We live in an amazing time for beloved franchises thought to be gone forever. Streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu have made a habit of picking up long-canceled favorites and bringing them back to life. And when not even that’s been possible, crowdfunding efforts have managed to do the trick, having already revived Reading Rainbow, Veronica Mars, and Super Troopers. Each of those efforts ended with massively successful campaigns that raised millions of dollars, showing the true power of a devoted fanbase.
Next up on the docket is another cult favorite, in the form of Joel Hodgson’s Mystery Science Theater 3000. The riff-centric show first debuted in 1988 and ran for 11 years before going off the air. In it, Joel and his robot friends were “forced” to watch some of the worst movies the public domain has to offer. Hodgson left the show after 100 episodes due to creative differences with his production partner, Jim Mallon. But not even his sudden departure could dull his love for his creation, evidenced by the brand new Kickstarter in place now.
The facts are these: MST3K needs to raise $2 million to make three episodes, $3.3 million for six, $4.4 for nine, and $5 million for a full 12-episode season. In just the first couple hours, the campaign managed to push upward of $200,000, and is continuing to climb as we speak. As it was with Reading Rainbow and Super Troopers, there’s a whole mess of incentives for donors of $10, all the way up to $8,000. It’s a campaign that mirrors its contemporaries in its audience and potential, leaning on the support of fans that have stayed loyal over a decade after going off the air. Cult status for a show was once considered a one-way ticket to cancellation; nowadays, it’s a perfect recipe for a full-on reboot.
To understand the potential for an MST3K reboot, all we need to do is check back in on how Super Troopers is doing over on GoFundMe. As of today, the crowdfunding effort for the Broken Lizard gang has earned 213% of its funding goal. Some perspective: Its $4.5 million in donations exceeds the original production budget for the first Super Troopers movie from 2002, and it’s not really close. Meanwhile, Reading Rainbow‘s Kickstarter is going strong at $5.4 million raised, making the $5 million reach goal for MST3K seem more than a little attainable.
How this will shake out remains to be seen, but if the constantly rising total for the MST3K Kickstarter is any indicator, we’d be shocked if it didn’t at least get to its floor goal of $2 million. If there’s one thing that cult TV shows have proven, it’s that a small pack of vocal fans can make a huge impact if given the opportunity. We’re fortunate to live in a time when crowdfunding opens up whole new avenues that simply weren’t available even a few years ago.
The Mystery Science Theater Kickstarter runs through the next month, with an official end date of December 11. Between now and then, fans can be a part of bringing a classic show to a new generation of viewers, all while doing right by the original audience. Our culture of making fun of bad movies is largely rooted in the creative minds behind MST3K, and it only seems appropriate now for them to return in full force. Will this be the next crowdfunding victory for cult classics? It’s certainly looking that way so far.
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