After writing about Satan for three weeks, it's time to write an article a little more light-hearted. Recently, it was announced that Mystery Science Theater 3000 has been picked up for another season on Netflix. Which just goes to show how the cult classic kicked ass after a historic Kickstarter campaign resurrected this series after an 18-year hiatus.
The new show is mostly well received, even though it features an all-new cast. However, there are some people out there that don't like this new iteration. Fair enough, you're entitled to your own opinion. However, I look at this new season in much the same way as I do the original series. The original MST3K ran for 10 years and, let's be honest, some of the early seasons were not that great. The show didn't really hit its stride until season 5. If you go back and watch the first season, it's almost painful to watch, with it's long stretches of silence, the horrible green-screening, and the flubbed lines. Jump ahead to the 5th season when showrunner Joel Hodgeson left and head writer Mike Nelson took over, there was yet another learning curve. It was less pronounced, but it was there. Mike Nelson whisper-shouting his riffs, the awful Invention Exchanges, and Tom and Crow finding a new dynamic with Mike.
So here we are, almost 20 decades later, a new cast. There are some blemishes that I think need to be worked out. You'll notice I didn't say "we" in that statement. This isn't a click bait article that collectively demands things. These are merely my own observations and opinions. If you don't agree, FIGHT ME (in the comments section).
So here are the things that I noticed about the last season, that I hope they fix up next season:
The Riffing Needs to Slow Down
Whereas the first season of the show had far too many quiet moments during the movie segments, Season 11 of MST3K suffers from the opposite. Jonah and the bots seem like they almost have too much to say. The riffing often talks over important plot dialogue. By trying to cam in as many jokes as possible, I think that it ruins the presentation. Also, some of the riffs are a little wordy. When it comes to comedy, the fewer words you can use between set-up and punchline the better.
Maybe it's because I'm getting old or something, but sometimes I have a hard time telling the difference between who is riffing. The voices of Jonah, Crow, and Tom Servo are kind of similar in cadence and delivery. It would be nice if their voices were more distinct. I'm not saying the voice actors should try and imitate previous iterations of the characters. However, they should be different enough that it is easier to tell them apart.
Bring Back Shorts
The big thing that was missing from MST3K this past season was the lack of short films. It was always delightful seeing them riff on old educational film reels from days gone by. This is such a missed opportunity, especially since they have three more decades worth of PSAs that they can draw from.
Felicia Day Needs To Stop Saying "Nightmare Fueled World" When Introducing a Movie
It's great to have a catchphrase, but one of the things that were great about the Mads in the past was the fact that they changed up how they introduced the movie. Unfortunately, Felicia Day, playing the character Kinga Forrester, always says something along the line of "Enjoy the nightmare fueled world of [Name of Movie]". It was cute the first few times, but after a while, it's a little tiresome. The writers and Felicia Day herself have much more comedic range than that, so I'm sure they can come up with something more creative.
A Shorter Opening Theme Song
This is a huge personal gripe of mine, especially since we're living in a day and age where you can skip intros to shows very easily. So I'm just whining about having to hit a button on my remote. However, long opening themes are so last century. Look at most popular shows and, if they even have an opening theme, it's usually pretty short. However, more often than not they are non-existent. The only shows that seem to hang onto the lengthy opening credit sequence are nostalgia shows.
Things I Hope Never Happen
Just because Mystery Science Theater 3000 hasn't been on the air for 18 years, it wasn't like the art of riffing was a lost art. Between Mike Nelson's Rifftrax and Joel Hodgeson's Cinematic Titanic, plus all the imitators out there, there has been a steady stream of riffing material out there that a lot of things have been tried, with various results. For me, these are the things that didn't really work out for me:
Sticking to a Particular Decade
This was one of the biggest gripes I had against Cinematic Titanic. All of their movies were made in the 1970s. Sure, there were plenty of garbage movies made in the 70s, but sticking to one particular decade just results in a lot of riffs that are era specific. Which is natural, but hearing the same types of jokes about a specific era every episode gets a little old. Change it up a little I say. Just like the shorts, there have been so many decades of bad cinema that hasn't been touched. The new iteration of MST3K also has the benefit of a huge glut of indie filmmakers that would trip over themselves to have their film savaged on MST3K.
Another pitfall of both Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax was when they revisited films that were previously riffed on MST3K. I don't need an alternate take on Manos: The Hands of Fate, or Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. It's previously trodden ground, and while you have a whole new cast and writing staff who can probably give a different take on these films, but I've seen the films themselves a billion times before. I want to see some more travesties of celluloid.
Don't Go Big Budget
This is something that is in Rifftrax's wheelhouse. For the longest time, they have done "commentary tracks" for popular Hollywood films. It's only been in recent years that they have been able to do Kickstarter campaigns to secure the rights of distributing their riffing with the movies in question. Riffing on Hollywood films just seems kind of hollow to me.
Diversify The Source Material
This was something that was less of a problem with MST3K, but with their competitors. In more recent years Elvira has attempted a few revivals where she dips her toe in movie riffing a little bit. Which is all well and good, however, her last oeuvre "13 Nights of Elvira" consisted of mostly Full Moon Pictures films. Which, don't get me wrong, they have a ton of shit movies, however, a lot of them fall into a similar theme. Doesn't matter if it's the Puppet Master, Killer Bong, or Gingerdead Man, a lot of their movies are about tiny things that kill people. Also, if you stick to a particular distributor, their "in-house" films all look the same. MST3K had a nice mix of poorly dubbed foreign films, 60's sci-fi, 80's horror, made-for-TV movies. It's a good model to have, and they should stick with it.