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MST3K - Return to the Satellite of Love

By Amanda Rossenrode

Change is hard to accept. When you love something, it is hard to suffer its loss and realize that while a new beginning will never be the same, you might learn to accept it. Sort of like when your parents get divorced. Its hard to deal with the immense impact that sort of change has on your life. It’s even harder when your mom gets an account and starts making you go out to dinner with her and “Jerry”, who is just so obviously the head vampire in your local vampire pack. It’s even harder when no one will believe you, especially the cops who picked you up in front of Jerry’s house wearing a garlic tuxedo and carrying a super soaker filled with Mountain Dew (when 7-11 doesn’t carry holy water you have to improvise).

I have been a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 since the late nineties, back when I was still too naive to get a better part of the jokes. You can locate MSTies in the wild by shouting out “Chief!” to which they will unerringly reply “McCloud,” in a Manchurian Candidate -esque way, despite their comprehension of the gag’s original source material. If you tell them too watch out for snakes, they will not actually check the area around them for serpents. Only a fool does that.  They will yell, “Surprise! Happy Birthday!” and then you will know you have met an excellent human being, one worthy of sharing your ham with.

So, when it was announced that Netflix would be releasing a new season of Mystery Science Theater, I was excited. My excitement was somewhat ebbed by the news that none of the original actors would be reprising their roles. Exactly what type of roadside gypsy witch did Mike, Kevin, Bill and Joel piss off? Mike, Kevin and Bill have continued the tradition of making fun of bad movies with the off-brand MST3K Film Crew series and more recently the gut-bustingly funny RiffTrax, which gives them the golden opportunity to riff contemporary films without all those pesky copyright issues. Their riff of Twilight is the funniest thing I have seen since that time my sister fell down the escalator at the mall. It was the up escalator, so she just kept falling for about a half an hour before security stepped in.

So, the question remained: did we need another MST3K when RiffTrax was adequately doing its job of making fun of sparkly vampire movies? Well, a reluctant yes. You see, it is nearly impossible to convince even a staunch MST3K fan that the RiffTrax process isn’t cumbersome. You do have to purchase an audio file, have possession of either a DVD or streaming option of the film and synch up the dialog. You do have to figure out how to level the audio so that the commentary isn’t playing quietly on your computer across the room while The Matrix is shouting in your face.  Like the perfect bowl of Frosted Flakes, it’s worth it when you get the ratio right and does require a bit of work, but there are a lot of impatient Gogurt eating fools in this world.

It is also important to remember that Generation X, smug bastards that you are, did not invent the concept of making fun of movies. Charles Penworth did in 1953. Everyone was shocked and he was asked to leave the theater after making a fart noise during Citizen Kane. He was duly proved to be a communist and blacklisted after a lengthy hearing. That said, it is important to give the next generation a chance to enjoy a series we loved without forcing them to watch twenty-year old jokes about a pop-culture that is as foreign to them as jokes about McCarthyism. As much as I love Mike and Joel and the fact that robots never age, the kids might raise an eyebrow or even feel pity that overshadows the levity of these middle aged men doomed to an eternity in space making cracks at their precious Drakes and Coachellas.

So, I watched the first episode, prepared to be righteously indignant. I was looking for feelings of violence. I was looking for a torrent of emotion that could set my fingers afire on the forums of pop culture! To my utter disappointment, it didn’t ruin my childhood. Not even a little bit. I had already dialed my therapist and had to awkwardly pretend it was a pocket dial. It was embarrassing.

In the end, it very much keeps the spirit of the first. The transition between twenty years was as uneventful as the transition between Joel and Mike. It even took me a minute to realize that the Bots were voiced by different actors. Jonah is an affable, mild-mannered dork, just like his predecessors, and the first episode was as good as many of the mid-to upper tier original episodes. It was no Pod People or Manos Hands of Fate, but it was better than some of the more boring ones I can’t recall the names of.  The jokes are a little rapid fire, not giving you the opportunity to absorb the fine original story-telling in Reptilicus, a minor flaw. Patton Oswald –one of the more underused funny guys out there today –plays TV’s Son of TV’s Frank. His presence in the project is reassuring and rather delightful. It makes it feel like a loving project by nerds for nerds rather than a quick cash grab by executives like nostalgia sucking vampires (ala Fuller House).

So, maybe this town is big enough for all of them. The original series is legendary and a big part of many fans’ lives. I will not die in peace before I see Mike Nelson and the ex-Bots riff J-Lo’s The Boy Next Door. And no one under 40 gets Adam-12 jokes. Some might prefer an occasional Hayden Christensen joke thrown in with their 1959 movie about giant rabbits from outer space.

With that I must leave you, as “Jerry” is escorting my mother to a potluck at the 55-and-over community he lives in. Which undoubtedly proves that he is at least several centuries old and is sacrificing my mother to the Dark Lord. If I call you tonight, it’s for bail money!

Seriously dude, pick up your phone.

Amanda RossenrodeComment