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Return of the Riffing

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Return of the Riffing

Wednesday, 20 January 2016 17:44

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                Just back in December a crowd funding project over at Kickstarter broke records for money raised for a film/TV project. What that project was was to bring back a cult classic show called Mystery Science Theater 3000. If you’re unfamiliar, not only is your life inherently worse than mine because of it, but I’ll fill you in on the premise. A guy and a couple of robots, which are puppets, are trapped in a space station by a mad scientist and forced to watch really bad public domain movies, their only way of dealing with this torture is to make fun of everything. So the crowd funding project raised almost 13 million dollars for a new season of MST3K after it’s been off the air for over 15 years. This has prompted a lot of discussion about the show and one article in particular caught my eye. Here’s a link. The article is about how MST3K helped a man through two rough times in his life when he otherwise may have lost everything… he attributes MST3Ks ability to make light of the worst things as what saved him. And that got me thinking as to why MST3K is my most favorite show ever… and what it means to me. And I realized that while not only would there be no Tanked Matinee if it were for MST3K (this whole site was started by a bunch of friends watching bad movies and making fun of them), but it has a very special and personal impact on me as well.

                Let’s flashback to the mid 90’s. I was a preteen and my best friend up to that point had moved away. In search of a new best friend I found a guy in my school who I got a long with fantastically and we began hanging out a lot. In the interest of not giving out real names, we’ll call him Ian. Ian and I started having fairly regular weekend sleep overs (a thing kids still do, right?) and we always stayed up WAY too late so we could watch things like USA Up All Night, TNT’s MonsterVision with Joe Bob Briggs, and the occasional episode of Tales From the Crypt. We grew OBSESSED with weird cult films, monster movies, and shlock horror. Eventually we found our way to this crazy show on The Comedy Channel (later Comedy Central) called Mystery Science Theater 3000. It had everything we loved plus an overdose of comedy (even when we didn’t get every joke) and crazy characters. We were instantly hooked. At the time we found the show it had already been on the air a few years, but we ate up the reruns whenever they were on, and we followed the show over to the Sci-Fi channel when it got picked up there a few years later. All of this seems pretty normal, and for a few years it largely was. But you see… there were some things going on that in the beginning of our friendship and at my young age I didn’t understand at first. Ian’s mother was an alcoholic. His stepfather was… well, we’ll say just not a great guy. It took me a few years to catch on, but Ian’s life at home was not great. Once I did catch on our sleepovers took on a whole new meaning for me. You see when I was there was the most peace Ian had at home. It’s when his mom wasn’t drunk and throwing things, it’s when his stepfather wasn’t yelling and… well…. Throwing things. They were on their best behavior because I was there. So I started being there more. And more. And even though I knew WHY I was there, as a sort of shield to my best friend, we never openly acknowledged that or allowed the gravity of the situation to weigh on our time together. We would just load up on candy for the night, stay up late, and watch MST3K until we passed out. The other shows fell by the wayside. MST3K was virtually all we watched. Over and over. We quoted the jokes we understood in regular conversation like inside jokes of our own. They never got not funny, though. And more importantly the show, the bots, Joel, Mike, it all became a symbol to us… a beacon of better times. Because when we were watching them it WAS better times. MST3K saved Ian’s childhood. MST3K gave Ian and myself the ability to appreciate the silver linings and have a sense of humor to deal with how shitty things can be. MST3K cemented an already good friendship into best friendship and best friends are how virtually every kid through the ages has found strength and growth during adolescence. Ian and I had lots of other things we did as well, I don’t want to sound like our friendship was shallow and built purely on the love of one TV show. Far from it. But that was the one thing our friendship had that none of our other friendships had. It was unique to him and me because we were the only weird guys we knew that stayed up late at night on weekends to watch B-movies and laugh at puppets. Those are fond memories that I have that shaped who I grew up to be. That allowed me to be a film critic of sorts. That gave me the gift of friendship AND most importantly saved my friend’s life.

                I’m sure reading this may sound like “Well, this doesn’t seem like MST3K is personal to you… it sounds like it’s personal to Ian.” And if you were to talk to him he’d say it was. But while it didn’t save my life the way it saved his, HIS being saved is personally impacting on me. I wouldn’t be the man I am without Ian OR MST3K and one could have never been without the other. I’m also an incredibly loyal person to my friends, and always have been since I was little. The hardships and victories of those I care for are mine as well. And this is why whenever I just can’t find something to put on, or when I’m sick or depressed and need some uplifting, MST3K is my go to. It still to this day, at 33, makes me laugh and cheers me up. It reminds me of my youth. It reminds me of Ian. It still provides me the comfort it gave me in the days when I knew that as long as I was up watching MST3K with Ian everything was ok. It still reminds me that there are ways of dealing with tough situations that are just a matter of changing your perspective and adding a bit of levity to any situation. So I am excited that NEW episodes of this show are now in the works. That I get to have whole new experiences with this show. The new cast and format is likely to be a big different than what I am used to. But MST3K already taught me how to adapt… with the loss of Joel to the addition of Mike…. But even still maybe the brand of comedy this new cast and writers bring to the table won’t be for me. That’s ok, though. The concept is still the same. And that concept will carries the same potential for life changing affirmation that the bad doesn’t have to the end for a new audience. Maybe some teenager somewhere struggling with their home life will find these new episodes and laugh for the first time. And they’ll make it another day. Is it crazy to think that some bad movies and puppet robots can save the world? Call me crazy. 

Read 376 times Last modified on Tuesday, 16 February 2016 23:33

About Us

Tanked Matinee is the place to go for good drinking movies. What do we mean by that? Simply speaking, we evaluate and recommend entertainment media based on how much fun it is to watch with friends on the sofa and a cold beer in hand.

Everyone knows "The Godfather" is a great movie, but is it as great to drink with as "Roadhouse?" We can appreciate "Citizen Kane" as a masterpiece of cinema, but is it as good a centerpiece for your party as "Santa Clause Conquers the Martians?"

Tanked Matinee appreciates film as art, but when you're kicking back on Friday night with a tall Rum & Coke, you're not looking for art, man, you want to be entertained. We're here to recommend the best movies for your night in, whether it's a big party, small get-together, or just a quiet night alone with a bottle of wine or three.

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