From: Twin Cities Reader*

Date: May 31-June 6, 1989

Headline: T.V.

Subline: "Mystery Science Theater 3000" The Last Voyage?

Photo(s): Joel Hodgson and Crow in "The ultimate couch potato show." [Joel with *long hair* and original Crow on original set.]

Author: Brauer, David

Page(s): 19

Note: MST3K has been put "on hiatus" from KTMA-TV 23.


This is an unauthorized reprint.

"WELL, WE COULD PUT A LITTLE LIGHTER fluid on it," says Joel Hodgson, staring intently at the scale model of a Kentucky Fried Chicken store in front of him. He's pondering how to make the thing go up into flames when the Godzilla toy rigged to spout butane comes crashing down on it.

"Hairspray'd work," suggests a buddy.

"Actually, nondairy creamer works," replies Hodgson.

"Yeahhh, right," answers the friend.

"It does," insists Hodgson. "They use it in flash pots all the time."

They settle for styling mousse, which looks a little like snow on the model's rooftop, but it doesn't light.

Such are the creative struggles on the set of "Mystery Science Theater 3000", the best cult show on local television. But if you haven't already seen it, you may never. The show aired its last broadcast last Sunday on KTMA-TV 23 and went "on hiatus," a TV term meaning near-death but with a pulse.

No one involved seems sure if it will be back, and if it's not, MST 3000 will enter the ranks of such honored but departed local classics as Dave Moore's "Bedtime Newz". It will be gone before most people know enough to miss it.

The show is a triumph of low tech and local talent: MST 3000 mixes the wit of three Twin Cities comics (Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, and Josh Weinstein) with Hodgson's famous gizmos, which have been a staple on the Twin Cities comedy circut for years.

MST 3000 is like a Salvation Army "Pee Wee's Playhouse", a little less cheery but a lot more wickedly cynical. The show is set on an orbiting space station where Hodgson has been sent by two evil scientists (played by Beaulieu and Weinstein). The premise is that Hodgson is trapped and forced to watch the worst old movies in the world--usually Japanese monster films--by his captors. For company, Hodgson has built robot friends (operated by Beaulieu and Weinstein) from spare parts on the space station, and together they relieve the boredom by mocking the movies.

The show's appeal, says Weinstein, "is a little scarey. It's the ultimate couch potato show. People always sit and watch movies and hack on them. Now they can do it without doing anything."

Despite the production values--Hodgson says the robots came from "found objects and cost no more than 10 bucks each"--MST 3000 is easily the most creative show on local TV. Of course, that isn't hard when you consider that most other locally produced shows in the Twin Cities are gloppy, sappy talk shows or gloppy, sappy newscasts.

But MST 3000 has struck a chord; at last count, the fan club had 1,131 members, and the show (airing opposite "60 Minutes") has drawn as high as a "four" rating--this on a station whose top-rated show is "The Andy Griffith Show".

The fan club reflects the show's appeal: It's for smart, cynical kids of all ages. "We've got a strong 7- to 10-year-old contingent who are attracted to the puppets," says producer Jim Mallon. "But what's even more amazing is that their moms send in for memberships, too. And that's only about 30 percent of our membership: We've got a lot of college students and couples in their late '20s and early '30s."

Says Hodgson, "It's a show that can be watched by the whole family, or as a cult thing. That's really amazing to me."

Hodgson left comedy a few years back in a well-publicized retirement, but he has returned to the scene with a vengeance: He's a staple at the Comedy Gallery, has worked on Louie Anderson's upcoming NBC show, and will be off next month for a writing stint with HBO. Hodgson's income is in the thousands-per-week range, but he still takes time out for MST 3000, a show that requires, by his estimate, about 16 hours a week and earns him "next to nothing."

But, adds Hodgson, "I guess my dream is to be able to make TV in Minneapolis. It's really hard for me to make TV in L.A., and it's obvious people are more talented here, more so than on the East or West Coast."

Still, the MST 3000 crew wonders if the Twin Cities are ready. Says Beaulieu simply, "This is one the viewers will have to decide. We all want to keep doing it, but the trouble is we don't have the resources."

The trouble, says Mallon, is that local television is reluctant to do local entertainment programming. "About all they do is news, which is a tremendous money-maker."

At TV23, he says, it's even more of a stretch. The tiny independent station was formed out of the ashes of Spectrum Sports and produces very little local programming.

Adds Hodgson, "What you lose is the "Roundhouse Rodneys". That stuff was cool because it was something neat that came from right around you. I grew up in Green Bay with Cowboy Eddie, and you know, that show was *mine*."

Mallon adds, "I mean, we had a message machine for fans, and the 45-minute tape was filled in an hour. We're hoping to have a local convention at a theater this summer so fans can see these guys perform. After all, they're used to being onstage and getting that feed-back right away."

Hodgson says he hopes the show will be back so he can get his ultimate MST 3000 film, "Mars Needs Women". "I always wanted to host a monster movie show," he says. "I don't want this to end."

Editor's Note: KTMA's address is 2505 N.E. Kennedy St., Minneapolis, MN 55413.