MST3K: The Return: The Review: The Analysis

April 28, 2017 / News, Personal Stuff / 0 Comments /

Before I get into this…I want to preface that I do generally like the reboot, and I feel it’s headed in the right direction. But there are a few things that bother me, and I wanted to disclose them here.

What is MST3k?

If you don’t know what Mystery Science Theater: 3000 is, then I’d kindly ask you to put your hands above your head until you see daylight, and crawl out from the rock you’ve been living under. ūüėÄ

MST3k is¬†a show about a guy trapped in space being¬†forced to watch bad movies. In order to lighten the situation, he and his robot friends – Crow and Tom Servo – “riff” the movies. In other words, 3 dudes narrate over bad movies some of the most clever and creative jokes you’ve ever heard within the context or within reference¬†to the film.

The show had multiple seasons, and, despite its popularity, was cancelled in the late 90’s. However, despite no longer being aired on TV, its cult following has grown over time. And as a result, decades later, we have¬†MST3k: The Return.

What’s different about MST3k: The Return?

Numerous things have changed since the original show. First and foremost, we have a new host: Jonah Ray.

Now, if you’re familiar with the original show, having a new host is really…nothing new. Throughout the original show’s lifespans there have been two hosts: creator Joel Hodgeson, and head writer Mike Nelson. We’ve also seen two Tom Servos and two Crows. We’ve seen villains come and go, changes in sets, and theme song changes.

The same is entirely true of the new show; on top of the new host, we have two new voices for Tom Servo, Crow, and Gypsy. We have new villains played by Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt. We get an updated, modernized theme song, a brand new set, higher quality cameras, new inventions, and of course – more bad movies.

Sometimes, different is good

I admit, I was scared about all the change happening with the show, but I was pleasantly surprised how natural everything felt. Jonah’s performance fits the bill, the voices of Crow and Tom Servo take some getting used to if you’re used to Trace or Bill (the original Crows) and Kevin Murphy (the longest standing voice of Tom Servo), but work overall.

Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt nail their parts as Kinga Forrester – daughter of Dr. Forrester – and Tv’s Son of Tv’s Frank, Max. Both fill the shoes of their parents by torturing Jonah and the robots with terrible movies, and forcing them to invent random things.

Patton Oswalt really steals the show in their sketches. His delivery of every line is nothing short of perfect.

The new theme song is as catchy as the originals. Most of the noticeable changes met, if not exceeded my expectations.

Sometimes, keeping things the same is good, too

Despite all the differences, there are a lot of things that have stayed just the same, less some minor “upgrades”. The set layout is generally the same, but now in high definition. The countdown doors are very similar, but seem more detailed. The silhouetted riffers are in the same spot as they were, and the movies are all just as bad.

The charm and cheesiness and light-heartedness remains the same in MST3k: The Return. Unfortunately…this is about where my praise ends. Because, you see, there’s something missing. Something is different about the new show¬†that just doesn’t set well with me…and that is….

…it’s not that funny.

Don’t get me wrong, I did laugh pretty hard at a few good jokes, and I have generally enjoyed the show, but less in the way I’m laughing every 20 seconds, but in more of a…”That was kinda funny…¬†I’d like to see more of that…wait there’s no more…oh well, let’s see what’s going on with Facebook”…kind of way. As each episode progresses, I grow more and more bored.

To hold the MST3k title, you must uphold the one thing that made it truly great: it was hilarious.¬†And it’s not that the new show¬†isn’t funny, it’s just…not¬†that funny. So…why?

Well, to answer that, I have a few key points I’d like to bring up…

1. The essence of a good joke

There are a few things that really make a joke impactful. First, it’s¬†timing/delivery. Mel Brooks, one of the greatest comedy film writers and directors in history credits his comedic abilities to his sense of timing.

Timing in joke telling and story telling is crucial; listeners should be able to be engaged in the joke as if in conversation, and have time to react once they hear the punchline. A mistimed line could throw the entire rhythm off, alienating the listener, taking them out of the experience, and feel like they’re being told a joke printed on a piece of paper, being read by a performer. And you don’t want that. Which bring’s me to my next point.

