Last Friday, Netflix premiered Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return (see “Trailer for 'MST3K' Reboot.”) The Return is how this new version of the show is officially being billed. But for hardcore fans of the show, like me, it’s really just Season 11 of a series which took an unexpected, unscheduled hiatus back in 1999.
Along with being a hardcore fan, I’m a longtime fan; When the series showed up on Comedy Central back in 1989, I caught a few minutes of it and can still remember my initial reaction; that it was the stupidest thing I had ever seen. But I’d catch the odd segment here and there, mostly because it always seemed to be on, and after about six months I finally “got it” and was hooked. But being a fan of MST3K wasn’t easy back before I got on the internet... I can still remember waiting for the announcement the network would pick it up for a second season. The same way I waited to hear if the Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy) would actually pick up the series when Comedy Central cancelled it.
Which, I suppose, helped prepare me for the twenty year wait between Seasons 10 and 11. Not that I was seriously waiting, I never honestly believed it would ever really come back; my suspension of disbelief just couldn’t stretch that far. When it did come back finally I faithfully promised myself that I would resist the urge to binge watch the whole thing all at once on Netflix., But all my steely resolve dissolved the moment I saw the new opening. Which was when I figured, I’m a man in his late 50s, and seeing as how tomorrow makes no promises, I had to ask myself; why, exactly, was I delaying gratification? So, over the course of 24 hours I watched the entire series, and almost immediately afterward, I began watching it again.
At the moment, we’re hip deep in revamps and revivals of movie, TV and toy franchises, fueled by brand name recognition, 90’s nostalgia and childhood memories, so it would be easy to dismiss MST3K: The Return as just one more However, the producers have managed to create a show for modern audiences that remains true to classic MST3K. Or, as the headline of a piece on the Gizmondo site put it, “The New ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ Is the Perfect Pop Culture Revival” It wasn’t just geek-centric sites like Gizmodo that raved about it, it got positive review from everyone from the L.A. Times to the New York Times to whoever’s writing reviews on Roger Ebert’s website; it even got 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Netflix will be making the show available throughout the English speaking world, making me wonder if the humor will be too “American” to do well in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.
Thanks to a brief run on the UK version of The Sci-Fi Channel, I knew it already had something of a cult following in Britain, but I was still startled when I saw headline on The Guardian, “Danny Baker: ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ nearly killed me’.” It was an interview where a British comedy writer and radio DJ was asked about what he considered to be “the funniest” in various categories (word, book, film, etc.). Under “funniest TV show” he answered “Mystery Science Theater 3000. The Jack Frost episode nearly killed me.”
While seeing what has been considered “just a cult show” for decades getting the recognition it so richly deserves is sincerely satisfying, I’m looking forward to finally seeing a licensed comic book almost as much as seeing new episodes of the show. I know one is in the works at Dark Horse (see “Dark Horse Partners with 'MST3K'”).YouTube, and Instagram.
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You’ve really got to admire the way Archie Comics has so quickly become adept at marketing the same set of their classic characters to different audiences. You have different signature “looks” for the Archie horror comics, the more realistic “New Riverdale” titles, one resembling the Riverdale TV show, and the familiar “classic” style is still being used in the Archie digests. According to a piece that appeared on the Comicbook website, “Classic Archie Gets a Riverdale Twist In New All-Ages Series From Dan Parent and Ty Templeton,” in July they’ll launch Your Pal, Archie a “classic” Archie comic that will have a slightly more modern look.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.