Wednesday, October 01, 2014
THE ANNOTATED JOE DON BAKER
Recently I've been revisiting old episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It's kind of a weird experience to be watching some of these episodes for the first time in ages (decades, in some cases). When I moved into my first apartment, me and my roommates would watch the show obsessively. At the time you couldn't get Comedy Central on Mankato cable, so we had to track down a friend with a Twin Cities connection who also just happened to be obsessed with MST3K. Staying true to our promise to "Keep circulating the tapes", we'd make dupes of the already bad copies and watch them over and over.
I still have those old tapes, and I can't bring myself to get rid of them. They probably aren't even watchable at this point, but the memory of that first discovery is too strong! I even have them all on DVD now, but I still cling to those tapes. Damn my pack rat ways.
The other day I stumbled across an old Joel-era TV special I had never seen before. It's called This Is MST3K, and it features fans and show folks geeking out about the show. The thing I love about this show is just how much it celebrates the fans. They're the ones that glommed onto the show and did what they could to spread the gospel of "riffing". They kept circulating the tapes, and the show grew and grew. Here we are, a decade or so after it left the air, and folks still reference the show as a comedic touchstone.
As it turns out, there must be some kind of MST3K mojo floating around, because Shout Factory (the folks that have been doing such a stellar job of releasing the episodes) just posted episode 512 on Youtube. You probably know it better as "MITCHELL" starring Joe Don Baker, Linda Evans, Martin Balsam, and John Saxton. You might also remember it as the final episode that featured show creator Joel Hodgson.
As far as MST3K episodes go, Mitchell is easily top five. Most likely top two, if you're battling between it and "Manos: The Hands Of Fate". Honestly, it's one hell of a send off for Joel, as everybody is firing on all cylinders. The jokes are fast and furious, and the interstitial skits are great. It makes the farewell that much more bittersweet, even though it's pretty damn perfect.
When folks watch the show they probably aren't even thinking about just how relentless the jokes are, but that's what makes this particular Youtube posting so notable. Shout Factory has take this episode and annotated the jokes! As you watch the show, notes for each joke pop up on the screen. It's like Pop Up Videos for super geeks. Even though you might already know the references, it's still exciting to see the notes, because it really emphasizes just how many jokes they crammed into each episode. Hardly a moment passes without a note popping up. It's pretty cool.
So here's Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode 512. Turn down the lights.