Expectancy. It’s hard to laugh at a joke when you know the punchline, isn’t it? It’s also very difficult to laugh when you know precisely when a joke is about to occur. Instead, a good joke should take you to a place in your mind you wouldn’t have considered going, and once there, there’s the big “Aha!” moment, where the joke hits you right in the face. And you laugh. One of the greatest comedians of our time, Louis CK, spoke about his own comedy when asked about the adult oriented and controversial things he says in his stand-up. To paraphrase, he said he likes to take people to that place that’s really uncomfortable, so that once they’re there, they can look around and see it wasn’t all that bad, and ultimately feel good and happy in that place. Because the thing that makes horrible things less horrible is to make them funny.

Now obviously, MST3k is generally a clean show, but the principal of delivering the unexpected reigned true in the original show, but doesn’t seem to exist in the new one. More on that later.

2. The essence of a good riff

One of my favorite things about MST3k are what makes it so good – the riffing. Mike Nelson, Joel, and the original gang are all stellar riffers. What I feel made it truly great is how natural it felt. When you watch them riff, you really feel like they’re reacting to the screen, not performing in front of it. Whether it’s Kevin easing in what almost sounds like an improvised song over the film’s score about the Touch of Satan in your heart, or a sarcastic remark about how dance rehearsals are the Horrors of Spider Island. Or perhaps it’s something as simple as finishing an actor’s sentence, transforming the entire meaning of the scene into something even more ridiculously hilarious.

No matter the type of joke, the almost always felt incredibly natural, snarky, sarcastic, and did a really good job of being in context with the movie. 

3. The story does matter

I know, the show’s theme song says I “..should really just relax” when questioning the nature and context of the show…but it kind of matters! I’m not talking about the minor details – again, I couldn’t care less how he eats and breathes or other science facts.

What matters to me is how actors respond to the premise of a story. The premise? I guy gets kept against his will and is forced to watch bad movies. Both Mike and Joel¬†responded to this premise exceedingly well. Joel had a very “put out” look on his face no matter what he was doing; granted, his standup was quite similar, but it fit. He really seemed like he didn’t want to be there and was trying to make light of his situation by making fun of it.

Mike did equally as well, but with a bit more of a passive aggressive tone. He puts some “stank” on it, and always had a great way of telling how much he hated being there. In one episode, he sits down and sighs with a relaxed tone of voice and says something to the effect of “Man..don’t you just wish you could…reach up and…wipe this movie away with a tissue and throw it in the trash?” His delivery and blatant sarcasm layered with this blissful tone made for one of the best opening lines I’ve heard in an episode.

In other words, Joel and Mike did an excellent job of fulfilling the demands of the premise.

4. The writing

Good writing plays an important part in any type of visual media. Early on in the original MST3k series, Mike Nelson took the part of head writer while Joel remained the host. I can’t speak to the specifics of the writing process they took, or credit specific jokes to specific people, but I can say that Mike Nelson is a great head writer.

In an interview, Mike and Kevin talk about the riffing process, and note how they discard jokes, and sometimes entire films, simply because the potential for something to be funny just isn’t there.

They also put a ton of effort into making sure there were jokes for everyone. Jokes that weren’t just for that day and time, but could hold up over time. They would mix obscure pop culture references in with jokes¬†just about anyone could get.

Mike Nelson, to me, has proven to continue to be a comedy genius even today with his project, Rifftrax. Since starting, he’s hired multiple writers to work on riffs, but the spirit of his snarky, passive aggressive joke telling can be sensed in every Rifftrax. These cleverly written jokes were what I felt was missing when I watched other post MST3k projects, like the Cinematic Titanic. Don’t get me wrong, it was quite funny, but it was lacking something. And I think it was a good head writer.

MST3k: The Return lacks in all these areas

Remember when I said timing is important, and that jokes should feel spontaneous, natural, and unexpected? Well the new MST3k doesn’t really seem to follow that principle…

Instead we get rapid fire jokes. According to Joel in an interview, they were intentionally trying to not talk over dialog. In his facebook post where he shares this article, he claims it’s the reason the jokes are told so quickly.

