We’ve Got Movie Sign: MST3K and the Stress of the Reboot

I discovered Mystery Science Theater 3000 in my teens, searching for music videos and finding instead what looked like a bootlegged movie with three guys in the front row blocking the shot.

Except, wait… it’s one guy, a gumball machine, and… a lacrosse stick?

Mtv did a lot of weird promotional shit back in the day, so I stuck around to see what the schtick was. I learned it was an existing show insiders called MST3K — more specifically, the Alien From L.A. episode (516) starring non-actress Kathy Ireland — making a special appearance as part of MTV Comedy Weekend. (I didn’t remember all of these details on my own, mind you. I had a few fragments and Google pieced them together.)

Soon, I was fully indoctrinated into MST3K Nation, sending postcards to the Info Club and finding episodes wherever I could in the pre-Internet world. Fawning over the Satellite of Love wasn’t a solitary experience in its 11-year run either. I had a group of friends who watched it together regularly in my twenties, including repeat-viewings of the 1996 feature film version and the sad-but-hilarious television finale, MST3K 1013: Danger: Diabolik in ’99.

Now, as the reboot approaches, I have all the joy and trepidation I assume comes with a loved one’s life being saved by a head transplant.

Netflix recently released a collection of 20 classic episodes in front of the new version’s premiere and that only heightened those feelings. I so want this new version to be great, and I don’t have any reason to think it won’t be, but what can I say — I’m a worrier.


Photo via Steve @ flickr

As I plow through the list on Netflix reveling in how obscure, esoteric, and ridiculous this show is, I love that the originals are still so damn funny while worrying the tone won’t fly today.

It’s not that it’s crass; in fact, part of MST3K’s allure is that it’s hilarious without being blue. But a big piece of what made it work was that it said out loud what we were thinking. Humor doesn’t have to include insult, but will the silhouetted banter be so watered-down by a fear of offending literally anyone that the jokes won’t land?

I guess on some level, I just don’t want to see my nerdiest memories threatened by newer and potentially lesser versions, and that’s something that’s been happening a lot lately. According to DenofGeeks.com there are currently 120 movie remakes alone in various stages of release right now, including The Crow, Ace Ventura, The Craft, Men in Black, and Memento.

So basically we’re rebooting the nineties? ‘MKay.

That said, anxiety be damned. Bring it on, I’m robot-ready for a new generation of MST3-snark, and I’m open-minded enough to consider a format change or two.

Plus, it’s a lot easier to find the media we love these days, even if it first aired in 1994. Kathy Ireland may not be happy about it, but I am.

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