News

Riffing and Binging the New Mystery Science Theater 3000 with Series Creator Joel Hodgson, Stars Felicia Day and Jonah Ray

Five new things to look forward to and five classic MST3K features that haven't changed.

by | April 11, 2017 | Comments

Before there were YouTube reaction videos, before there were podcasts about bad movies, before there was live tweeting, there was Mystery Science Theater 3000, a fictionalized world in which mad scientists capture a janitor and force him to watch B movies in a dubious world-domination plot. The unlikely astronaut builds three robot companions, and the foursome endure the torment of terrible movies with humor, cracking wise (and corny) over particularly foul film-making.

To be fair, audience-participation films like The Rocky Horror Picture Show predate MST3K, but the series tackled 197 different movies. Now, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign and Netflix, creator Joel Hodgson brings Mystery Science Theater 3000 back with 14 new movies, a new human test subject (Jonah Ray), new baddies (Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt), and new robot voices: Hampton Yount as Crow T. Robot, Baron Vaughn as Tom Servo, and Rebecca Hanson as Gypsy.

Hodgson, Ray, and Day spoke with Rotten Tomatoes before the premiere of MST3K on Netflix. Here are five things to know about the season that are new to the revival, and five classic elements that haven’t changed.


1. NEW: THERE’S A NEW FORRESTER, HER NEW ASSISTANT, AND A NEW HOST

In the world of MST3K, forcing brave astronauts to watch bad movies was originally the brainchild of Dr. Clayton Forrester (Trace Beaulieu), with his henchman TV’s Frank (Frank Conniff). Now Forrester’s daughter Kinga (Day) has taken over the family legacy.

“She’s definitely, I think, trying to prove herself in a sense to her dad and live up to the family name,” Day said. “I think she has a lot of insecurities and those are expressed in her trying to be the most important, richest, and most powerful person in the universe, ruling over all media.”

Oswalt plays TV’s Son of TV’s Frank. Jonah Ray plays Jonah Heston, the third astronaut captured by the Forresters after Hodgson himself and Mike Nelson. Ray knows it’ll be hard for the fans because he gave Nelson a hard time too.

“When Mike took over, I was upset just because I was a nerd and I didn’t like change,” Ray said. “Now I can’t complain about the new host. It puts me in kind of an awkward position as a fan.”


2. SAME: THE MOVIES ARE STILL OBSCURE

The most famous movies tackled by MST3K may have been a few Godzillas and Diabolik, but Hodgson learned that the more obscure movies, like Mitchell or I Accuse My Parents, work best for riffing.

“My impression is MST works the opposite of Hollywood,” Hodgson said. “Basically the less you know about a movie, the better. That’s why we don’t try to promote what the movies are. It’s better if it’s a surprise.”


3. NEW: FRESH WRITERS BRING FRESH RIFFS

Hodgson said a lot of the new writers grew up as fans of the original series. That includes Ray, who is also a writer, and Day, who wrote on four episodes.

“I personally tried to shove as many gaming jokes as possible in the episodes,” Day said. “We’ll see if those made it in.”

Ray learned that sometimes you have to throw out your preconceived notions of what to say and just go with your gut.

“Just the idea of listening to the people that you’re with while watching them, listening to what they have,” Ray said. “Trusting your instincts and your first impulses. That joke that just pops out of your brain or mouth when you’re watching something, it might not be perfect, but there might be something to it.”


4. SAME: THE PROCESS IS A WELL-OILED MACHINE

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. First, the writers take the movie home and write jokes to submit to Hodgson. Then they watch it over and over with the writers to figure out 90-minutes worth of jokes.

“You can’t talk over the whole movie,” Ray said. “That was a big learning curve of learning how to squeeze riffs in the gaps in the movie.”

They also can’t let too much of the movie go by without saying something.

“All of us think we can sit in front of our TVs and make smartass comments to the screen, but when you really have to do it for the whole movie, you can’t skip any parts where you don’t have something,” Day said. “You really have to dig into your brain and be like, ‘What clever reference can I come up with here?’”

They also start with an abundance of riffs and cut it down.

“That comes in the rehearsal process,” Hodgson said. “It just gets too tight. We definitely overwrite it and then trim stuff back.”


5. NEW: THE RIFFS ARE FASTER

The new MST3K has more jokes per minute than ever before. You may even hear three jokes in as little as 10 seconds. Day feels streaming services have trained people to process jokes faster.

“I think that really reflects digital,” she said. “When you’re watching by yourself or on a smaller screen, the more jokes per minute the better.”

Ray feels there are so many jokes you can watch the episodes more than once. “For me, every time there’s a lot of jokes, it just makes me want to watch it again,” Ray said.


6. SAME: THEY STILL WARN THE MOVIES’ STARS ABOUT SNAKES

The new MST3K continues all the running jokes that fans loved to quote.

