Something will happen this Friday that hasn’t happened since 1993: Joel Hodgson will officially host an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Yes, the cult movie riffing show first created by Hodgson on Minneapolis public television in 1988 will see the long awaited, on-screen return of its creative leader, as Hodgson steps back into the role of “Joel Robinson” to riff a film alongside Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo. Some of the voices have changed, since Hodgson first left the series after Mitchell in the midst of MST3K season 5, and the series has changed quite a bit on its long, strange journey as well. But one has to imagine that it will be comfortably familiar to hear Joel riffing a bad movie once again. The show released the small teaser below, alluding to this fact.
MST3K is currently in the midst of its first independent, self-funded season, following a brief dalliance with Netflix that resulted in season 11 and 12 of the series. Season 13, meanwhile, is being hosted on the show’s new, proprietary streaming service known as The Gizmoplex, and features not one but three hosts. Jonah Ray returns from the Netflix era of the show, but this time he’s joined by the well-received first female host of MST3K in the form of Emily Marsh, and also by a returning Joel Hodgson. Joel’s episode Demon Squad, which premieres on the Gizmoplex this Friday, June 24, will be the sixth episode of season 13, and one gets the sense that the show has been saving it to build anticipation for the original host’s return.
Hodgson has of course kept up with movie riffing in the years since MST3K, first via a long run with Cinematic Titanic, and then by spearheading the crowdfunded MST3K revivals. He’s been an active participant in steering and producing the show, and has occasionally appeared on screen, but he’s held off on actually hosting a full episode as a riffer until now. In the canon of the show, this truly is his return after 29 years, which must rank as a very significant MST3K event.
The episode, meanwhile, looks like a doozy, and perhaps the most unique of season 13. A film from 2019, Demon Squad is the most recent film to be “featured” on MST3K, and it may be the lowest budget movie ever to make its way onto the series as well. Described as a “neo-noir horror film,” its makeup and visual FX truly must be seen to be believed. It could be angling for Instant Classic bad movie status, the latest film to be dredged up from obscurity and made into a cult classic by MST3K, in the vein of Manos: The Hands of Fate.
Check out the first glimpse of Joel’s return below, and keep circulating the tapes.