REVIEW: MST3K Season 11 (and a detailed reaction to the Host Segments)

mst3k the return

Mystery Science Theater 3000 has finally returned to our screens! Today, Netflix debuted the new season of MST3K subtitled The Return. In celebration of the new episodes, I’ll be reviewing the host segments of each episode of the season! Obviously, there will be spoilers ahead for the season, so don’t read this if you don’t want the Host Segments spoiled for you!

As this will end up being a long post, let me start off by talking about my impressions of the season as a whole. It’s pretty strong. The riffing is good, the movies are awful in an enjoyable way. The directing of the episodes is also strong; among the strongest that the series has had. The camerawork is different than the old series – where the old series used odd angles and had the cameras get real involved, this season opts for more still and standard shots. They’re fine, nothing wrong with them, they’re just different. There are a few arcs that go across the season (which I’ll talk about as they come up), and I think this was a smart move. It gives an incentive to come back each week. Yeah, the riffing is fun, but it’s not really must-see-tv unless you’re already a fan. But adding a bit of an ongoing storyline to the host segments makes a new audience wanna see what happens next, and gets them invested in the show to the point where the riffs also draw them in. It’s smart and it works well.

The writing is as strong as ever. The riffing comes at you fast and furious, with a similar kind of sarcastic wit and pop-culture (and obscure culture) references that will take you several viewings to catch. Jonah, Baron, and Hampton work really well together in the theater. It’s a different dynamic than previous casts have had, partially due to the changes in how the theater sequences were done (the riffs were prerecorded this time), but it works. There’s a lot of laughs, and the robots get more involved with the screen and the movie this season than ever before. And Gypsy drops in for some riffs from time to time! It’s good, solid comedy.

In place of the old commercial bumpers, the new show cuts to the house band of Moon 13 playing some music with Max saying some kind of message as the bumper. It’s a fun update and callback since Netflix doesn’t have commercials. It takes some time to get used to the new voices for the robots, but after a few episodes, you get used to them. I really enjoy Gypsy’s new voice and increased role in the series. It’s fun seeing her around more often. The sets have been updated, but they still retain their homemade quality. There’s lots of stop motion, which looks better than ever. On the whole, it’s a strong season. The movies look better than a lot of the old ones did, the riffing is strong, and the host segments provide a good and engaging ongoing plotline. It’s MST3K at its best, really.

I give the season as a whole a solid 4 out of 5 wands. It’s not perfect, just like the original series was never perfect, but it’s pretty darn good.

Now, without further ado, here are my detailed thoughts on the host segments of the first half of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return:

Experiment 1101:
As I’ve covered this episode in its own review, I’ll just shortly give my thoughts on the host segments as a whole for this episode. I really enjoyed the opening one as it laid down all the necessary backstory to introduce new audience members while also slipping in some new info about Gizmonic Institute for the old fans. The monster rap in the second segment was great, the highlight of the episode for sure. Next is a sketch where Servo is cloned. It’s far too short but it would have had a lot of potential if only it was allowed to run longer. Turns out I didn’t really miss the letter segments, as they return in the next segment. The episode ends with a fun little meta moment where Kinga mentions ratings leading Max to mention that Netflix doesn’t give ratings. The segments this episode were hit or miss; the first two were great, the rest were forgettable.

Experiment 1102:
On the whole, these host segments felt really short. I like the way they’re going from the host segment into the theme song; the idea of having Jonah sucked back into his ship and having to reenact the opening credits each episode because Kinga’s technology isn’t good at recording things is fantastic. The full return of the invention exchange was pretty cool, particularly the Mads’ idea. Though the use of bubble transitions (to cover jump cuts?) was kinda jarring and I didn’t like that. Pearl, Bobo, and Brain Guy appear in one of the later host segments. Their appearance isn’t amazing, but it’s not terrible either. We get a nice bit of vulnerability from Kinga as she expresses feeling like a disappointment and not deserving a family. It’s a nice moment. Plus there’s some funny stuff involving Bobo and some virtual reality gloves. The end segment with the robots and Max (TV’s Son of TV’s Frank) is also really fun; it gives Patton Oswalt a moment to shine. He definitely feels like a mix of TV’s Frank and Larry, the original sidekick to Dr. Forrestor. Like last episode, the host segments for this one were hit and miss; about half of them were really good, and the other half were kinda forgettable.

