These days, the act or reacting is everywhere. Twitter is essentially one giant stream of people’s snappy takes on current events. An entire cottage industry of YouTube reaction videos thrives. Twitch allows you to watch thousands of people around the world narrating video games.
Go back in time, though, and you won’t find too much in the way of reacting-as-entertainment. That, is, except for Mystery Science Theater 3000, the quirky, groundbreaking TV show that premiered on a small Minnesota TV station in 1988.
The show’s premise was wonderfully bizarre: a guy and two robots stuck on a spaceship, forced to watch bad movies and coping by wisecracking their way through the films. Aside from some comic segues, the bad movie was essentially the entirety of the show, plus witty remarks by show creator Joel Hodgson and his two robots, Tom Servo and Crow. It predated even DVD commentary tracks, and presaged the way we consume entertainment today.
A live version of Mystery Science Theater 3000 comes to San Francisco for two nights this weekend. For the diehard, day-one fans, the shows include Hodgson, along with new cast members, mocking terrible films. Hodgson is calling it his last Mystery Science Theater tour—he’s been on and off the road since the show was crowdfunded to resurrection on Netflix in 2017—and, in a short phone conversation from the road, he says he means it.
“I’m turning 60 next month,” Hodgson says. “My whole job now is to work with the brand and get it ready for the next guy.”