And honestly, I get the explanation. But it’s not a reason to tell jokes at such a poor pace.

I found myself more often that not trying to keep up with the jokes, where it was more a chore than entertainment. Jokes were told so fast with such similar tone and delivery, it was hard to tell what was conversation/dialog, and what was just a one liner. I wish that instead of telling more riffs faster, they would have just cut jokes. I’d rather hear one great, well timed joke, than 5 riffs in 10 seconds.

To top it off, the jokes just aren’t that funny. I’d get it if the jokes were maybe a “different style” or something like that, but…they’re just not all that great. Don’t get me wrong – there are GREAT jokes throughout the series – but they feel sprinkled in. They don’t make up the majority of the show.

Instead, we get a lot of corny, poorly timed visual gags that just feel awkward. Remember when I said expectation was important? Well, seeing Tom Servo fly in the middle of the screen, or seeing Gypsy randomly drop down and stare at the screen is not only distracting, but literally tells me when a joke is going to happen. It’s not that I¬†dislike visual jokes or prop comedy, but it should be something that adds to the film on screen, not distracting.

Joel had some visual gags in the past, as did Mike – though his were more subtle. In fact, in one episode from Season 1 (I think, at least prior to Kevin Murphy taking the role of Tom Servo), a fight scene took place within the movie. Joel stood up and said “Oh hey, I’ve been wondering when I’d get to use these!” and proceeded to hold up “Pow!” “Bang!” and “Boom!” signs – making reference to the old 1960’s Batman show.

Here’s the thing – when Joel did it, he set up a premise that these things have been just laying there which does two things: makes you wonder what they are, and provides a reason for the joke to even be taking place.

However, in the new MST3k, Gypsy brings some sort of case down from the ceiling, taking away from anything going on the screen.. and on her way up, there will be silence…like 10-12 seconds of silence…followed by Gypsy telling a mediocre joke about what’s happening on the screen, and flying back up into the ceiling. I know this seems nit-picky, but if you’re going to comment or riff on something going on in the film, don’t you think you should avoid diverting the audiences eyes¬†away from the film?

Some of the joke writing feels lazy, too. One joke in the first episode was the three characters simply yelling for 30 seconds what the camera was focusing on. One joke in the 6th episode was a (seemingly) 2 minute long song about getting on a stranger’s UFO. It’s almost like that really long “orange you glad I didn’t say banana” knock knock joke, but the person telling the joke says “banana” 20 times. It simply goes on way too long to the point of being uncomfortable.

Speaking of writing,¬†why does Jonah seem so excited to be watching bad movies? I mean, if I were in his shoes – playing the role of an iconic character I grew up watching – I’m sure I’d have trouble containing my excitement. But Jonah being incredibly chipper and happy to be there doesn’t fit the premise of being kidnapped and forced to watch bad movies.

That’s a lot of negative stuff, David!

I know, I’m spouting a lot of negativity. I really want to emphasize that there is¬†a lot of good to this show and that it has¬†so much potential!¬†And I think that’s what makes its incredibly obvious shortcomings that much more painful. If the show just sucked, I would’ve just shut the tv off and moved on.

But it doesn’t, it’s still as charming as ever, and has the potential to be great. They’ve got an excellent cast, great robot voice actors, and hilariously bad movies…

Joel and the new MST3k gang really need to take a look back and understand what made the show great, and deliver on that.

MST3k isn’t great because of the theme song, or the robots, or the storyline, or the campy sets…those things do well at tugging at our nostalgic heart strings…but MST3k was great because it had¬†great performers telling great jokes over bad movies. They took something bad, and made it great.

Let’s hope they do the same with MST3k: The Return.

What do you think?

What are your thoughts? Does it hold up to the original series? Is this the ONLY MST3k you’ve ever watched? Do you agree or disagree?

I’d love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below!