Experiment 1103:
Again, the first two host segments felt a bit short. There’s a fun bit in the second segment where Gypsy is trying to teach Jonah and the other ‘bots the proper rules for time traveling, but it gets cut short before Jonah can even give it a try. It was funny, so it was disappointing that it wasn’t seen through all the way. Thankfully, the segment where Jonah is “building new robots” only for Crow and Servo to destroy them goes on for the perfect amount of time. Just as the joke is starting to lose its punch, the segment ends. Hopefully, they keep this up as the season continues.

larry and the other guy

Elliot and Joel in their cameo!

Joel Hodgson and (head writer) Elliot Kalan have a fun cameo in the episode as some party-loving scientists. Through the past few episodes, Kinga has had an obsession with getting high ratings/racking in a lot of money. There have been recurring references to Disney rebooting franchises, and that continues here as they celebrate MST3K’s 200th episode. Max points out this is actually their third if you don’t count the original series, and Kinga spouts back a pretty funny joke about Disney getting to celebrate fake anniversaries all the time. It was good. The sketch with Joel and Elliot could’ve been funnier, but it was probably the best sketch of the episode. The host segments are still inconsistent in terms of quality.

Experiment 1104:
This episode is really where the host segments start to shine. We start off with a parody of Mad Men which, while short, is funny as hell. The invention exchange involves some stage magic and ends up being pretty cool.“How are movies born?” “Oh, when a team of skilled, hardworking technical professionals really love each other…” This is how the Mads’ section of the invention exchange opens, and it really got me. The way Patton Oswalt delivered that line was perfect. It was just a good comedic moment, and I adored it. Also in this first segment, we’re introduced to one of Kinga’s signature creations: Kinga Chrome, a new form of video media that is in a liquid format. As Max points out, it’s worse than SD, and some of the technicians in Moon 14 (the level below Moon 13) report that there have been some weird side effects including paranormal apparitions. I’m interested in seeing where that goes.

nph

Neil Patrick Harris as Neville LaRoy

My favorite host segment is so good that it earns its own paragraph. It’s the reunion of Neil Patrick Harris and Felicia Day! Kinga has been dating a guy, Neville LaRoy, she met online (which has made Max extremely jealous leading to a funny quip from Kinga: “You’re ruining our love. Not what our love; there’s nothing between us. What Neville and I have. I hate you. I don’t say that to hurt your feelings, I say it as a fact.” And, naturally, if you reunite Neil Patrick Harris and Felicia Day, they have to sing a song. And sing a song they do. It’s a fun love ballad called Our Love is On Wings (You Can’t See) about their relationship and how they’ve never met face-to-face. It’s pretty tongue in cheek and I love it. And, suddenly, Patton Oswalt joins in singing about his unrequited love for Kinga. It’s very reminiscent of “A Man’s Gotta Do” from Dr. Horrible, except Neil isn’t playing the part of the unrequited lover this time. This is the standout moment of the season for me. (And also really makes me want Dr. Horrible 2 to exist. Come on, Joss Whedon!) Naturally, they end up not meeting in person.

The rest of the segments end up being pretty strong, too. One being a PSA about Hybrid B-Movies, another being a silly bit with the robots about Rock Hudson. In the final segment, Gypsy gets to sing a cabaret styled song, and it’s pretty great. I’m really digging Rebecca Hanson as the new voice of Gypsy. Digging her a lot. This episode is the best one so far. It seems like the overall quality of the host segments improved a lot in this episode; none of them were duds like the last episodes have had.

Experiment 1105:
Again, this episode features some strong segments including Jonah and the robots painting, a disco ball launching canon invention, an iceberg melting Titanic invention, Crow and Tom pitching ideas for new monster movies (Crow’s being more a blockbuster, Servo’s being more of an indie flick.), and Jonah and the robots joking about how much better movies would be if dinosaurs were in them. All these segments were pretty strong and demonstrated a nice amount of growth in this season so far.

hamilton ref

The Hamilton Reference

My favorite segment had Tom and Servo wearing some interesting costumes and performing some kind of exotic dance, refusing to answer Jonah every time he asks what they’re doing. This, alone, would’ve been a funny bit as Jonah gets more and more freaked out and it gives the feeling of a semi-horror movie, but then Kinga appears and asks if this is the Hamilton show that everyone’s been talking about. And I died laughing. And, yet, it continues to go on, causing both the Mads and Jonah to collectively lose their minds, pleading with increasing desperateness for Tom and Servo to stop. This was a superb segment. A++. (Side note, I said I wouldn’t talk about the riffs in this post, but there’s a Princess Bride reference that happens very shortly after this segment and it’s great.) All-in-all, this was a great episode with great host segments.

bbservo

Introducing BB-Servo!

