Watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 – The Return felt like being a nineties kid again and spacing out to the Sci-fi channel late at night, now spelled SyFy. Only this time I get Patton Oswalt,who has been showing up in so many shows I love these days, most of all Space Cop from RedLetterMedia —oh, can I rave on about their Nerd Crew YouTube series?
I love how MST3K has retained its movie theater format even though this is on Netflix, a service which has single-handedly changed the way we watch films and television. Netflix used to be a DVD rental service by mail, and it still is. But it’s become a method of streaming brand new releases to your home. It’s forced television networks to compete and alter their own delivery methods. SNL is even uploading entire episodes onto YouTube as soon as they air, including the musical performances.
Why am I talking about this while watching MST3K? Because this show was on before the internet came to commercial fruition. Smartphones were not a thing. DVDs were considered high-tech. MP3 players were not even a thing (I still own my Sony minidisc player). If you wanted to play video games with your friends you had to bring the entire console to their house and plug it into their television.
This MST3K reboot still makes references to “watching this on your TV”, and each episode is broken up in a way as if to make room for commercials, even though there are none.
MST3K represents a time in my own childhood where I woke up early in the morning to eat cocoa puffs, and watch cartoons and MTV music videos, and TV censored versions of The Shawshank Redemption or Back to the Future (which seemingly aired weekly). In the evenings I watched syndicated reruns of Cheers and The Cosby Show and the Sci-fi channel.
MST3K was that oddity that appeared after mom and the grandparents were asleep and I curled up on the living room floor with pillows and a blanket. And the glow of the console tube television showed me three silhouettes in a movie theater making commentary on bad movies. I hadn’t seen anything else like it. I didn’t realize you could laugh at a movie because I thought movies were a portal into another reality — now I was shown a reality within a reality.
And almost twenty years later, MST3K hasn’t missed a beat. They’re still incorporating old fashioned techniques with toy sized models, stop motion animation, and real movie sets. But the writing is current – “I’m gonna blow up this brand and sell it to Disney for a million dollars.” It also probably helps that the creators have kept themselves busy all these years with RiffTrax.
Familiar characters such as Crow and Tom Servo are still around, more remnants of an era where The Muppets were still relevant. Yes, I know they’re making movies, but The Muppet movies used to be commercially huge. MST3K was the result of many elements within kid’s shows and old school movie making techniques. It was fun commentary.
I’m not going to rewrite any of the jokes in this review because they wouldn’t land well out of context. I am going to say that if you haven’t seen the show before you might have to understand the era in which it came from first, especially if you’re young enough to not remember the nineties. This Netflix reboot is for the fans, truly. And it’s every bit as good as the original.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 – The Return is now available for streaming on Netflix.
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