Ketosis is my hero

April 27, 2017 / Personal Stuff / 0 Comments /

Awhile back, I wrote a post about intermittent fasting. Fasting, along with a fairly rigorous workout schedule allowed me to drop a fair amount of pounds. And it felt great. I was fitting into new clothes, feeling more confident, energized, and all that good stuff that comes with weight loss.

BUT, like most folks who jump into dieting and exercise…I kind of plateaued. I reached a point where I couldn’t drop weight, gain muscle, or see any real progress in how I looked or felt. And it was really discouraging.

So much so, I stopped working out and watching what I ate. I still fasted (for the most part), but not nearly as strict as I should have. Flash forward several months later, I’m back at 200lbs.

For those of you who know me, you might be thinking, “Well you’re 6’2″! 200 is pretty normal, isn’t it?”

Well, no. Especially when it’s mostly fat. Belly fat. You know, the really sexy attractive kind of fat.

So, a couple months ago, I started to eat healthy…ish. I snacked less, ate a bit healthier, cut back on the drinking, exercised, all the stuff you’d assume would “work”. But all it did for me was cause fluctuation, jumping back and forth between 198lb and 202lb. That didn’t feel good.

So just recently, 5 days ago in fact, I decided to REALLY change how I look at food, and start a new diet‚ÄĒno‚ÄĒa better way of life.

Why diets suck

I don’t like diets. No one does. I mean, technically, a diet is just the set of foods you eat habitually, so everyone is¬†technically on a diet. But I really hate¬†going on diets.¬†For a few reasons…

Diets are temporary. At least, that’s what it often feels like. Most people have a mindset where they think “I’m going to give up x, y, and z foods until I’m at the weight I want to be.” There’s almost always an¬†end to the diet. Which makes me ask…if this diet is¬†really healthy, why stop?

Diets aren’t usually healthy. Most “diet plans” for weight loss are generally not good for you. They either involve a complete depletion in carbohydrates, fats, or other essential nutrients. Further, they’re never well defined – what carbs are good or bad? What fats are good or bad? What vitamins and minerals do I need?

It’s because of this, most of us hit a wall in our weight loss, or move slowly.

A lot of diets are just wrong. I’ll get to this a little later in this post. But generally speaking, most diets are simply inaccurate, false. Sometimes by omission, or sometimes by straight up falsehoods.

Other things that suck

Working out sucks. Ok ok ok, working out is really good for you. But when it comes to¬†weight loss, it’s pretty much unreliable. Why?

“Calories in, calories out” is a lie. This idea that you need to watch your calories, and simply burn more than what you eat is a generalization, and generally false. You can’t tell me that you can successfully lose weight and be healthy by eating 2000 calories of ice cream, and burn 2500 calories and lose 2lbs a week. It just doesn’t work that way.

Time to drop some truth

The most important thing you can do for weight loss is get healthy. Diet shmiet. Again, most diets lack in some area; they often require a complete depletion of one or more essential nutrients, which is unsustainable.

Instead, the focus should be on getting healthy first, then losing the weight.

Let’s talk¬†ketosis

What is¬†ketosis? Ketosis is when your body’s level of ketones is raised, causing your body to be almost completely fueled by¬†fat. This includes fats you eat, and the fat stored in your body.

What are ketones? Ketones are basically the natural fuel source¬†for the body and the brain. They’re produced by the liver from¬†fat, and are used for fuel when the amount of sugar in the blood (glucose) is low.

What is glucose? Glucose is sugar. It’s the sugar our body¬†can also get its energy from. In fact,¬†when you consume carbohydrates, your insulin releases into the blood to stimulate the liver and muscle tissue, and to store excess glucose. It helps the¬†body convert¬†carbohydrates to glucose for energy, and¬†store glucose as fat.

Wait, what’s insulin? Insulin is a hormone the way our body uses food for energy. It helps the cells in our bodies distribute nutrients like fat and glucose, and use them for energy. Every time you eat, insulin is produced. The problem is, when you consume¬†too much glucose – or carbohydrates – your body can become¬†insulin resistant.

What’s insulin resistance?¬†Basically, your body’s ability to process glucose is inhibited. As a result, your body stores the glucose as fat, and the amount of energy you get from glucose doesn’t last very long. Too much insulin resistance can lead to diabetes. Insulin resistance is the reason people with diabetes need to take insulin shots – so the body can properly process glucose.