“If someone’s giving exposition and there’s a shot of someone just listening, you can always just [say], ‘Uh, uh-huh, oh yeah,’” Ray said. “Of course if anyone’s walking in a field, you just have to yell out, ‘Watch out for snakes.’ Sometimes it’s just so perfect to throw in a ‘Hi-keeba!’ when you can.”

When Jonah and the robots take a break from the movies, inventions and music are back too. Hodgson used to present the “Invention Exchange” at the beginning of each show, and it’s back by popular request.

“I didn’t have too strong an opinion about them,” Hodgson said. “People around me really liked them, so I decided to put them in.”

The hosts and bots would always perform original songs, and Ray has musical experience. He’s played in bands and in some of his stand-up.

“I’ve done bits that involve music a bit, but I was never really like a guitar comic or anything like that,” Ray said. “I would just make fun funny songs and perform them live here and there in sketches and stuff like that.”


7. NEW: MICROPHONE TECHNOLOGY MAKES IT SOUND BETTER

Basic recording technology has greatly improved since MST3K began. Late ’80s MST3K still used clunky microphones with cables. Just the invention of wireless microphones makes Jonah and the robots sound closer to the viewer.

“That gives you a level of intimacy, but you don’t want it to sound too intimate,” Hodgson said. “Jonah and the bots are not sitting next to you. They’re sitting about three or four feet in front of you. You have to dial that in with the microphones.”


8. SAME: IT’S STILL A FAMILY SHOW

MST3K used to have to adhere to broadcast standards. Now that it’s on Netflix, they could technically say whatever they want. However, Hodgson still wants families to be able to watch it together.

“I think what we look for is what we would call discreet adult humor,” Hodgson said. “We don’t use trigger words that would make a kid go, ‘What does that mean?’ and it would mean a parent would have to stop the video and explain an adult concept to a kid. Parents don’t mind talking about adult things with kids, but they may not want to do that watching a comedy show.”


9. NEW: NOW YOU CAN BINGE, BUT YOU SHOULDN’T

Thanks to Netflix, you’ll have access to all 14 episodes right away. The cast does not recommend binging.

“It’s a lot to take in at once,” Ray said. “People would end up feeling the same fatigue that our characters would. The Forrester legacy might actually come true if everyone tries to watch these all in a row.”

Day does encourage people to watch them out of order. “To have all of them go up at the same time, people can look at all the new movies and be like, ‘Oh, which ones do I want to watch first?’” Day said. “I have a preference for the old historical ones just as a viewer.”

Hodgson just hopes people take their time. “It took us so long to make them, I wouldn’t insist that people watch them right away,” Hodgson said. “Personally, I just want them to enjoy them at their own pace. It’s a lot.”


10. SAME: THERE ARE STILL “COMMERCIAL” BREAKS

There are no commercials on Netflix, but Hodgson still created interstitial “We’ll be right back” screens as if they were pausing for commercials.

“It’s a 90-minute show,” Hodgson said. “So if people say, ‘Man, I’m not going to watch 90 minutes. I’ll just watch up until the first interstitial, or the second.’ Also, in the context of the show, Kinga’s trying to blow up the brand. She uses those breaks to hype the show, reiterate what you’re watching, tell people about the things of interest in the show.”


