Comedy Central (ended 1999)
And... it's back!

Thanks to a vigorous Kickstarter campaign (all of the contributors who are listed at the end credits), MST3K is back as Mystery Science Theater: The Return. And this time it's personal!

For those familiar with the original series, the basic setup is the same. An evil scientist and her hapless sidekick are tormenting a jumpsuited space guy from Gizmonic Institute by forcing him to watch really bad movies. Fortunately, with the help of two robots, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, our human guy will keep his sanity by the three of them riffing on the movies. About every thirty minutes the guy and his robots will do some kind of skit or routine to entertain themselves and the audience.

Of course, with theKickstarter campaign and some behind-the-scenes politics, things are a tad bit different. This time it's Jonah Ray as Jonah Heston, the jumpsuited guy. The scientist in charge of the project is Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day), the daughter of Dr. Forrester who performed the original experiments. And if she's the daughter, that makes her the granddaughter of Pearl Forrester, who took over when MST3K moved to SyFy Channel.


Kinga's new hapless assistant is Max (Patton Oswalt), aka TV's Son of TV's Frank, Dr. Forrester's main assistant. They have a staff of boneheads (i.e., guys in skull costumes) because, hey, bigger budget.


Tom and Crow are pretty much the same as before, although their voices have changed yet again. The transitions to the theater, involving numbered doors opening and closing, have been big-budgeted and cleaned up a bit as well.


Judging from the first movie, the movies are just as bad. MST3K starts off with Reptilicus, a 1961 gem which involves a giant puppet-monster unleashed on the hapless city of Denmark. A cast of Dutch unknown actors (at least unknown to American audiences), led by the "funny" Dirch Passer, will battle the monster which spits acidic green slime and regenerates. A lot. The army is afraid to blow it up because then the little Reptilicus bits will regenerate into big Reptilicuses. Or Reptilicusi. Or something. Even though the first one was created under relatively controlled nutrient feeds.


In fairness, it looks like the 1961 producers spent a lot of money on the film. There are scenes of the Dutch navy (all one ship) sailing around attacking the monster. Even if they seem to mix it in with what Jonah comments looks like footage from the Suez Canal attack.


There are scenes of extras running through the streets of Copenhagen and plunging off of a drawbridge, and lots and lots of destruction. So much so that one suspects that they either filmed an actual building fire or snuck in some World War II bombing footage.

Dirch Passer? He seems to be the Don Knotts of Denmark, or maybe the Jethro Clampett. He wears bib overalls for some reason and engages in "humor" like sticking his hand into a tank with an electrical eel and then jumping around like he's been electrocuted. The Dutch have a strange sense of humor, at least in 1961.


The concept of a giant Dutch monster leads us to the best of the segments, which involve Jonah and the bots rapping a song about how every country in the world has a monster. In fact, it's so catchy a tune that they play it over the end credits. The episode ends with the "tag" beloved of MST3K fans where they feature a brief bit at the end with arguably the worst scene in the movie. Sure enough, it's Mr. Passer dancing around after being electrocuted by an eel.


As much as there's a back story to the host segments, it's established in the opening sequence. Which features guest stars Erin Gray (??) and Wil Wheaton sitting at the command center at Gizmonic Institute expressing their undying admiration for Jonah before he disappears off of their sensors when he goes to the dark side of the moon to investigate Kinga's fake distress signal meant to lure him to her Satellite of Love.

I'm not sure if Gray and Wheaton are here to "prove" the show's geek credentials. Or they were the high payers in the Kickstarter campaign and won cameos. Or what. Their appearance is a bit awkward, to say the least.


The entire thing is pretty low-key. Felicia and Patton barely make an impression, and once they're in the theater, Jonah and the bots riff on the movie. Same old, same old. It's a bit like the original KTMA episodes, in that there are long stretches where they don't say anything and let the bad movie speak for itself. They also tend to "anticipate" the scenes a bit that they're riffing on. So work on the timing, guys.

There's not a lot of changes. The opening lyrics are a bit different. Gypsy now has a Midwest accent and drops into the theater from time to time to pick up and drop off a file cabinet (??). So yay, I guess.

Oh, and Tom can now fly (but just in the theater). This basically means that he can fly up to the screen and interact with the onscreen activities to humorous effect.


There's also a weird bit with the return of the invention exchange. Jonah does it with a bubble hand fan (isn't that already a thing?) but the Mads don't. I'm not sure if that's supposed to signify something, since Joel Hodgson was the big invention guy and Mike Nelson wasn't. So when they switched from Joel to Mike, they pretty quickly dropped the exchange Maybe it signifies some kind of representation of the war between the two factions.


We also get some of the old classics (There's a "He tampered in God's domain" tossed in), and some new ones. Like a long riff on Carvel ice cream. Anyone remember Patton Oswald's "Crusty the Whale" stand-up routine? No. Oh well. (see below)

Overall, if you handled the switchover from Joel to Mike, or Comedy Central to SyFy, you can handle the "new" MsST3K. It's still three guys (and a lot of writers) riffing on really bad movies.

And if any of this bothers you, just repeat to yourself "It's just a show," you should really just relax. :)

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?

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If you don't get the Tom Carvel ice cream joke, check here, starting at the 0:58 mark.


9 Comments
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Apr 21, 2017
So you refer to Denmark as a "city" and repeatedly refer to it as a "Dutch" country, when Dutch is the adjective for the Netherlands. Basic Journalism 101? This site sucks, and it used to be awesome

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Apr 21, 2017
Thanks!

However, I'm not a journalist, and not affiliated with TV.com.

Basic Journalism 101?
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Apr 22, 2017
So your point is this site has gone to hell and this is what passes for content?
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Apr 22, 2017
No. That seems to be your point, as you were the one who said it. If you check the posts above...

Basic Reading 101?
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Apr 18, 2017
With Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt on board, it certainly deserves time to find the rhythm. One big problem- too much budget can sink this kind of show. TikiBar TV was just fine until someone dumped a bag of $$ on it.
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Apr 18, 2017
I wanted to like it. I listen to Jonah Ray and Chris Hardwick on the Nerdist Podcast talk about how great MST3K is, but I just can't really get into it. You got Jonah Ray he's funny plus Wil Wheaton, Patton Oswalt and Felicia Day.
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Apr 18, 2017
Wil Wheaton didn't do much one way or another, and Oswalt and Day aren't listed as writers;. The episode didn't really give the new Mads much to do.
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