored Blinders And The Return Of MST3K
scifiMST3K (Mystery Science Theater 3000) spoke to and inspired so many in the online content creation field that it’d probably be easier to count who it HASN’T (including us as I’ve previously written about). It was one of the true under-the-radar shared experiences during the original ‘cable explosion’ of the early 90s and ran for 7 seasons…then Comedy Central cancelled it and we were sad.

It was rescued by the Sci-Fi channel, ran for 3 more seasons then was cancelled again…and we were sad. Efforts were made to bring it back again but this time it was final and time to move on.

Over time, new projects from some of the original creative crew tried to spiritually bring it back-some successful (Rifftrax), some…less so (The Film Crew, Cinematic Titanic, the cartoon).

Now, creator Joel Hodgson is bringing the show back using crowd-sourcing via Kickstarter with new performers & writing staff and I must admit…I’m not really looking forward to it for a few reasons:

1. No Mike, no sale

While I’ve always appreciated Joel creating the show and I got into it while he was host, I’ve always been more partial to Mike Nelson’s test subject and have always been aware that he was the driving force in the writing room…and the writing was always the real star of the show to me.


2. Raising the Titanic

As much as I tried to give Cinematic Titanic a fair shot, it never quite resonated with me. While it had its moments the whole never equalled the parts and while I realized the pacing was intentionally geared more towards early MST3K, it felt stagnant and dated to me….and that was Joel’s baby.


3. It’s redundant

While the host segments/skits were often wonderful and are sadly missed, they were always just the icing-the cake of the show was the movie-riffing…and Rifftrax has more than adequately taken that mantle for its own. In addition, their live-shows have actually enhanced the original concept and made the shared experience concept literal.


4. New money, same pockets?

Fans of the show know that royalties for MST3K-related personnel has been a touchy and tragic tale for almost two decades now, so if this was a joint venture involving the original creative staff as a way to get reimbursed for past digressions I’d be completely on board. But again, Joel is the only one involved and its curious that at almost the exact same time as this Kickstarter began Rifftrax started presenting MST3K eps with the following disclaimer:

“A significant share of the profits of all MST episodes sold on RiffTrax will be paid out directly to ALL the principal cast members of MST – Mike, Joel, Kevin, Bill, Mary Jo, Trace, Frank, Josh and Bridget. We feel it’s important that the original artists benefit directly from their awesome work.” Rifftrax Website

Again, this new version of the show feels like it only benefits Joel…which as a team player makes me wonder if his issues with Jim Mallon were simply the fact that HE wasn’t Jim Mallon. In addition, keep in mind that when Cinematic Titanic first started Mike Nelson extended an olive branch to Joel suggesting they create a light-hearted “rivalry” that would eventually lead to a crossover…which Joel refused.


5. Lackluster Casting

I have no issues with utilizing a new cast (since sadly I must admit I haven’t really found Joel particularly funny in the modern turkey day bumpers) and Patton Oswalt joining is unsurprising given the comic’s overt love of the show. However, the inclusion of Felicia Day feels less like an artistic choice than an obvious attempt to bring in the now coveted ‘millennial-geek’ demographic (in all fairness, similar to when Rifftrax had Veronica Belmont host a live show & join them on a riff)…but that is clearly just MY opinion and she could turn out to be just fine.

At the end of the day, I feel this is just a new IP using the MST3K brand for name recognition and given how quickly its meeting its financial goals, it seems to be working. Hardcore fans pining for more content from their favorite properties are unfortunately VERY easy to manipulate (and I say this as someone who was there at 12:01am May 19th 1999 to see STAR WARS EPISODE ONE). Sorry to sound so cynical but in an age where an entire generation inspired by the show has taken the concept and run with it (*koff*Live Nude Geeks*koff*), it feels odd to consider this a true successor to the legacy when the only link to the original is the creator who left the show less than 5 years into its 10-year run and not any of the others who helped make MST3K the treasure it is to the fan base.

I hope it turns out for the best, is funny and proves naysayers like myself wrong…but I’ve been burned by nostalgia exploitation too many times to be anything more than cautiously guarded about what we’ll be getting.

But then again, it’s just a show…maybe I should really just relax.


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Media manipulator-amateur analyst-professional smartass

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