Over the nine years following its cancellation, diehard fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 have been rewarded with a steady trickle of content from former cast members, ranging from the 'huh' (anyone know that Dr. Forrester ended up as a staff writer for America's Funniest Home Videos?) to the sorta kinda decently cool (Mike Nelson's Rifftrax project).
Last week however, the floodgates were officially opened, when Satellite News (the semi-official MST3K news site) announced the launch of TWO major MST3K-related projects, to be released this year. First up was the peppy declaration, splashed across the top of the homepage, that "The Bots Are Back!"
Details on the upcoming MST3k renaissance/gang war after the jump...
Jim Mallon, the show's executive producer, has teamed up with former staff writer Paul Chaplin to produce a series of web cartoons featuring Gyspy, Tom Servo, and Crow. Perhaps not coincidentally, it was also announced that these "webisodes" would be featured on a brand-spanking-new MST3K.com, which would feature a brand spanking-new MST3K store.
Hours later, Satellite News dropped another bombshell: original host Joel Hodgson was teaming up with a number of original cast members for a riff-based DVD project to be released by Christmas. Called "Cinematic Titanic" (say it three times fast), it will mark a return to the silhouette-based riffing conceit, although this time around the cast will be sitting on scaffolding alongside the horizontal edges of the screen. Titanic's bare bones site features a message from Joel, claiming that their first movie will "make 'Manos: the Hands of Fate" look like 'Santa Claus Conquers the Martians' in a car wreck with 'Eegah!' with notes of peach." In the space of 24 hours, the creative team behind MST3K was neatly divided into three distinct camps.
MST3K: THE GREAT CASH-IN RACE
The Players: Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett, Bridget Jones Nelson
The Project: Rifftrax, The Film Crew
Strengths: Exposure, solid cast, a running start
Weaknesses: Geographic disparity (Nelson lives in San Diego, whereas Corbett and Murphy stayed in the Midwest)
The Players: Joel Hodgson, Trace Bealieu, Frank Coniff, Mary Jo Pehl, Josh Weinstein
The Project: Cinematic Titanic
Strengths: Street cred, sheer numbers
Weaknesses: Late start
The Players: Jim Mallon, Paul Chaplin
The Project: "The Bots Are Back" webisodes
Strengths: The legal rights to the MST3K brand
Weaknesses: Lack of creative firepower
Yesterday morning, Team Jim fired its opening salvo: a three-minute web cartoon espousing the efficiency of sit-up kayaks. In it, Crow, voiced rather lamely by Paul Chaplin, fishes on a pristine lake that Servo (voiced by some random dude) notes is located behind the SOL's 'Neutron Capacitor.' Crow launches into a monologue regarding the positive qualities of his kayak, which Servo promptly capsizes with a jet ski. By way of finale, Gypsy pops out of the water and delivers a limp one-liner. If this sounds like a meaningless MST3K proxy designed to cynically draw traffic to a web store, well...that's basically what it is. The animation is half-assed, the voice work is uninspired (not to mention completely unfamiliar - what happened to Bill Corbett? Or Trace Bealieu for that matter?), and the jokes wouldn't pass muster at a high school talent show. It's MST3K in name (and copyright) only.
We won't see the fruit of Team Joel's labor until Christmas. However, Cinematic Titanic will stage a live show in early December for employees of Lucasfilm. It's closed to the public, but early reviews will undoubtedly trickle out, so keep watching the blogs. As for Team Mike, there's been no official statement as of yet. However, given this flurry of new developments, the unspoken tensions between various cast members are sure to start bubbling over. Not to mention the widespread resentment many of the team apparently feel for Mallon, who has earned a reputation as a something miser and a spoilsport (he alone collects revenue from Rhino's DVD releases, and it has been hinted that he has occasionally threatened legal action if any of the former MSTers post-show projects veer too close to the original).** It'll all be chronicled here, as Geekanerd's coverage of "MST3K: The Cash-In Era" continues.
**CORRECTION 11/19/07: The author wishes to apologize for a misstatementregarding Mr. Jim Mallon. In fact, Geekanerd cannot say withcertainty that Mr. Mallon is the only beneficiary of the Rhino DVDreissues of MST3K episodes. In recent interviews, Joel Hodgson andKevin Murphy have both made reference to receiving paychecks from BestBrains Inc., which would presumably come from DVD sales. However, theessential notion that Mr. Mallon receives the lion's share of theroyalty money is still almost certainly true, and the New York Timeshas it on record that Mike Nelson does not receive a cut(http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/06/arts/television/06newm.html).