Thursday, May 10, 2012

MST3K: Episode 512 - Mitchell

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

Episode 512: Mitchell

First aired: Comedy Central on 23 October 1993
Availability: Amazon DVD, Rhino (Solo DVD/out of print), Fan Copy

Joel's last film on MST3K.
This is the turning point of MST3K. Not saying it gets better or worse, it's just that this is a big, big change with this episode.

Remember when Dr. Erhardt went "missing" (J. Elvis nee Josh Weinstein left the show) and Frank replaced him? This is bigger.

Remember when Tom Servo's voice changed (also because of Weinstein's departure) and Kevin Murphy took over? This is bigger.

What could be bigger than one of the original stars leaving? One of the original stars, who also created the show, leaving.

Merlin Olson watches Joe Don Baker and Martin Balsam eat.
Joel escapes and Mike is chosen to replace him in the experiment. I'll have a lot more thoughts on that soon, but for now, we'll focus on the specifics of this episode and ... the movie.

It's Mitchell. Cop. Slob. Ladies' Man.

Okay, not so sure about the ladies' man part, but he's definitely the first two.

Joe Don Baker is Mitchell, a mostly-honest cop who finds something suspicious about the death of a burglar at union lawyer John Saxon's house, but the Police Chief tells Mitchell to back off, since the FBI is after the lawyer already, and puts Mitchell on a stake-out of mobster Martin Balsam, which means the two plots will eventually meet when John Saxon sends hooker Linda Evans to Joe Don Mitchell's house, so Mitchell screws her by screwing her, then screws her by arresting her for possession of drugs, and then somewhere along the way, John Saxon gets killed off, but that gets edited out so we can watch Joe Don and Linda Evans get it on, which means we get screwed, too, but then Martin Balsam invites Joe Don Mitchell to intercept some drugs coming in that he doesn't want coming in -- he'll be a front man for lots of stuff, but not for drugs -- but double-crosses Mitchell along the way, but then Mitchell figures it out and blows up the drug car and chases Martin Balsam's boat with a helicopter before impaling Merlin Olson with a gaff and shooting Martin Balsam, then going home and finding Linda Evans in his bed, arresting her again. The end.

It's audit time, so "they hired a temp by the name of Mike..."
How could you not love a movie like that?

But then, this episode isn't about the movie. As winding as the plot of Mitchell is, the writers of MST3K had to come up with a plot to write out Joel and introduce Mike.

The plot running through the Invention Exchange and Host Segments involves the Mads getting audited by the League of Calamitous Intent (or somebody), so they hire a temp by the name of Mike to help get things organized.

Being evil and mad and such, they plan to kill Mike when the work is done. In a scene reminiscent of 2001, Gypsy overhears the conversation. She missed out on the fact that the Mads are talking about Mike. She thinks the Mads are planning to kill Joel.
Gypsy thinks Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank are going to kill Joel.They aren't planning to kill Joel. They're planning to kill Mike.
With Mike's help, and with Frank's unwitting help, Gypsy manages to rig up the escape pod -- yes, the Satellite of Love had an escape pod the whole time, in a box marked "Hamdingers" -- and send Joel to earth at the end of the movie.
Dr. Forrester finds a replacement for Joel in the experiment.Mike Nelson plays Mike Nelson, the newest character on the show.
Dr. Forrester rescues the experiment by planning to send Mike into orbit to replace Joel on the Satellite and in the experiment.

The last we see of Joel. For a while, anyway.
In reality, Joel Hodgson wasn't having fun on the show any more.

The crew was planning Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, and he and Jim Mallon were having disagreements about that and other stuff. Rather than stick around and be miserable, Joel left.

The story was that Joel left to pursue other things, but the reality was, he stepped away from the show to save the show:
"I felt like it would split the company and ruin the show," says Hodgson, "It felt like 'Mommy and Daddy are fighting but we don't want the kids to know. "My leaving was kind of like a personal tragedy," he said over hot dogs at Woofie's, "but I felt like if I stayed and fought for creative control of the movie, it would wreck the show. So I walked away instead of letting King Solomon cut the baby in two."
Prior to this project of watching all of the episodes, I had seen mostly Mike-hosted episodes. But now, I've seen all the Joel episodes. More about that later.

For now, they've written Joel out of the show, and are replacing him with Head Writer Michael J. Nelson, starring as Mike Nelson.

I wonder how Mike Nelson will adapt to space. I can imagine it now: "Soon my lungs were aching for air."

It's not going to be the same. But it will be very familiar.

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