Experiment 1106:
Continuing the trend of good, funny, host segments, this episode features a spin-the-bottle sketch (featuring a continuation of the ongoing storyline involving Max and his unrequited love for Kinga), an invention exchange involving Tom Servo and BB-8 (from Star Wars) being merged into one robot: BB-Servo, Crow’s parody of Star Wars entitled World War Space, and a bit where Jonah portrays a character from the film and interacts with the bots (ending with Servo yelling “exit stage left” which made me giggle a lot). One thing I’m really digging the fact that Baron Vaughn’s Tom Servo is sort of a mix between Kevin Murphy’s and Josh Weinstein’s incarnations. This Servo is still a massive dork, but he’s got some of Weinstein’s skeevy morning-DJ attitude. A big moment involved the one and only Jerry Seinfeld appearing in a segment as Freak Masterstroke, an intergalactic businessman. Kinga and Max try to get Masterstroke to invest in their ideas and, naturally, he’s less than interested. It’s a pretty funny bit, and Seinfeld is great in it! I’m digging the cameos in this season so far. The final segment is bonkers and all I’ll say is #Torpedoes! It’s another strong episode and I’m pleased.

Experiment 1107:
We’re hitting the halfway mark with this episode, and the quality of the host segments continues to be solid. This episode features a birthday party for the robots, the “revelation” that Kinga and Max are stealing ideas from Jonah and the bots for their inventions, more of Kinga Chrome acting up, a submarine sketch so realistic that a giant space squid visits the Satelite of Love, a bit where Kinga and Max present a new entrepreneurial idea (featuring a bunch of dinosaur puns), Jonah hating on John Grisham and Crow panicking about turning into a human, and Jonah sending a message in a bottle into space asking for help only for Max to find it and Kinga to destroy it. It’s a strong episode with a lot of fun moments and a lot of laughing.

throwing court

Jonah is put on trial

Experiment 1108:
Unfortunately, this episode isn’t quite as strong as the last few. It features some good sketches that end up being kinda short, including the return of the RAM chips and Jonah and the bots watching Wings. There’s a few good sketches, one being a bit where Jonah and the robots are dressed as Romans, and a new robot (M. Waverly) appears and is literally destroyed by Crow and Servo, the other involving Jonah being put on trial where Crow and Servo just launch things at him from a catapult. This is the best sketch. The remaining ones are forgettable, at best, and lousy, at worst. There’s one segment basically a bit where Jonah doesn’t wanna share his cereal so he gets the bots to keep fighting while he eats them and the final one is just all the characters holding one note for a long time. This episode was a mixed bag; none of the segments were great and some were just duds. I guess that’s to be expected, though.

mustache

Todd Hitler Coffee


Experiment 1109:
This episode has a mix of some pretty good sketches, some weird sketches, and some lousy ones. The good ones include a bit where Jonah and the Bots share their dream journal (Crow’s says he dreams of electric sheep, which made me laugh out loud), a bit where Jonah names a bunch of  his favorite monsters that end up being cereal mascots, and a brilliant number sung by everyone at the end about how movies hurt your heart (featuring a lovely verse where Kinga and Max reflect on their behavior and wonder if they’re being too mean to Jonah – nah!). On the weird list is the invention exchange: Jonah presents tiny desks perfect for flipping in a rage and Kinga and Max present a new coffee called Todd Hitler’s coffee. It’s not a bad bit, but it’s sorta uncomfy. There are some plain old bad segments though, including a bit about what music space pilots listen to which was forgettable and a bit about a new restaurant idea that’s not funny. Like the last one, the episode is a mixed bag in terms of quality. However, the song at the end definitely makes up for the lousier host segments of the episode. I guess even MST3K isn’t immune to the midseason slump.

Experiment 1110:
Thankfully, this episode is much stronger than the last. With segments that include a bit where Max writes in his journal about Kinga and finds a key that unlocks the cage where a giant metal monster is being held (he calls it Reptillicus Metallicus), an invention exchange with sponsor clocks, a sketch where Jonah and the robots make fun of the nonchalant way one of the characters murders people in the movie, a bit where Servo tries unsuccessfully to raise an undead army of Crows leading to Jonah singing a song (that would fit in very well in Grease – think “Beauty School Dropout” – about life’s failures, and an ending involving Jonah and the robots playing a game based on the movie. It’s a solid episode. The letter segment returns in this episode, and I still don’t enjoy it, but the rest of the segments make up for that minor disappointment, and this episode ends up being as enjoyable as the best of this season have been.

crummy wizard

The Giant “You Might Be A Wizard” book.

