EDIT: WELL DONE, FELLOW MSTies! WE HAVE 14 NEW EPISODES FOR WHICH THE WAIT WILL BE UNIMAGINABLY SHORT COMPARED TO THE WAIT FOR THIS CROWDFUNDED GREEN LIGHT!
Whatever happens to my favorite cowtown puppet show, it's no longer cowtown exclusive. At the end of a wonderful night of comedy clips, music from Paul and Storm, comedy from Dana Gold and magic from John Carney and Derek Hughes.
There are definitely going to be eight more episodes for a Season 11 that will be shot in a studio in LA with a bigger budget and all wide screen movies. My dearest fandom wish is that we get the remaining Gamera movies Gamera vs Jiger (has Cornjob as an inventor of a sub that goes inside Gamera!) and Gamera vs Viras (also has a submarine! and boy scouts and that weird yellow force field from the kids' flashback you've seen!) We MSTies need closure.
Mystery Science Theater has been an archive of childhood nostalgia to three generations of people for twenty years now. Baby boomers saw it bring a new life to overlooked drive-in horror films and even the childhood family “classic” Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Generation Xers watched it late at night in celebration of being grownups without a curfew back from house parties or putting off studying for high school and college exams. Millennials found it in their tween and teen years either as it was getting canceled on Comedy Central or premiering on the Sci Fi Channel, right as we were outgrowing Sesame Street muppets and were ready for the puppets in our shows to say snarky things and introduce us to grownup life.
I’m in the youngest of these groups, and my discovery story is a fun one. It was 1994 and I was 10 years old. At elementary school recess, I saw two boys in the grade above me running back and forth behind the swings on the school playground and screaming. I am fairly certain I missed the “MOVIE SIGN!” and just heard, “AHHHHHH!!!!” as they dodged swinging kids and headed for a blue bench that was never in use by anyone but them. I asked them why they were screaming.
Boys: “We’re playing Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
Me: “Ooh, I like all three of those things. What's the mystery? How do I play?"
And they were puzzled because they weren't sure what the mystery was either.
Boys: "It's a TV show.... I guess SOME of the movies are mysteries? Anyway, we're robots. You can be the human. We're watching a movie and making fun of it."
Me: “Great! What’s the movie?”
Boy 1 to Boy 2: “Give her an easy one. You’ve seen Godzilla right? Just pretend the monsters are invading Japan and tell jokes about it…”
We riffed an imaginary movie and it became clear I was doing it wrong because I had no clue what I was supposed to pretend I was seeing from the bench next to the swings. They told me to go home and study after school and I could play with them again tomorrow if I did my recess homework.
Being the bright little overachiever I am, I went home and caught The Mystery Science Theater Hour : Gamera Vs Guiron on Comedy Central. It had the host sketch with the robots taking lunch boxes to school like they go to school and need food, so I could totally relate from my elementary school experience of watching the kids with packed lunches skip to the front of the lunch line to just buy juice, and the sketch after that also made me really think about how lunch works and if I should be eating all the things I liked to eat. Then there were rubber monsters in the movie and I was hooked completely. There were puppets, lots of bright colors, we got a break during the movie to talk about the movie in a way that my family never did when we watched movies. I had just started film school education out of elementary school and didn’t even know it. I just knew I wanted to be friends with kids who told jokes and liked acting out movies.
The next day I demanded to play a female human host, NOT Gypsy, but had no problem with pretending to be Joel as long as they agreed to call me Sam(antha). (Like, Samantha Stevens, the mom on Bewitched. The guys continued to be Crow and Servo except for when they wanted to be characters from Mary Tyler Moore Show visiting on the Hexfield View Screen instead. “Servo” LOVED to imitate Ted Baxter.
Me: “So do you want me to be Mary now? Coz I’m seen that show but she mostly talks to Mr. Grant. “Ohhh Mr. Grant! She wails, right?”
Boy “Crow”: “No, still be Sam. You’re not supposed to like Ted though, that’s the same.”
The game was a heady rush and unexpectedly I found myself cast as a rebel by the recess monitors for running too close to the swings because the adults thought we were actually dumb enough to want to get kicked in the head between the SOL bridge and the theater. One of the guys became my boyfriend for a year and went to my Mystery Science Theater themed birthday party when my mom drew Joel and the bots on my cake in icing.
The show remains a sort of litmus test for friendship for me, because if people I meet like that show, they probably appreciate good comedy and want to talk about the stories they’ve seen. If they can get beyond just listing what they like and will tell me also why they like it, we’ll probably get along pretty well. If they also absorbed the tone of the show to joke around and write jokes of their own, we’re friends for life. I’ve always sought out friends who are culturally curious, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a powerful bait for anachronistic cultural curiosity.
It will be interesting to see what more recent pop culture trends are archived within the next version of MST3K. If you somehow missed the news, new actors Jonah Ray, Felicia Day, Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn are going to pass the torch that is movie riffing from Baby Boomers on to a Millennial generation of writers and performers, but hopefully the old cast will be back as cameo appearances of their characters from the original series. It would be really cool to see Brain Guy “Brian” the Observer interacting with both Pearl and Dr. Forrester’s daughter.