First, a little bit of background. Way back when the Kickstarter campaign started and the thought of bringing back MST3K was first tossed about, some expressed concern that the new show was going to try and be an extension of the old tried and true format with characters that were going to be VERY hard to replace.
When Joel announced the characters and the actors that were going to play them, the concern grew. It would be hard to continue with the existing line-up of Crow, Servo, Forrester, Frank, and the rest given the impact the original players left when the show ended in 1999. Since then, the internet, Netflix, Shout Factory, and others have kept the memory of this cherished show alive and well. With that, the original characters, their mannerisms and personalities, were etched into our collective consciousness. It’s like when they switched Darren’s on Bewitched. You can’t just switch Darren’s!
In the 2000’s, we were treated to an MST3K-like show called Incognito Cinema Warriors. This show featured a man trapped by a mad scientist, four robots, and has to watch bad movies. The premise behind it is that the main character, Rick Wolf, was a SWAT team member during a zombie apocalypse. His crew is wiped out and he has to take refuge in an abandoned drive-in movie theater occupied by Dr. Blackwood, who allows them to stay there if they watch a movie a day. Dr. Blackwood claims he wants Rick to view the films so he might monitor his reactions and admits he lifted the idea from “some low-budget cable show back in 1999.”
The way ICW did it was the right way. That is, they followed the format of MST3K but introduced an entirely new backstory with new characters and new robots. This was the hope of some for the new MST3K because it would just be too hard to get die hard fans of the original to accept an entirely new cast playing their beloved characters.
Finally, April 14th arrived and we saw the new episodes. Let me say that as a die hard fan of the original, I was very pleased. The new cast seemed to work well, especially the robots, and the background characters (like Kinga’s Skeleton Crew) were an awesome addition. Joel seemed to have found robot voice actors (Baron Vaughn – Tom Servo, and Hampton Yount – Crow T. Robot) that not only sound like the originals, they enunciate and deliver the riffs with the same timing, inflection, and enthusiasm.
The more episodes I watched, the more comfortable I became with ‘strangers’ trying to fill some pretty big boots. The show flows like the original, riffs like the original, and is just as funny as the original.
One of my favorite things was to listen to references and riffs used in the original show. For example, when a character named Paul had his name called in “Cry Wilderness,” the riff was, “I really enjoyed your letter to the Corinthians.” This of course paid homage to a Season 10 favorite “Werewolf.” Sadly, they left out any references to Debbie.
The bots have changed physically. For instance, Tom Servo has longer arms and can fly, although only in the theater. Crow now has enormous hands and arms, much unlike his original Wallace Leisure Product desk lamp arms. Gypsy is now connected to the ceiling and actually makes appearances in the theater to assist in some riffs.
Others have returned for cameo’s including Bill Corbett (Brain Guy), Kevin Murphy (Bobo), and Mary Jo Pehl (Pearl Forrester). Alumni also join in behind the scenes like Beth ‘Beez’ McKeever and Paul Chaplin.
With the increased agility of the ‘bots, additional puppeteers were needed. There are now three per robot. However, the result is less than stellar. It really makes you appreciate the job Kevin and Trace (later Bill) did with their robots. As an example, watch an original MST3K and pay careful attention to crow’s eye and mouth movements.
I don’t think I need to update my robots to match the NEW season of the show, as the spirit and popularity of the original still lives strong. But the reboot will certainly win new fans and even convert some old ones… Like me.
There are only a couple of things I would offer advice on regarding the new “season” of the show:
- – Some of the riffing is delivered so quickly that the voices overlap, making hard to sometimes decipher or fully appreciate the riff because you have to listen closely and carefully as another person is making another fast-talking riff right on top of the other. Maybe slow it down a little and not try to fit so many riffs on one line, just pick the best and go with it.
- – The host segments seem a little weak… comparatively. This may just be a time and comfortability thing. I know the original MST3K had host segments that sometimes seemed ‘phoned-in’, but there were a lot of them that shined. Off the top of my head I think of Time Chasers where the host segments had Crow traveling back in time to save Mike from getting on the Satellite of Love but it all backfires, or Werewolf (I don’t know, you saw him last… Badumtish), or Manos: The Hands of Fate.
Speaking of my ‘bots, be sure and visit our booth at Phoenix Comicon this Memorial Day weekend. We’ve got prints, Amigurumi, buttons, stickers, and more. Heck, just come by and challenge my knowledge of MST3K or compare notes.