Return of the Living Turkey Day!
Last year Gunaxin paid tribute to the old Comedy Central tradition of Turkey Day, where they would show episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 round the clock because back then Comedy Central needed to milk what little material it could afford for all it was worth.
The first Turkey Day was all the way back in 1991, when the Comedy Channel was making its transition into Comedy Central. The network suggested the idea of the marathon, and Hodgson and his team happily obliged with a ton of classic sketches.
Series creator Joel Hodgson is bringing back the tradition for this year, sixteen years after Sci-Fi Channel did the last one. Six classic episodes will be streaming for free at mst3kturkeyday.com, as part of a 25th anniversary (yesterday) celebration. Now a whole new generation may discover the joys of robot puppets riffing on movies while many others become confused what the appeal of this show from two decades ago is compared to the stuff they’ve seen on Youtube on innumerable sites where gaming footage and the like gets riffed on.
On that note, it’s no wonder that there haven’t been any recent reruns of MST3K, though. It was the most purely 90s show ever made, for better or worse. The protagonist (Joel Hodgson or Mike Nelson) was a working class guy stuck in a satellite high above the Earth with little to do but watch movies. Before 9/11/2001, this mirrored pretty well how the average American TV viewers thought of themselves: generally safe from the rest of the world and with plenty of time to waste on pop culture. Its tendency to mock films with his sentient robots and thus culture of the past gave a post-modern feel without becoming overly bitter or cynical. If started today, the show would probably be considered as soft and out of touch as The Big Bang Theory.
This return to tradition is thanks to Joel Hodgson, who told EW :
“When I started doing Cinematic Titanic six years ago and we started doing live shows, that’s when I really met these people who love Mystery Science Theater. I’d hear all these stories about Turkey Day. People would say, ‘Yeah, we still watch Mystery Science Theater on Thanksgiving. It’s a tradition, like the Lions playing.’ I was kind of amazed that it was in people’s lives like that.”
Years after the show was cancelled, basically the teams of actors and writers split in half and have been doing their own variations on resurrecting the basic premise of bad movies being made fun of in their own way.
On one hand there’s “Cinematic Titanic” with Joel Hodgson, Josh Weinstein (the first actor to play Tom Servo), Trace Beaulieu (the first one to play Crow T. Robot and Doctor Forrester), Mary Jo Pehl (Pearl Forrester), and Frank Coniff (TV’s Frank.) This was basically the exact same as MST3K, with bad movies being riffed on by performers in silhouette. Among the very best this group has done is the feature “Legacy of Blood.”
On the other hand is “Rifftrax” with Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett. In other words, all the replacement actors by the second half of the series. For the most part, Rifftrax is downloadable audio tracks that you play in sync with the movies. Because these can be produced much faster than Cinematic Titanic videos and it allows them to legally go after such famous flicks as Avatar, Titanic, and the Twilight series, it has enjoyed more success than the program by their former coworkers.
Here’s hoping that maybe this exposure will help boost the profile of both and maybe even their success out some.