Friday, May 11, 2012

MST3K: Changing of the guard

I'm watching all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes in order. More about that here and here.

Mike Nelson's first on-camera appearance, back in Episode 201: Rocketship X-M
Last episode I watched was Episode 512: Mitchell. That episode wasn't so much about the movie as it was about writing Joel Hodgson's character, Joel Robinson, out of the show and writing Mike Nelson's character, Mike Nelson, into the show.

They had Gypsy and Mike helping Joel escape, then Dr. Forrester deciding to send Mike up in Joel's place.

Before we get to Mike's first episode, I thought I'd sit back and look at how this impacts me.

Why does it have to be about me? Well, this is Basil's Blog, and I'm Basil, so there you go.

Before I started this project, I had seen a few Joel episodes. More than I realized, in fact.

The first season of MST3K, it was a local show on KTMA (now WUCW) in Minneapolis. It's not referred to as Season One, though. It's Season Zero. Or The KTMA Season.

Season One is the first nationally-available season. It aired on The Comedy Channel (which eventually merged with another channel and became Comedy Central).

I didn't get The Comedy Channel, so I never saw any of the episodes of Season One or Season Two when they originally aired. I did see some reruns when they aired on Comedy Central, though. In particular, I remember the "Thank You!" catchphrase that Dr. Forrester and Dr. Erhardt used, and that would have to have been a rerun.

I remember some of the episodes from Seasons Three, Four, and Five, particularly Episode 411: The Magic Sword, which is the first episode I recall watching, although I may have seen an earlier episode.
No more Joel...... but lots more Mike.
But, until this project, I had seen only a few Joel episodes. When I started watching regularly, Mike was already in the experiment. And, when I began making serious effort to watch the show, they had moved to the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy). So I was actually more familiar with Pearl, Brain Guy, Bobo, and Mike, as well as Bill Corbett's Crow, before I started this project.

But now, I've seen all the Joel episodes. All the ones that are available, at least. I've seen:
  • The 17 available episodes from the KTMA Season in which Joel appears. Of the 21 KTMA episodes, three episodes aren't available, and Joel doesn't appear in Episode K17: Time of the Apes (though I have seen that episode).
  • The 13 episodes from Season One.
  • The 13 episodes from Season Two.
  • All 24 episodes from Season Three.
  • All 24 episodes from Season Four.
  • The first 12 episodes from Season Five.
Doing the math, that's ... a lot of episodes. Joel appeared in 106 episodes, and I've seen all 103 that are available. Mike will appear in 90 as Mike; he appeared on-camera 23 times as other characters during Joel's tenure.

The new show opening opens.
What this meant for fans at the time (October 1993) is that Mike wasn't completely unfamiliar. But, it also began the Joel vs. Mike debate.

What it now means for me, though?

Before I started this project, I was in the Mike camp of Joel vs. Mike, because of my familiarity with Mike and my unfamiliarity with Joel.

Now, though, I'm familiar with Joel. I havent' forgotten about Mike as host, I just haven't thought about it in a while. I've seen the shows as fans saw it back in the late 80s and early 90s. It's Joel's show. It may take some time before I get used to Mike.

But, there are other changes, too.

First, remember the whole Gizmonic Institute? It's in the lyrics: "He worked at Gizmonic Institute, just another face in a red jumpsuit..." That's gone. The "G" gear symbol? Just a gear now. You can see that for the first time in the background during the show opening. When Cambot is shown, you can see the difference. Look at Season One Cambot vs Season Five ½ Cambot.
Cambot from KTMA.Cambot from Season One.
Cambot, beginning Season Two.Cambot beginning Season Five ½.
In fact, Cambot changes, too. He was a robot who ran the camera in the KTMA Season. He became a camera and robot in one in Season One, looking a lot like the original Gypsy/Gypsum. In Season Two, he changed again, looking more like a camera, but with a long, Gypsy-like body. Now, in the middle of Season Five, he's a floating camera.

Why all the changes? Well, since we never saw Cambot except during the show's opening -- he's running the camera, remember? -- they didn't keep the puppet around after they filmed the credits.

They changed the credits when they went national, of course, and used parts from the KTMA Gypsy to make Cambot. In Season Two, when J. Elvis (nee Josh) Weinstein left and Frank Conniff joined the crew, they filmed a new opening, and made a new Cambot. And, in the middle of Season Five, Joel's departure meant new credits ... and they made a new Cambot.

The big change, though, is Mike sitting in the center seat instead of Joel.

Now that I'm used to Joel, let's see how I like Mike now.

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