I said back in the first installment of Finally Watched that occasionally I would review a series that I’ve wanted to see for years. Well, tonight I have the opportunity, at least in part. Not having income means not having pay-to-watch streaming services like Netflix available to me. So naturally they keep getting a lot of cool geek shows. Peacock isn’t going to do that and Disney only covers Marvel and Star Wars. Hulu got The Orville but that’s the only one I can think of over there beyond their list of older shows. One of those shows was the relaunch of Mystery Science Theater 3000, with new victim Jonah joining Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot, GPC (the rename of Gypsy to avoid insulting people who may not even watch the show because of the word’s history), and Cambot. The new Mads, Kinga Forrester and Max, are continuing the family tradition of trying to find the worse movie ever that will somehow lead to world domination.
I caught a break however when a bit of insomnia led me to learn that IFC has been airing the early seasons weekly along with broadcasts of the original Comedy Central and Sci-Fi Channel episodes, and that some of the return’s shows were available on demand. However, it only goes as far back as “the gauntlet”.
My theory is that this is a riff on Netflix’s insistence on releasing a full season of a show at the same time rather than weekly or even daily. Mother’s Basement has a good video going over why basically creating the binge culture is bad for discourse and keeping a show a discussion topic, but you can watch that at your leisure. I’m not a fan of it either but I did watch the first three episodes of the Gauntlet to at least give a proper review by post time.
In the new series Jonah is some kind of space pilot who was captured by Kinga, Max, and their various minions and trapped through their moonbase, Moon 13, and sent into a new Satellite Of Love. Not having seen the first episode I don’t how Tom, Crow, GPC, Cambot, and the two other robots that act as extra Satellite crew ended up in this situation or if they’re even the same ones from the original series. What I do know is that the show pretty much picks up where it left off in the riffing movies department. Since this is in the second season of the Netflix show the new cast has had time to get into their roles. Joel Hodgeson is back, but only as the voice of the guy sending the movies to the Satellite, now basically flushing the movie up there…which seems appropriate given the movies they get sent. Otherwise, Hodgeson is only the producer, but did bring back the “invention exchange”, a gimmick from his old stand-up comedy routine, which was dropped when he left the show because it wasn’t Mike Nelson’s style of comedy and couldn’t capture the same magic.
As far as the replacement cast, they aren’t too bad. They’re not the same actor from that time they did a livestream riff of one of the original MST3K episodes. (It’s actually still up there.) That used the different actors from the tour. GPC had a different vocal performer in the stream than in the show but Rebecca Hanson does a good job, and now she gets to add a couple of jokes…which I’m not sure about. Near the start of the movie she drops off one of the new bots, makes a joke and leaves. Then near the end of the movie she picks the bot back up again after making another joke. I have no problem with her joining in (now coming from the ceiling rather than the floor) but either have her there or don’t.
This was also my first time hearing Hampton Yount, as Crow and Baron Vaughn as Tom. I wasn’t sure about Vaughn since Kevin Murphy has been the voice of Tom since almost the beginning but both do a good job with their characters without trying to imitate their predecessors. If anything I like GPC’s voice better now.
Then you have the brand new cast. Jonah Ray plays Jonah Heston, following Joel’s path of changing his last name for his MST3K character while Mike just used his real name. He has a better relationship with the bots than Mike did but not quite as close as Joel, since Joel created them and all. Hanson doubles as “Synthia”, a clone of Pearl that was taking care of Kinga while she ran around after Mike and the bots during the Sci-Fi Channel season. I didn’t see much of her but she actually has to attempt to imitate Mary Jo Pehl’s Pearl and does every well. At first I wasn’t sure it wasn’t the same actress though I know from the livestream she was a clone. As for Kinga, Felicia Day really seems to be enjoying playing her and she makes for a good mad scientist, at least in these three episodes. Max, handled well by Patton Oswald, is the son of TV’s Frank, the more beloved of Clayton’s sidekicks. Apparently they’re just in it for the fun and “profit” rather than world domination, which gives them a different motivation from Clayton’s world conquest and Pearl’s revenge. In total it’s a good cast.
I should probably talk about the three movies I saw from the gauntlet. Mac & Me was so boring and nonsensical that even with the riffing I had to pause the video for a moment to remind myself better things exists…like going to the bathroom. It’s a bit too mainstream to expect in an MST3K riff though. Atlantic Rim I kind of wanted to see with morbid curiosity and it lived down to my expectations. It’s an Asylum movie so what would you expect? Lords Of The Deep is a plot looking for sense and just finding cliches and aliens who want to make all our lives better by joining them…and this is considered a good thing. It’s like the aliens from the Body Snatchers franchise being the heroes. I haven’t seen The Day Time Ended, Killer Fish, or Atol The Fighting Eagle but the first one is already on the DVR (it’s the episode I found during the aforementioned insomnia), the other is scheduled for next week, and I’m assuming the third will come after that, though all three are available on demand…though not in HD so for the other three it didn’t take up the full screen. Also IFC doesn’t quite place the commercials properly with the transition to and from the theater, but since this was designed for Netflix there are no ads. It makes the outside segments during the show feel like they’re just there because they were in the original show, despite those being for actual commercial breaks. They also seem to be opening rooms instead of just a vault hallway. I’m not sure if that works for me or not.
Overall it looks like the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a proud continuation of the franchise, and it’s nice to be able to same that. Having the same creator probably helps. I hope I get to see more of these episodes beyond what’s scheduled. It’s a worthy successor.