What’s all this mean?¬†Well, as you slowly develop resistance to insulin, your body can’t process your foods properly and stores it as fat. This is why you feel tired after eating a large meal, or crash a few hours after eating something rich in carbs or sugar.

It’s also likely the reason you plateau in your diet. You’re simply not getting the nutrients to¬†repair your body’s insulin resistance.

How can you repair your body’s resistance to insulin? In comes¬†ketosis. When you cut down on carbs and rely on healthy fats and proteins for energy, your body stops relying on insulin/glucose, and will therefor rely on¬†ketones¬†– which break down fat for energy.

The ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet is a way of eating to promote the use of ketones for energy, allowing you to quit storing fat in your body, and allow you to start using the fat in your body for energy.

Does it work? If you mean “does it really cause weight loss”, then YES. It does. And it works fast. How fast? I’ve lost 7lbs in 5 days. Now, most of that is probably water-weight, BUT…this is the fastest I’ve ever lost weight on any diet and/or exercise plan.

Is it safe? For most people, yes! You probably shouldn’t be on a super strict ketogenic diet if you’re pregnant, have type 1 diabetes or insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes.

However, you can still be on a very similar diet and avoid risk, and get similar results. If you’re concerned, ideally you should talk to your doctor.

How’s it work? What do I need to do?

The general idea here is to limit your carb intake by only eating carbs from nutritious, natural foods Рlike kale, spinach, mixed greens, and other healthy vegetables Рwhile increasing your fat and protein intake. The result is lasting energy throughout the day, and body-fat loss.

Now, there are a few ketogenic diet¬†plans out there. The most extreme, and often advertised, is a¬†total carb intake of 20grams per¬†day. (This is where it becomes less than ideal depending on your current health conditions). Personally, I’m not a fan of this method. It feels to extreme, and can lead to feeling ill as your body adjusts from the immediate drop in glucose.

What I’ve found to work well for me¬†so far is limiting my¬†total carb intake to around 50 grams per day,¬†but¬†net around¬†20.

What are net carbs? “Net carbs” are the total amount of carbs you’ve eaten¬†minus the amount of fiber. For example, yesterday, I had 40 grams of carbs, 21 of which came from fiber, leaving me with¬†19 net carbs.

Time to get specific

The thing about the ketogenic diet, is it’s very specific. Unlike atkins or paleo, there’s no “blanket method”. It’s not¬†just about cutting carbs or¬†just¬†eating organic foods. What matters is the amount of nutrients your body gets.

Carbohydrates – This depends mostly on your health. I’ve found the easiest and most effective way to manage this is by paying attention to sugar¬†and¬†net carbs. Usually, fruits and vegetables rich in sugar have very little fiber; whatever amount of fiber exists in high sugar foods is usually not enough to prevent that sugar from being stored as fat. Since the idea is to lessen the need for insulin and glucose, it’s best to keep that sugar low. So, foods like apples, corn, potatoes, beets, and even bananas are not great for the diet. Even peas are no good! Why? Because they’re high in sugar and low in fiber.

Instead, carbs should come from deep greens like spinach, mixed greens and lettuce (not iceberg), and even some fiber-rich berries.

Protein¬†– You should have¬†just the right amount of protein. Not too much, not too little. It’ll vary depending on your weight. The practice is to have no less than 0.6kb per pound, and no more than 1 gram per pound. 1 gram per pound is only if you’re working out like mad. 0.6kg/lb is more for when you’re fairly sedentary. My personal goal is to find somewhere in the middle. Doing the math, my goal is no more than 115g a day.

Fat – I’m¬†not going to say “eat however much you want.” In fact, you should limit yourself in fat, too. Just like anything, too much of one thing can be dangerous. And depending on your health and health issues, you may want to be conservative with the amount of fat you take in.

There are three main things to be aware of when it comes to fat: how much fat, the source of the fat, and the type of fat.

