Where have you been my whole life?
That was the predominant thought in my mind when I stumbled across the Netflix reboot of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (MST3K to its many fans). This was a series that ran for over ten years from 1988 to 1999 and pioneered the practice of riffing over bad films for comedic effect, that is, commenting and joking at the expense of the movie. The show follows a man trapped on the satellite of love alongside his robot companions, being forced to watch terrible movies in a bizarre experiment being conducted by evil scientists (aka “the Mads) on a moon base. I know what you’re thinking – that’s a pretty common setup for a show, right? It’s a tad strange, but it’s all part of the show’s charm. The handmade and low-budget aesthetic add further to the experience.
The rebooted MST3K was launched on April 14th of this year, following an extremely successful Kickstarter campagin which raised $5,764,229 with an additional $600,000 in backer add-ons. It was enough funding for fourteen episodes, which was particularly impressive since he started out hoping to make three. The rights alone are pretty costly, even for bad films, so costs add up quickly with a show like this.
Most of the show’s running time is made up of the film itself. The protagonists sit at the bottom of the screen in cinema-style seats, silhoutted against the movie, in the style of artwork from an Elton John song. Occasionally the cast take a break from the movie for a short segment like the “invention exchange” where Jonah (in the current iteration of the show) showcases new inventions with the Mads. In the newest season, the Mads are Kinga Forrester and TV’s Son of TV’s Frank (aka Max). We also get the odd musical interlude by the Skeleton Crew, assistants to the Mads.
If you’re a fan of movies that are so bad they’re good, this is the show for you. It’s particularly impressive as some of these films are just plain bad, but they manage to come up with enough material to make them interesting. Bad dubs. No lip sync. Terrible acting. Nonsensical plots. Just throw in the whole animal kingdom (no joke, an actual tactic) and BAM, you’ve got a movie. Check it out, and while you’re doing that, I’m going to journey back to 1988 and get started on the back catalogue of episodes.