Experiment 1111:
This episode ends up being another strong one involving a sketch where Jonah and the robots are sad because they want to play outside and it’s raining, an invention exchange involving a parody of CliffNotes entitled GifNotes (where classic books are summarized in Emoji form), rabbits that can be punted, a parody of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Might Be a Redneck” routine involving a giant wizard book, the return of Pearl, Bobo, and Brain guy that sets up the arc for the rest of the season: Kinga marrying Jonah, and a final sketch where Jonah tries to help the robots feel better after the movie by suggesting good movies they could watch. There is one mediocre sketch in which Jonah and the Robots perform a training video for a new restaurant; it’s forgettable filler, really, but not bad. That sketch aside, this is another strong episode for the season. I particularly enjoyed the setup of the wedding plotline; I feel like it’s gonna be a fun ride.

circus bit

Mark Hamill as P.T. Mindslap

Experiment 1112:
This episode’s a mixed bag. It starts with a bang, dips in the middle, but then comes back with a brilliant musical number involving a ringmaster, played by Mark Hamill, trying to recruit Jonah and the robots into his circus. Other highlights include Kinga informing Jonah that she intends to marry him, Servo and Crow doing a difficult to describe but fun to watch sketch involving police officers talking to each other over their radios, and Kinga and Max narrating a parade of various sights and scenes from the movie for the final segment. There’s a few mediocre segments in the middle: the invention exchange and a carnival style bit involving a talking ape. However, on the whole, this was a pretty good episode with a strong ending and a remarkable musical number. Anything with Mark Hamill in it is good times if you ask me. Plus, his character, P.T. Mindslap, sounds a bit like the Joker. So that’s rad.

santa joel

Santa Joel!

Experiment 1113:
The penultimate episode is another strong one! It’s Christmas time on the Satelite of Love as Jonah and the bots sing the classic Christmas carol that nobody knows, “The Feasts of Stephen”. It’s a fun, clever moment as Crow tries and fails to figure out the lyrics; he substitutes Justin Bieber instead of the feast of Stephen. All the segments are pretty strong, featuring Kinga experiencing wedding planning woes, brilliant inventions involving a gift that can be regifted and a radio that filters out Christmas music and replaces it with awful noises, a sketch where Jonah and the robots review bad Christmas toy ideas, another bit where Jonah and the robots try to explain some of the creepy toys in the movie, a bit where Santa (played by Joel Hodgson) visits the Satelite of Love and discusses the difficulty of his life throughout the year, and a montage at the end of Jonah and the robots getting knitted Christmas sweaters from Gypsy and Kinga getting (and then trashing) a painting of herself from Max. It”s a clever, funny, festive episode and got me really excited for the finale.

steampunk

Jonah and the robots have a steampunk makeover

Experiment 1114:
They definitely did not let us down with the finale. It featured several brilliant sketches, including the robots giving Jonah a pep talk before the wedding, Jonah introducing a new robot to Tom Servo and Crow only for them to hate on it, Kinga having no guests for the wedding and receiving help from one of Brain Guy’s people – the Brain Controler – who promises to help populate the wedding, an invention exchange involving permanent temporary tattoos and an urn that turns ashes into confetti, a bit where Jonah and the robots have a steampunk makeover, a song where Max receives a visit from Doug McClure (played by Joel McHale) who gives Max some tips on how to woo Kinga that lead him to decide to release Reptillicus Metallicus to prove his strength, and the wedding itself.

wedding

The Wedding Nobody Wanted


It’s the moment the past few episodes have been building up to: the wedding of Jonah and Kinga. Pearl, Bobo, and Brain Guy arrive for the wedding, Pearl agreeing to give Kinga away. Jonah is brought down and the wedding officially begins as Kinga tries to rush it along to prevent anything unwanted from happening. Just in the nick of time, Max unleashes Reptillicus Metallicus, who eats Jonah. Naturally, his plan backfired and Kinga is royally pissed at him. In lieu of Jonah’s death, Tom Servo and Crow warm up to the new robot that Jonah created. It’s a sweet moment and a fun way to end the season.

The season was a bit of a rollercoaster, both in terms of quality and in terms of the storyline itself. It was supremely enjoyable and I’m so glad Mystery Science Theater 3000 returned to our screens again. Hopefully, it does well on Netflix and we can get another season! This one was great and everyone involved should be proud of what they accomplished. If there is another season, they’ll have to address what happened to Jonah. I suspect he survived in some silly way, and I’d expect nothing less from this show. It’s a silly show, after all.

For all of you who read this whole article, thank you! I hope you enjoyed my annoying and repetitive thoughts about this show that I love.

We’ve got movie sign! Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return is available to stream right now on Netflix!

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