Hey guys, after nearly 20 years off the air, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is back. If you’re a true junky like me, you’ve probably been mainlining the new series since it premiered on Friday. And…really, only 14 episodes? *sigh*
Jonah Ray is very happy to be your new host. His lemon yellow jumpsuit matches the vibrancy of his energy as he mugs and preens for the audience in a way that shows just how excited he is to be part of the MST3K cast. Jonah’s hosting segments present a notable jump in energy from Joel Hodgson’s moderately depressed monotone hosting duties, or even from Mike Nelson’s frat boy slacker of attitude. Jonah knows you’re watching him host, and he’s always conscious of the fact that he has landed his dream job; which is a marked contrast from the in-show story of being trapped on the Satellite of Love.
And, yet, he works. He fits in with the new energetic feel of the show. The theme song, performed by the live Skeleton Crew, has a poppier ska beat to it. Felicia Day’s Kinga Forrester has a millennial new media energy that even infects her sidekick Patton Oswalt’s Max (TV’s Son of TV’s Frank). Most episodes have a new celebrity guest star, ranging from Pearl, Brain Guy and Bobo, to Jerry Seinfeld. And, Gypsy even plays a bigger part, coming down twice an episode to transfer a payload and make a comment before disappearing.
The biggest change is in the silhouettes. Now that the show is in full 16×9 widescreen, the movies are now presented across the whole screen and the silhouettes have been significantly shrunk now that they don’t have to compensate for CRT’s overscan. So, now we can watch the actual movie…
Which is just fine because they have a much better class of movies this year. For the most part. Some of them are directly connected to award-winning people! There’s Avalanche in which Rock Hudson* tries to woo his ex-wife, Golden Globe-winner Mia Farrow. The Time Travelers was lensed by future Oscar-winner Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters of the Third Kind). The infamous Star Wars knock-off Starcrash features future Oscar-winner Christopher Plummer and stars Marjoe Gortner, a former evangelist who was the subject of the Academy Award-winning documentary Marjoe. And, even The Land That Time Forgot was lensed by Alan Hume, who went on to be cinematographer for The Return of the Jedi.
Some of you come for the host segments, and they can be pretty inspired. Jonah imagining the origins of the Bigfoot fantasy Cry Wilderness is almost as inspired as the Mexican-inspired fashion show from The Beast of Hollow Mountain. But, I come for the riffing. If you want to know what was my experience watching Sunset Song, Jonah and the robots come close in trying to fill the voids left by the long thoughtful takes of beautiful nothingness in Starcrash.
Anyways, the new season is quite solid.
*Fun Fact: The bar in Rock Hudson’s resort is named The Mine Shaft, which was also the name of an infamous late ’70s/early ’80s gay leather bar he used to go to and that served as the inspiration for Cruising. You’ll see the sign behind him when he storms off after some guy tells him that his resort is at risk of creating an avalanche where people will die. That’s not a spoiler, because that’s in the goddamned title.