I typically try to eat around 100g of fat a day. Now, I’m not sitting there doing shots of melted butter just to get to 90g-100g. If I don’t hit that amount, it’s no biggie. It can be tough! In fact, it’s more important to be eating nutrient rich greens than to be trying to eat a butt load of fat. On average per meal, I have anywhere between 20-30g of fat.

When it comes to the¬†source of the fat, I try to eat grassfed, pasture raised, organic fatty foods. Kerrigold butter, extra virgin olive oil, pasture raised eggs and pultry, fish, and grassfed meats are all contain good, healthy fat. Now, I don’t actively try to eat meat, and eating meat and dairy is NOT required. You could definitely do this diet entirely vegetarian or vegan.

My biggest source of fat right now is¬†avocados. I love avocados; they taste great, but more importantly, they’re super nutritious. They’re loaded with potassium, fiber, protein, and healthy fats. I eat 1 or 2 avocados every day.

You should avoid processed and trans fat. These kinds of fats can not only lead to fatty livers and stunt fat loss, but they can be detrimental to your health. Overly excessive fat intake, especially from trans fats, can lead to too many triglycerides in the blood, which can lead to deadly conditions like pancreatitis.

Potassium – yes, potassium intake is crucial here, too. Part of weight gain includes the retention of water. Water retention happens when you drink water and consume a lot of sodium, or aren’t getting enough potassium. Potassium is found in many greens and fruits, and well help you drop the water weight – and keep it off.

But, this is where it can get tricky. The recommended daily intake of potassium is between 4700-5100mg. That’s like eating 12 bananas. Who wants to eat 12 bananas? I don’t.

Potassium goals are HARD to meet. But not impossible. 1 avocado contains about 700mg-1100mg of potassium. 1 cup of raw spinach contains about 160mg. 1 cup of kale contains about 330mg. If you prepare yourself a couple well balanced salads with deep greens and avocado, or perhaps make a smoothie out of these kinds of ingredients, you can come close to or even meet that potassium goal.

Other nutrients – as I said before, a lot of this is going to depend on your body and current health. This is the same for other vitamins and minerals. I can guarantee that if you do this diet correctly, you’ll likely surpass your vitamin A and C daily needs. For anything else, you should check with your doctor. A blood test can quickly reveal any vitamin deficiencies or over-abundances you may have. Your diet should support your bodies real needs.

How often to eat¬†– this is also important. It’s often recommended you eat 4-6 times a day. The problem with this is every time you eat, your body produces insulin, which – again – promotes glucose-based energy and fat gain. Instead, you should be fasting.

Now there are a lot of misconceptions about intermittent fasting. Just like everything else, how you fast, and the amount of times you eat a day will vary depending on your health.¬†For me, I eat twice a day, because that’s when I’m hungry. I don’t typically get hungry in the morning. I usually start to feel hungry around noon; so, I eat a big meal at noon. I’m usually good for about 6 or 7 hours, which is when I have my last meal. That meal is also quite large.

The key thing with intermittent fasting – and I encourage you to do your own research – is by eating less often, you’re producing less insulin and therefor producing more ketones throughout the day, allowing your body to burn fat in between meals.

If you’re snacking before or after your meals, you’re simply increasing your insulin levels, and making it harder to burn fat. This being yet another reason most people plateau in weight loss. Which brings me to my final point…

It’s about getting healthy, not losing weight

Don’t get me wrong. We all get on diets and workout plans to lose weight and look good. But the thing that should be understood, is it’s important to¬†be healthy first. Being overweight is usually a sign you’re body is damaged in some way, and your focus should be on repair.

Again, the ketogenic diet is super healthy, but the extent in which you take it is dependent on your body’s needs. And that’s something determined by you and your doctor.

Focusing on health and nutritional needs will ultimately cause natural weight loss. Ketogenic diets consisting of nutritious foods are great for this. I feel energized, level-headed, dropping water weight, and burning fat constantly.

Thanks for reading!

I’ll try and update my blog with more info on the diet and how things are going. I’m obviously early on in the diet, but I’m quite pleased with how quickly I’m seeing results, and how energized I feel.