Lost Signals: Monstervision (1995)
Ah…the good ol’ days when late night horror hosts were a regular thing. You had your Elvira’s, your Svengoolie’s, and your Rhonda Shear’s…all excellent, excellent hosts….but then you had Joe Bob Briggs, a man in his own class entirely. The legend straight from the bowels of the deepest trailer park (and probably the only critic I respect) was my mentor, helping to mold my young mind into the horror addicted maniac I am today all thanks to Saturday night viewings of Monstervision. Gather around now kiddies….uncle Joe’s gonna school all you whippersnappers on this wondrous program of days yore.
1993 was the year TNT began airing Monstervision (which at that time was hostless), a showcase of horror flicks that aired for into the early morning. During the early years the show mainly focused on classics of the genre, movies like Godzilla, The Blob, and It Came from Beneath the Sea. Occasionally the ever funny duo of Penn & Teller would swing by to guest host the nights tales of terror, posing as a couple of late night security guards with nothing better to do then watch scary movies….sweet gig, no? Admittedly…I was a bit too young to remember any of the above.
1996 was when I first discovered the show, coincidentally the same year Joe Bob came aboard to take over a permanent spot as host. Coming off The Movie Channel’s Drive in Theater (1986-95), Joe Bob was a prefect fit with his sarcastic humor, wit, and god-like knowledge of movie trivia. With this the show itself underwent a change, making the leap from cheesy 50’s monster movies to modern horror like Friday the 13th, The Beast Within, Return of the Living Dead, and They Live. The all night movie marathon format was also whittled down, shifting to a double feature format and a third followup movie under the banner 100% Weird (not hosted by Briggs). Despite the overhaul, this is when the show was at it’s most memorable…and rightfully so.
Joe Bob Briggs brought a whole new level of fun to late nights thanks to his twisted sense of humor. One of the highlights was definitely Joe Bob’s “Drive-In Totals”, a run down of just what to expect in the feature presentation (Chainsaw-fu, Car-fu, Head Rolls, 12 Dead Bodies, Dwarf Tossing, Ear Lopping, Six Breasts) followed by his star rating. His tendency to rant about whatever annoyed him at the moment along with freely, and regularly, criticizing the TNT censors (and even, on occasion, Ted Turner himself) were always hilarious. In between commercial breaks, when not relating humorous “true” stories about his family members or many ex-wives, Joe Bob would provide quiet a bit of background information on the film, tidbits and nuggets of trivia about the making of ,or about the actors/actresses/directors themselves.
Sadly though, all good things must come to an end. Around 1999-2000 Monstervision underwent another change, becoming Joe Bob’s Hollywood Saturday Night and Monstervision. Still retaining the double feature format, the first movie of the night however would always be of the more mainstream fare…showing the likes of Shawshank Redemption, Robin Hood Men in Tights, and Adventures in Babysitting, the actual Monstervision film being regulated to the second, late slot. In September of 2000 the final episode aired. Joe Bob went on to record (hilarious) DVD commentary tracks for a number of cult classics, as well as write Profoundly Disturbing Shocking Movies that Changed History and it’s sequel Profoundly Erotic: Sexy Movies that Changed History. Mr. Briggs keeps the spirit of the drive-in alive on his website, chocked full of reviews (new and old), articles, and B-movie goodness.
Monstervision may be dead and gone….but it’s memory lives in all the strange kids out there that stayed up late every Saturday to catch which giant monster was trashing Tokyo that particular week. It saddens me that after its cancellation, there really hasn’t been anything like it since on television…future generations will never know the joy of sneaking downstairs to catch Ghoulies when they should be in bed, instead munching on popcorn as a fast talking, trailer dwelling Texan regals you with stories of Linnea Quigley while bemoaning directors who dub their movies “psychological thrillers” instead of horror. Here’s to Joe Bob and Monstervision…they made the 90’s a scream and a howl. So next time you’re watching Roddy Rowdy Piper and Kieth David beat the crap out of each other for eight minutes straight, or a cyborg werewolf rampaging through a hospital…kick up your feet and crack a cold one open in Joe Bob’s honor. He’ll see ya at the drive-in.