Jonah Ray Says Netflix Budgets Were 'Antithetical' To What Mystery Science Theater 3000 Is [Exclusive]

Nearly three and a half decades since audiences were first introduced to the Shadowrama goodness of "Mystery Science Theater 3000," the long-running movie riffing program doesn't show signs of stopping anytime soon. The show about a human test subject being forced by The Mads to watch bad movies in the hopes of being driven insane atop a spacecraft has gone through a number of cast and broadcast changes over the years, but the heart of the show continues to beat as strong as ever. It's a show about critically loving some of the weirdest, worst, and most puzzling films ever put to screen, and a celebration of why we love going to the cinema, even if the film we see is, let's say, less-than-Oscar worthy. "MST3K" has always been an underdog production revelling in the same low-budget aesthetic of the films it playfully pokes fun at, and the next step in the series' evolution only proves that even more.

After its initial run on KTMA in Minnesota, "MST3K" enjoyed a life on Comedy Central and SyFy before returning on Netflix for two seasons. Fans were thrilled about the return of their robotic faves, but something about the new seasons felt The Netflix era of "MST3K" wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, it just didn't have the same energy of the seasons that came before. As it turns out, stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day felt similarly, citing the big budget provided for the Netflix seasons had a massive impact on the change in feeling. As "MST3K" returns on its own terms, without a network, and with their personal online theater, The Gizmoplex, Ray and Day assured us in an interview that "MST3K" is heading back to their "DIY or die" roots.

'It has the spirit of the original'

The return of "MST3K" may have broken Kickstarter records, but giving the crew the chance to have full creative control over the final product is worth every penny. "The great thing about this season is that there's a lower scale to it," said Felicia Day. 'It was an amazing record-setting Kickstarter, but the shows themselves were done on a smaller scale that was a lot more organic to what "MST3K" is." Day said that there was a much smaller crew, and since they no longer needed network approval on scripts, episodes were able to change whenever needed if something wasn't working. "I think it has the spirit of the original show a lot more than the last two seasons, and so I just loved getting on stage and knowing that I could do it, whatever the hell I want." Ray echoed the sentiments, saying he was really confused by the size of the sets provided for Netflix. He said it was obviously exciting to be walking around a sound stage in costume, because it "feels like show biz." At the same time, however, Ray said it was "antithetical to what the show is":

"We're not too dissimilar from the movies we're watching. We're just some scrappy people trying to make some entertainment, trying to make some people happy. And we're no better than the movies we're watching. We're just having fun with them. And we should embrace what they embraced, which is, a lack of major resources. And just swinging for the fences."

Show creator Joel Hodgson was also eager to return to the show's simple roots, which is way more in line with Ray and Day's wheelhouse. "When Joel was talking about this season, I was like, 'We can bring it way down,' and I was trying to tell him, I was like, 'Me and Felicia, we come from web videos and sketches and DIY,'" said Ray.

"Mystery Science Theater 3000" season 13 premieres May 6, 2022, on The Gizmoplex.