Mystery Science Theater 3000 premieres April 14 on Netflix

Tag Cloud

kong Photos christmas movies ABC Signature comiccon scorecard child's play directors Pirates young adult Toys popular travel Sundance Food Network worst movies NBA Fox Searchlight cats Binge Guide quibi robots Musicals TNT Mystery Warner Bros. PBS pirates of the caribbean Trivia CMT target legend Pixar SundanceTV japanese Funimation true crime 2016 Year in Review Disney streaming service dragons E3 Star Wars golden globes Spring TV Holidays deadpool romantic comedy black CW Seed Biopics YouTube First Look dark slashers 2015 71st Emmy Awards AMC richard e. Grant Brie Larson universal monsters football new star wars movies feel good Superheroe Tokyo Olympics documentary Classic Film festival die hard Summer cancelled TV series witnail YouTube Red kids australia Comics on TV reviews Amazon Prime all-time king kong Universal serial killer vampires Academy Awards comics Christmas Television Critics Association Kids & Family Exclusive Video Discovery Channel USA Network TCA game show Grammys name the review dramedy scary movies Emmy Nominations First Reviews TV indiana jones dexter psychological thriller MTV VH1 73rd Emmy Awards dceu Sci-Fi book posters Amazon Studios composers El Rey Disney Plus anthology franchise Sneak Peek teaser Chilling Adventures of Sabrina IFC Heroines cops Writers Guild of America dc biography rt labs GLAAD Starz Valentine's Day Pop Fox News spinoff spain ABC Spike Opinion heist movie 4/20 Columbia Pictures Lionsgate WarnerMedia Superheroes Amazon 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards 99% classics breaking bad television adenture Ellie Kemper 90s movies concert Hulu medical drama biopic Winners period drama high school Anna Paquin know your critic lord of the rings TCA 2017 singing competition Country X-Men NYCC films Star Trek Song of Ice and Fire FX on Hulu DGA Turner Classic Movies Dark Horse Comics reboot Cannes doctor who Ghostbusters live action GIFs boxing The Purge Super Bowl BET Teen Hallmark Acorn TV crime thriller Lifetime golden globe awards game of thrones New York Comic Con Family natural history TIFF ghosts 1990s cars Pacific Islander romance Apple TV+ foreign women twilight international anime batman adaptation RT History Set visit wonder woman Captain marvel Emmys Mary poppins Trophy Talk trailers series royal family superhero OWN HBO Women's History Month movie space sequels criterion President Pride Month slasher strong female leads Stephen King BAFTA rt labs critics edition tv talk OneApp Box Office hollywood Nominations screenings Amazon Prime Video Ovation spanish language what to watch Disney+ Disney Plus hispanic Shudder Infographic new zealand Chernobyl marvel cinematic universe kaiju ratings japan sag awards Interview war chucky Walt Disney Pictures italian Awards Tour Mudbound WGN dogs YouTube Premium parents fresh stoner SDCC Thanksgiving award winner indie docudrama Arrowverse Red Carpet based on movie LGBTQ Marvel Studios 2021 DC Universe A24 stand-up comedy Peacock streaming Netflix Christmas movies remakes Horror Elton John Wes Anderson godzilla The CW 93rd Oscars free movies Broadway mutant Apple blockbusters zero dark thirty rom-coms docuseries TV Land Paramount Plus Winter TV adventure supernatural diversity Polls and Games mcc TBS BBC documentaries mockumentary Creative Arts Emmys TCA Winter 2020 comic book movies Television Academy ABC Family USA zombie 24 frames Trailer BBC One sitcom telelvision crime Masterpiece Cosplay renewed TV shows spy thriller Vudu gangster critics new york Cartoon Network king arthur VICE Spectrum Originals saw San Diego Comic-Con Film Festival unscripted halloween tv Esquire The Walking Dead canceled TV shows CNN Tomatazos 2019 Comic Book comic books Travel Channel PlayStation Comedy Central TCM Paramount revenge science fiction prank 45 Crunchyroll CBS All Access Bravo rt archives Martial Arts jamie lee curtis FXX best binge nfl TLC Tumblr jurassic park Black History Month mission: impossible Marvel Television rotten joker CBS children's TV E! Fantasy Holiday canceled PaleyFest Mary Poppins Returns Nat Geo Podcast streaming movies cancelled television fast and furious Apple TV Plus Legendary Election green book 20th Century Fox cults spider-man discovery nbcuniversal video Mary Tyler Moore halloween DirecTV laika Countdown critic resources VOD IFC Films Netflix History casting aapi FX LGBT asian-american venice Avengers The Academy basketball Video Games politics Pop TV Marvel HBO Go latino GoT werewolf crossover Shondaland stop motion justice league The Witch Disney Awards aliens cooking harry potter Baby Yoda Best and Worst razzies Marathons spanish miniseries Calendar Rocky Drama Tubi elevated horror HBO Max Showtime cinemax 2020 ITV 21st Century Fox rotten movies we love animated APB social media monster movies Western Hear Us Out American Society of Cinematographers ID thriller TruTV TCA Awards cancelled TV shows talk show SXSW crime drama Musical See It Skip It YA transformers Britbox DC streaming service Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt french Epix Freeform festivals BET Awards BBC America olympics Black Mirror Sundance Now technology video on demand disaster TV movies 2018 Schedule Lifetime Christmas movies sports Rom-Com hist zombies MSNBC emmy awards NBC comic toronto james bond Lucasfilm police drama Pet Sematary independent superman Disney Channel ESPN Comedy nature Character Guide Rock hidden camera 007 cartoon National Geographic comic book movie theme song debate blockbuster Endgame The Arrangement Syfy obituary 72 Emmy Awards Music boxoffice TV renewals FOX archives Animation Turner Reality Competition finale sequel hispanic heritage month RT21 book adaptation Film comedies Alien The Walt Disney Company Action satire a nightmare on elm street Comic-Con@Home 2021 Sundance TV suspense TV One toy story A&E historical drama versus Image Comics psycho action-comedy 2017 Oscars political drama news Reality Crackle Premiere Dates Hallmark Christmas movies MCU ViacomCBS cancelled Extras Watching Series Quiz scene in color Rocketman worst Nickelodeon Tarantino south america facebook Mindy Kaling Logo screen actors guild marvel comics Paramount Network Adult Swim Sony Pictures blaxploitation DC Comics Fall TV Certified Fresh