Sixteen years after the show was canceled, Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson is on a mission to revive the cult program. Today, he’s launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising enough money to film upwards of 12 new episodes of the movie riffing series.
For non-MSTies out there, the premise of the show was simple (sort of). A mad scientist launched a janitor (Hodgson) into space and forced him to watch B-movies in an attempt to find the most maddening film to use in his quest for world domination. To help cope with the situation, the janitor built sentient robots with whom he mocked the movies he’s made to watch. The jokes became known as “riffing,” and a new genre of comedy was born.
MST3K first aired on Minnesota public television before being picked up by Comedy Central (then The Comedy Channel) in 1989. It was first canceled in 1996 when a letter-writing campaign led the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy) to revive the program. After 11 total seasons and 197 episodes, the show last aired in 1999. Now, Hodgson is seeking fans help to bring the series back for a full new season.
“We’ve been talking about doing this for five years now, so it’s taken a long, long time to get it to happen,” Hodgson told EW about the revival. “The crowdfunding is kind of this big gathering, and not only is it gathering the audience but it’s also gathering together the people who want to get involved.”
Hodgson said the original cast will be invited back to write, produce, and cameo in the series, but that the idea is to introduce new cast members and new voices for the reboot. “Basically, I’m trying to blend the old with the new,” he said. “Mystery Science Theater has already refreshed itself once with a completely new cast, so I think it deserves to do that again.” After Hodgson left in 1993, Michael J. Nelson took over as the human captive, while everyone from the mad scientists to the voices and controllers of the iconic puppets Servo and Crow all saw various levels of turnover.
In addition to bringing back the cast, the Kickstarter is being used to draw distributors’ attention as well. No one has yet agreed to actually air the program, whether on TV or streaming, but Hodgson believes a successful crowdfunding campaign will convince someone to sign on, much like what happened with Veronica Mars and Super Troopers. To that end, Hodgson is seeking an initial goal of $2 million for three episodes, with an additional $1.1 million for every three subsequent episodes, leading to $5.5 million needed for a 12-episode season. Sound outrageous? Super Troopers earned over $4.5 million with it’s Indiegogo campaign, and as of this writing, over $340,000 has been pledged to MST3K in under 24 hours.
Even if he raises the funds he’s seeking, Hodgson isn’t planning on stopping there. “We want to make a show that is sustainable so we can do another 100 episodes,” Hodgson said, adding that digital and DVD distribution is definitely part of the plan. “We don’t just want to take a shot at doing six.”
Incentives range from your typical T-shirts and keychains to cameos on the show, a chance to co-write an episode, your friends’ inside joke making it into a script, and an opportunity to actually own a Crow or Servo puppet used to film one of he new episodes. For more info and/or to pledge your financial support, head to BringBackMST3K.com, and watch the Kickstarter pitch video below.
Update – 2:20 p.m. CT: No sooner did Hodgson launch the Kickstarter has MST3K been acquired by Shout! Factory. With the new deal, according to Variety, Shout! “now has the proprietary rights the ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ from Best Brains, Inc., including all brand assets and global intellectual property. The media company is partnering with Hodgson and his company Alternaversal, LLC on future endeavors surrounding the ‘MST3K’ brand, including plans for new content development, digital media initiatives, live events, merchandise licensing programs and content syndication to international territories.”