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MST3K returns, nerds rejoice

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After an 18-year hiatus, a comedy megalith is back on the small screen riffing on horrible movies with the crowd-funded “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return.”

For those in the back who’ve never heard of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” (or MST3K), the basic format of the show is simple: a mad scientist traps a funny/snarky person and forces them to watch incredibly bad movies. In defiance of the scientist, the victim disassembles some vital equipment in his orbiting prison (the Satellite of Love) and creates two robot companions Tom Servo (Baron Vaughn) and Crow T. Robot (Hampton Yount) to assist him in making fun of the movies.

This time around the mad scientist is Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day) and her evil assistant TV’s Son of Frank (Patton Oswalt), both descendant of the original “mads” Dr. Clayton Forrester and TV’s Frank. Both Day and Oswalt were perfect casting and had the laughs rolling through my apartment during their segments.

In a fitting blend of new and old MST3K, the first movie riffed by the new crew is “Reptilicus,” a Dutch attempt to emulate the same old black and white kaiju movies of Joel’s formative years.

One interesting thing about this reboot’s format is how it deals with commercial breaks. The original format of the show leaned heavily on the fact it could use commercial breaks to give viewers a palate-cleanser to avoid joke overload or pure boredom from watching especially bad movies.

“The Return” simulates going to commercial as if one’s watching a late-night talk show, complete with a Patton Oswalt voiceover pretending to be a cheesy announcer telling you the show will be right back. Of course, this is Netflix, so the show immediately resumes.

Either this was a brilliant move on the show’s part to break up the comedy with these natural breaks where viewers can easily pause the show, or a simple leftover from the fact that “The Return” was a Kickstarter project that was aiming to be on broadcast television before Netflix picked up the show.

Of course that Kickstarter money (and the show’s massive reputation) means this series had the budget to offer some serious nerd street cred. Wil Wheaton, Erin Gray and Mark Hamill appear in bit parts throughout the series, as well as old MST3K actors returning as their characters. The pilot episode features an awesome song drafted by internet sensation Paul & Storm.

One bit of teething trouble in the pilot revolves around having too many cooks in the kitchen. It seems as if the writers are so eager to nail a new season of MST3K they wrote more jokes than one scene can possibly handle. Several scenes become muddled as Jonah, Tom and Crow all three shout out entirely separate jokes within a second of each other, leaving all three to hang in the air and die as the viewer must actively pick which one to pay attention to.

Muddled jokes aside, this new series funded entirely by a $5.7 million Kickstarter campaign is proving to be everything I’ve wanted out of a movie riffing series that imitators couldn’t provide.

Any halfway nerdy viewer will be struggling for air between laughing and geek freak-outs.

4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

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University of Southern Indiana's student publication
MST3K returns, nerds rejoice