TV Thoughts From the Nerve-Wracked

This is the worst time to be obsessed with the U.S. election, when there are no results, not even those inaccurate exit polls, and the only thing anybody has to go on are anecdotes about how someone stood in line somewhere and saw lots of people voting for their guy so he’ll win. So it’s hard to concentrate on TV stuff, especially when, Colbert-style, my gut is telling me something different from my head. (I just can’t bring myself to believe that the polls are right, much as I’d like to believe it.) But here are a few TV-related things:

King of the Hill may be unkillable. Now that Fox has given up on it (see below), ABC is considering picking it up as a companion piece for its other Mike Judge series, The Goode Family. This usually doesn’t work that well, as NBC found back in 1982-3 when they decided that they should pick up Taxi as a perfect companion piece for their new show Cheers (which was produced by most of the same people). Taxi turned in a creatively sub-par season, both shows tanked in the ratings, and Taxi got canceled while Cheers barely escaped that fate. Might work better this time, though.

The AV Club has an interview with Joel, Gypsy and Crow of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or is that “Mystery Science Theatre 3000?”) on the occasion of the show’s 20th anniversary. Shout! Factory is also releasing a 20th Anniversary Collection, with four new-to-DVD episodes — one with Joel, three from the Mike Nelson years — plus some very good extras: the talking-head documentary on the history of the show, spread over three discs, lasts almost an hour and a half and gives a huge amount of information on the origins of the show and the cast comings and goings, and there’s also a half-hour video of the reunion panel at San Diego Comic Con, plus different versions of the theme song from the various seasons.

I could never fully get into MST3K, I have to admit. I thought the snarky comments on the bad movies were often less funny than just watching the movies plain, and sometimes it could amount to cruelty and cheap-shottery, like in the movie where they made fun of This Island Earth — a perfectly decent film — because it totally doesn’t look like it was made in the ’90s. (In the documentary, Nelson says they didn’t realize till the movie came out that This Island Earth wasn’t considered a terrible movie.) That said, I think the secret of the show’s success was that to its fans, it was more than just an excuse to laugh at bad movies; fans really got into the characters and enjoyed the way the characters interacted with each other, even while the movie was playing. (That’s why characters like Dr. Forrester, who is essentially irrelevant — since he doesn’t comment on the movies — were so popular, even though their segments really amounted to filler.) I just didn’t respond to the show in that way, personally. Love the theme song, though.

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