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Review: New Mystery Science Theater 3000 does right by original cult comedy

Turn down your lights and get ready for the robot roll-call, a new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is now available on Netflix.

The 11th season is truly a love letter to the original, but also brings freshness to the B-movie sci-fi setup that's sure to reel in a new generation of fans.

It's been almost 20 years since MST3K went off the air. It started in 1988 and wound its way through 10 seasons and three networks before finding a new home on Netflix.

After a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $5 million, MST3K is back with 14 episodes, a worthy cast and more terrible movies to riff on.

The reboot follows Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day) and her henchman Max, aka TV's Son of TV's Frank (Patton Oswalt), as they revive the infamous experiment started 29 years ago by her father Dr. Forrester. How many bad movies does it take for a person to go mad? Test subject Jonah Heston (Jonah Ray) is about to find out.

Jonah, a space pilot for the Gizmonic Institute, gets trapped on the dark side of the moon and is confined to the Satellite of Love with his robot pals Gypsy (Rebecca Hanson), Tom Servo (Baron Vaughn) and Crow T. Robot (Hampton Yount).

Kinga chose some seriously tortuous films over the course of 14 episodes, so Jonah and his robots band together to continuously snark on these movies to fend off lunacy.

So, it's the same premise as the original with a few fun twists.

The revival of Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a pure fan endeavor, and with that comes some hefty expectations. Will the new episodes be too much like the classic show? What about too different? Will it satisfy die-hard fans of the original while also bringing in a younger crowd?

We can only say so much about the two episodes provided to critics. Part of the fun of MST3K was the not knowing what awful movie would fill the screen next, and the folks behind the new series want to continue that spoiler-free environment. The priviledge of preview came with a hard-core gag order.

What we can say is that the new series deftly brings the cheap, cheesy comedy of the original with an HD quality and witty punchlines about life in the 21st century (think cell phones, online dating and Twitter).

And while some may scoff at the idea of shooting a TV show in 2017 using cheap-looking set decor and puppets, it's a breath of fresh air to see a show with so few computer-generated images.

It made this critic's heart warm to see the strings holding up spaceship models flying through the outer space diorama. Oh, the '90s.

The pilot (we can't reveal the title, but it involves a large, gross reptilian monster wreaking havoc on not-Tokyo) may not make it to a Top 10 list of MST3K episodes, but it's a great callback to the original and a good introduction for fresh fans.

For lovers of the original, the new series is a big deal. They've been demanding a revival of the cult comedy for more than two decades and have given their time and money to see it happen - some high-live Kickstarter backers got early access to the first episode.

Expectations are as high as the dark side of the moon, but from one longtime fan to others: The not-too-distant future is now and we've got movie sign.

Contact Chelsea Tatham at [email protected] Follow @chelseatatham.


Watch

New episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are now available on Netflix.

 

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