“Mystery Science Theater 3000” is back again — sort of. Three of the stars of the show — Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett — will, according to Zap2it, migrate over to National Geographic. There, they will riff not on old, shoddy movies, but more manageable and less time-consuming junk, like episodes of “Honey Badger,” “Swamp Men” and “Alpha Dog.”
It will stick to the general format of “MST3K,” which ran for 11 years in the 1980s and ’90s, first on cable access in the Twin Cities area, then on Comedy Central, then, finally, on the Sci-Fi Channel. Since the show’s death, the former members of the group have splintered off onto their own “MST3K”-ish outfits. Nelson, who hosted from 1993 to 1999, does RiffTrax while Joel Hodgson, who manned the Satellite of Love from 1988 to 1993, has Cinematic Titanic (which last year went on “indefinite hiatus).
The show launches on April 1, which is more than enough time to reignite the debate over whether “MST3K” did/do more ill than good. Chris Fujiwara’s legendarily scathing (and only slightly humorless) takedown of the show charges that they create in viewers a superiority to old material, which one can note when sometimes watching classic movies with snickering boneheads. (Certain Film Forum attendees, we’re looking at you: You are, if anything, inferior to Douglas Sirk.)
On the other is the position that they’re attitude is much more complex and that they essentially do the job of archivists, exposing masses (well, some of them) to forgotten cinema. (Even if you have to ignore the chatter. A few of the films they did — Mario Bava’s “Danger: Diabolik,” Saul Bass’ “Phase IV” — are actually quite good and don’t belong being lumped in with, say, “Arizona Werewolf” or “Warriors of the Lost World.”)
But yeah, it’s good to have the “MST3K” back on TV, even if that means technically watching “Swamp Men,” which is almost assuredly more boring than watching “Manos: The Hands of Fate” sans commentary.
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