Blu-ray Review: MST3K Season Eleven | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Mystery Science Theater 3000: Season Eleven

Studio: Shout! Factory

Apr 20, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

We’re neck-deep in a revival renaissance. (A reboot resurgence? A rush of returns?) It seems like every piece of ‘90s pop culture is being dug up from its grave and re-animated… to wildly mixed results. Your interest in any given resurrected property will, naturally, hinge entirely on how big a fan you were of the original show back in the day. If you’re reading this now, it’s probably a sure bet you’re a MSTie.

The cult of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a dedicated one. When the pitch for crowd funding to make an all-new season of the show – which had been off the air for almost two decades – appeared on Kickstarter, MSTies made sure the campaign broke records, and new episodes were suddenly a done deal. (And there was much rejoicing.) However, there was a smaller-but-not-insignificant portion of fans who approached the news with trepidation. Was there any way new MST3K could possibly be as good as original recipe MST3K?

Considering how often these TV reboots reveal characters or premises that haven’t aged well, or otherwise fail to capture whatever about the source material that embedded the series in our nostalgia centers, some cynicism is sensible. (There’s also the matter of this series’ original cast and crew being divided over involvement in the new show that didn’t sit well with some fans.) It was reassuring that the new series was in the hands of original host (and series creator) Joel Hodgson – fans had to just hold their breaths and hope that he could pull off the rare feat of a revival that would stand equally alongside its beloved predecessor.

If you’re still reading this, we’re guessing you binge-watched the episodes within the first few days of their release, and you already know that they knocked the new season out of the park. The creators behind MST3K’s next generation were wise to not dwell over the fact the show had been gone for so long. With relatively little set-up, we’re dropped back into the Satellite of Love with Gypsy, Crow, Tom Servo, and new, yellow-jumpsuited host Jonah (Jonah Ray.) They’re the unwilling test subjects of the mad scientist Dr. Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day), daughter of Clayton and grand-daughter of Pearl, and her assistant Max (Patton Oswalt), the son of TV’s Frank. They send them cheesy movies, the worst they can find, and… well, you know how it goes.

Amazingly, watching the fourteen new episodes of the revival’s first season, it feels as if Mystery Science Theater 3000 was never gone. (Some of the old characters, including Joel himself and the latter-era Mads, make cameo appearances.) The production value is much better, sure, but the puppets still look appropriately cheap. The host is new and the ‘bots voices are different, but if you made the survived the transition from Joel to Mike back in the day, then it’s nothing you haven’t adjusted to once before. There are quite a few appearances from big-name celebrity fans, but they don’t feel terribly out-of-place. Perhaps the most noticeable difference is that the show’s references are contemporary, rather than to ‘90s pop culture, and that’s not a bad thing for someone who wants to spend less time pausing the show to consult Annotated MST3K just to understand a particular joke.

So, you know the show is good. Now, is the box set worth picking up, even when you’ve binge-watched it all on Netflix already? Our verdict would be a resounding, not only because it’s the first MST3K filmed in high-enough quality to merit a full-blown Blu-ray release, but because the included, feature-length documentary is a must-see. The box set’s main bonus feature is We Brought Back MST3K, directed by Ballyhoo’s Daniel Griffith, which chronicles the new season’s production from the Kickstarter campaign up through its premiere. (If you’ve purchased any of Shout! Factory’s prior MST3K home video releases, you’re no doubt familiar with his documentary work, which appeared regularly on those sets – Griffith is the Ken Burns of b-moviedom, and we’re glad to see him stay involved in the show’s latest chapter.) If you want to see just how much love and care went into the show’s revival, there’s no better way to follow its road to your television screens.



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