Season 1 of Mystery Science Theater 3000’s return hit Netflix last Friday and, having completed the first season, I’m happy to say that Jonah Ray is a more than capable guy in a yellow jumpsuit whose delivery and presence feels more Mike than Joel. Since I prefer Mike, this immediately helped me to ease into the newness and familiarity of the reboot.
Baron Vaughn is an excellent Tom Servo and I loved him at once. Vaughn carries on the Kevin Murphy tradition of Servo being a vocalist and sometimes the more cultured of the two bots. Hampton Yount’s Crow T. Robot took longer for me to love because of how similar his take is to Trace Beaulieu’s delivery and Bill Corbett’s rage-filled ‘bot. Gypsy is now voiced by a woman, Rebecca Hanson, which is wonderful. Gypsy also gets to pop into the theater at the start and near the end of the experiments to drop off an unexplained payload and a well-timed quip. She’s also less dizzy and more involved with the sketches too.
Felicia Day’s Kinga Forrester takes after her grandma Pearl in her rage and her father Clayton in her mistreatment of TV’s Son of TV’s Frank, aka Max (Patton Oswalt). The two bring some new evil to the show in unexpected ways. We’ve also got cameos from a few celebrities, a few familiar faces, and even a few jokes.
I can tell you that the premiere episode doesn’t get you off to the best start, though the experiment (Reptilicus) and the riffs are good. I felt that the beginning of the show could have used less cameo and information and more getting into things. Some may feel the same. Keep with it. The new crew hits their stride before the end of Episode 2, Cry Wilderness, a movie about a kid running away when Bigfoot appears to him and warns of the kid’s father being in danger. By the time you hit the Mia Farrow and Rock Hudson flick Avalanche in Episode 4? You’re all in.
All of this is to say I really enjoyed the reboot Joel Hodgson and Kickstarter backers have given us. It hits all of the nostalgia notes while also differentiating itself from the previous seasons and hosts. If we can’t have Joel or Mike back on the Satellite of Love, I’m glad that we have Jonah bringing us riffs while another Forrester monitors his mind.