Daily Tedium

We’ll Send Him Cheesy Movies

The much-hyped revival of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a rare thing: A chance for a creator to take a second stab at his best idea.

By Ernie Smith

Recently, I had a reader send me a zip file full of old ideas I had for a website I worked on nearly 20 years ago. It was an unusual bit of digital archaeology, in part because I didn’t actually remember the project until after I had seen the end results. Then, it all came back to me—a revival of ideas, good and bad, the reflection that I’ve been building sites like the one I'm typing on now since before I was even in college.

I won’t say that I feel like Joel Hodgson does—unlike my idea way back when, his Mystery Science Theater 3000 was well-loved and appreciated, particularly by me—but I sort of love the fact that he’s reviving an original idea of his this week, complete with the help of Netflix.

There’s a lot that’s been written about the revival, including this reasonably-in-depth piece by The A.V. Club’s Erik Adams that highlights Jonah Ray’s longtime dream to hopelessly man the Satellite of Love, but the piece of coverage that sort of sticks with me on this endeavor is a quote from Hodgson from an NPR recap, about how he would have loved being the behind-the-scenes guy he’s getting to be now. (Hodgson, of course, famously departed his own show about five years in over creative differences and a distaste for on-camera work, and was replaced by the quite-funny-in-his-own-right Mike Nelson.)

"Honestly, I would have preferred that from the beginning," he told the radio outlet's Tim Greiving. “It kind of makes me uptight and it’s a lot of pressure and I just feel so relieved to not have to worry about being on camera. I'm like really happy just being the guy who came up with it and being creative."

It’s not often that we get creative do-overs, especially with what is widely considered a person’s best idea. (It wasn’t his only good one, though—he had this audacious experiment called TV Wheel that deserved more notice than it got. Yes, it’s on YouTube.)

But sometimes, our creative vessels aren’t perfect fits for the original visionaries. I wonder if Hodgson is using this wonderful, Kickstarter-and-Netflix-funded opportunity to redo things the way he probably should have in 1988.

Unless you’re in a rock band everyone loves, you often don’t get a second chance with a project you gave up long ago. But the internet has changed the dynamic, and we should all appreciate that—especially for creators.

(Of course, there has been some heartache over the fact that the show is continuing without any of its original stars, but spiritual successor RiffTrax did a cast reunion last year, which helped ensure the people who found their creative voice with this show didn’t lose ownership of it, either.)

So when this show comes back to life on Friday, don’t treat it as a carbon copy of the original. Treat it as a chance to start fresh with a concept that’s back in the hands of its creator for the first time in a quarter-century.

That’s a very rare thing.

Ernie Smith

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Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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