Friday, April 03, 2009

The cartoon series that will never be...

In honor of the show's twentieth anniversary, a person did this wallpaper in honor of a spectacular comedy show from the last two decades. Click on this sentence to go to the original web page where the full size wallpaper is located.

A couple of observations were triggered from this beautiful picture. This is perhaps the first time all the characters have been on stage together. Joel Hodgson and Michael J. Nelson never appeared as their characters together. (Mike did subsidiary characters during Joel's time, such as The Amazing Colossal Man and a pianist playing the "Gamera" theme song. I think this is also the first time anyone has drawn the lower parts of Crow T. Robot's body.

Like all passed TV series, it's sad to contemplate the fates of some of these people. J. Elvis Weinstein (the dark-haired guy who played Dr. Forrester's assistant in early shows) wound up working with his "boss" Trace Beaulieu on the earliest and lamest of the "reality" shows, America's So-Called Funniest Home Videos. Each week, they have to find witty things to put in the mouth of plasticized human Tom Bergeron. In other words, the mad scientist and his assistant are the same hellish employment trap into which they inserted Joel and Mike.

And the saddest is Joel Hodgson, the shy comedian who created the show for local TV after dropping out of the stand-up comedy circuit. He hated the pressure of performing his act across the country, and although I have never heard him admit to it, I think he was afraid of all those people. I believe he quit MST3K because it was bringing him precisely the kind of fame he was trying to avoid.

After he left MST3K he was "creative consultant" for The Paula Poundstone Show. That show was ABC's attempt to produce a comedy variety show, and unfortunately based it on an alcoholic comedienne who preferred to speak in non-sequiturs than actually do humor. If you never saw this show, it's not your fault; it lasted one episode. Peaks of its humor were an "ecology expert" that spoke from inside a crummy-looking space pod, and actual economists who had to deliver their explanations of economics while riding a carnival whip ride.

Then Hodgson attempted to do a TV show that seemed to be based on his "invention exchange." At great expense, he set up a studio with a camera in a 360-degree blind, with curtains, so he could have live performers appear in short blackout sketches in a circle around a camera. It was called The TV Wheel, after it was dumped by HBO I think the pilot aired a few times on Comedy Central, and then the whole mess was forgotten.

Currently, Hodgson has gone back home, sort of. With some of the MST3K alumni he's doing Cinematic Titanic, where he and his companions play themselves for a change, making fun of movies like The Oozing Skull and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Problem is, he's not only competing against his past (his original parody of Santa Claus was hiliarious) but against Mike Nelson's video version, Rifftrax, which sells low-cost MP3's you play in sync with current movies. And against Nelson's own imitation of MST3K called The Film Crew. And against my friends Luke Ski, Carrie Dahlby and a few others, who do an affectionate fan-tribute called Mystery Spatula Theater 11.

What saddens me is that Hodgson , apparently driven by personal traumas, has fled from two careers - stand-up comedy and involved parody - that I and many others have been striving to achieve and probably never will. When God gives you talent and the fortune to achieve such things, you don't throw them away. He did, twice. But if he insists on sabotaging himself, he has established a good tradition, and we'll remember him fondly as he runs for the shadows to hide.