Who else besides me remembers “MonsterVision”?
For those of you not in the know, “MonsterVision” was a TV show on the TNT network that ran from early 1991 to late 2000. It primarily featured horror, sci-fi and fantasy films although occasionally other genres would slip in as well. During its run, it was originally hosted by a Claymation-style moon character, and later by magicians Penn and Teller before finally receiving its permanent host, the legendary Joe Bob Briggs.
Joe Bob Briggs is the pseudonym of syndicated film critic, writer and comic performer John Irving Bloom. Bloom was born in Dallas, Texas but was raised in Little Rock, Arkansas. He attended Vanderbuilt University on a sports-writing scholarship and later began his writing career at Texas Monthly and the Dallas Times Herald. While at the Herald, Bloom created the comedic persona of “Joe Bob Briggs” to review b-movies and other cult films.
The Briggs character is, essentially, a humorous, unapologetic Texas redneck with an undying love for drive-in theaters. Originally, his reviews were reserved only for movies showing at the local drive-in, but later he began reviewing films available on VHS and DVD.
In the early 80s, Bloom lived in New York City where he encouraged film fans to engage in a “Postcard Fu” campaign in opposition to the city’s plans to renovate and redevelop 42nd Street, which would inevitably lead to the closure of many of the Big Apple’s ’round the clock grindhouse theaters.
In 1985, Bloom debuted his one-man show, “An Evening with Joe Bob Briggs” (later retitled “Joe Bob Dead in Concert”) in Cleveland. After its success, Bloom took the show on the road and performed in more than fifty venues over the next two years.
It was the stage show that led to Bloom being invited to guest host “Drive-In Theater,” a late night show featuring b-movies on The Movie Channel (TMC). Briggs was such a hit, he was later signed to a long-term contract. The show (now retitled “Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater”) became the highest rated show on the network and ran for nearly a decade.
“Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater” ended after TMC decided to change its format in early 1996. Bloom wasn’t without a gig for long, however, as he joined TNT as the new host of “MonsterVision” just four months later.
“MonsterVision” typically aired two movies a night, with the better known title usually receiving top billing. The second movie was billed as “Joe Bob’s Last Call.” Briggs host segments typically took place both in and outside his trailer and featured his usual comedic commentary including his trademark “Drive-In Totals,” a humorous list of a movie’s highlights, as well as other trivia about the film.
Unfortunately, “MonsterVision” was canceled in July 2000 with its final episode airing in September of that same year. Gone but certainly not forgotten, “MonsterVision” will always hold a special place in my heart. I still hold out hope we haven’t seen the last of Joe Bob hosting all-night monster movie marathons.
As the man himself has said, “The drive-in will never die.”