by BEN KROMER & r & & r & Rifftrax (available at www.rifftrax.com) & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & 'm not at all accustomed to getting what I want, so I was shocked to find that Mystery Science Theatre 3000 had been born again after I complained about its absence months ago. If you missed it, MST3K is the one with the guy and his robot pals riffing on bad, old movies while trapped on a space station.
The new thing, Rifftrax, is the same except the robot puppets are humans and it's not set in space -- in fact, there's no overarching story or characters at all. How it works is, you the consumer download the "trax" (audio files, or "tracks") from rifftrax.com for about $3 each and then synch them up to their respective features. The upshot is that, since rifftrax.com is only selling MP3s, they can do any movie that's widely available rather than just oldies with cheap copyrights. And so many newer movies beg for the treatment; I'm thinking specifically of the Star Wars prequels here, but the list of potential victims is in the thousands. There are 70 individual tracks available now.
And there are riffs for TV shows, specifically Lost, Heroes and Grey's Anatomy, which I downloaded. Critical analysis? Not bad! The best of the three was Lost, which means there's no correlation between the quality of the riffing and the quality of what's being riffed (unless there's a positive correlation, but that would be crazy). Anyway, having someone point out that Locke resembles a real-life Elmer Fudd makes it worth the money. My irrepressible critical faculties impeded my enjoyment of the Heroes tracks. They're funny enough (on Ali Larter: "Every time she tries to act, her Maxim Hot 100 ranking goes down"), but riff-master Mike Nelson generally isn't as cruel as in that example, and man, he should be. What a crappy show. Same with the Grey's Anatomy tracks featuring Mike and his wife, but I'll give them a pass since the show didn't get really annoying until later.
In addition to the MST3K alums Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo) and Bill Corbett (Crow 2.0), Rifftrax also features guest appearances (to the extent that a voice can appear) by the likes of Neil Patrick Harris, "Weird Al" Yankovic, and Internet sensation Chad Vader -- if you're into that kind of thing, which I think that you are.
If a 10-year-old programmed the television schedule, the channels would all be The Real Ghostbusters, History Channel's Dog Fights and Smash Lab, all the time. Smash Lab, a show about exploding things and then watching them in slow motion, is the simplest of the three and the most profound. This weekend's episode is called "Car Over a Cliff." (Discovery, Friday, 8/8, 1 am; also Saturday, 8/9, 11 am)
Summer Olympics: Opening Ceremony
This Friday, NBC is foolishly pitting the Olympic Games opening ceremony (four hours starting at 8 pm) against The Puppy Games on Animal Planet (6 pm to midnight). Unless China starts squashing people with tanks, depend on the puppies for the most entertainment value. (NBC, Friday, 8/8, 8 pm)
Primetime: Medical Mysteries
You may have seen pictures of the immune-system-deficient Indonesian man whose body is covered with warts that resemble tree bark. In an hour-long show, will you develop any pity for Tree Man? Or will you just feel gnawing horror? (ABC, Tuesday, 8/12, 10 pm)