Why Mystery Science Theater 3000 Should Not Return

Believe me, I am a fan. This show has weaved itself in and out of my life since its days on the “Comedy Channel.” I wasn’t big on Strangers with Candy or Kids in the Hall. For me, Comedy Central in its first decade was all about South Park and Mystery Science Theater 3000. As a kid, the show struck me as not only incredibly silly and accessible, but also as something sophisticated. For me, it was my first real example of “adult humor.” Not adult in the South Park way, but in the sense that so many of the jokes went over my head.  The jokes were either funny observations of something ridiculous on screen, or a reference that went way over my head as a child. Revisiting the show as an adult not only brings back the nostalgic memories of that delightful set, funny robots, and goofy mad scientists, but it also deepens my appreciation for the writers. The jokes are smart, varied, and cover a wide range of topics. It is also, obviously, steeped in 90s cultures, with many references likely slipping by younger fans that have discovered the show through YouTube. Age test: If you catch the reference to MCI when a character makes a phone call, you know what I’m talking about.

That being said, it seems that the obvious conclusion would be for me to donate daily to the fund raising campaign, started by MST3K creator Joel Hodgson, to bring back the show. My initial reaction was surprise. I thought it might happen, but I could not believe it was true. My second reaction was a resounding “NO.” I am not surprised that Joel wants to bring the show back, but what did surprise me was the overwhelming support this campaign seems to have drawn.

From what I have seen, I appear to be completely in the minority on this one. I do not want the show to come back. Before any animosity is flung my way like a small present from Professor Bobo, let me explain my reasoning.

Let’s start with the superficial reasons. At the time of this writing, a few new cast members have been announced. Not surprisingly, none of the original cast has signed on to return. Yes, Joel Hodgson is helming this return, but at this stage it appears that even he will not be seen on camera. Therefore we have new mads, a new victim on the Satellite of Love, and new voices for the bots. Of course I’ll be the first to admit, new characters and voices are not a problem for this show. The last few seasons looked nothing like the first few, and I strongly believe MST3K never jumped the shark. I love Joel episodes. I love Mike episodes. I love Dr. Forrester episodes. I love Pearl episodes. However, a new cast for the show after some fifteen years of being off the air seems too jarring and unnecessary.

My second reason acts more of an indictment of pop culture and the community that loves this show. Why are film and TV enthusiasts so adamantly against and so vocally opposed to the barrage of reboots and remakes in film over the past several years so blindly willing to give this a pass? Despite the fact that it is marketed to us as a “return,” let’s call it what it is: a MST3K reboot. To me, this is another example of a relic that worked perfectly in its own Sitz im Leben, which is now being dragged into our often, but not always, modern-era of creativity-devoid entertainment.

Tying into this point is my third and final argument. Why can we not allow great entertainment of the past to stay in the past? It’s not as if this gem of a show was cut short in its early days. MST3K enjoyed ten seasons of nearly 200 episodes on three networks, a feature length film, a complete cast change, the honor of being one of the most popular cult-T.V shows of all time, and ended its run with a proper final episode. Nothing in that list of accomplishments suggests that the show was cheated out of potential or cut short. Just because the show was bookended with a beginning and a definitive end does not diminish its impact or worth. Nostalgia has been wildly popular in the pop culture conscience for several years. One reason for that, I believe, is that those of us who love this kind of stuff are starved for truly great new material, thus we look back to the past. Of course, people of my generation are getting older and we, like previous generations, like to reminisce and swear adamantly that our stuff was better.

I may or may not watch the reboot of MST3K when it happens. Honestly, I have not decided. I suppose that if I was 100% committed to my principles, I would not. However, morbid curiosity may win the day. In the meantime, I will simply wish Joel the best of luck and continue to enjoy classic episodes of the show while I continue to find new forms of zany, creative, and joy-filled entertainment.

Am I way off here? Respond below or feel free to email me at fromthedeskandshelf@gmail.com



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1 Response to Why Mystery Science Theater 3000 Should Not Return

  1. Ah, I understand your view, but as we haven’t seen what the new show will be like, I say give it a chance. Otherwise we’ll never know.

    Maybe it’ll be funny and we’ll all love it. Maybe it’ll be funny but the jokes will play better with a younger audience than the original MSTies. Maybe it’ll stink the place out. If the latter, it can be left to wither, die and be rightly forgotten.

    Whatever, we will still have the originals to amuse us.

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