About a month ago, Joel Hodgson launched his Kickstarter to bring back Mystery Science Theater 3000. It ends at 10pm PST on Friday, December 11th.
Joel was seeking $2,000,000 to make three new episodes, $3.3 million for six, $4.4 for nine, and $5.5 for twelve. He explained that after Kickstarter and credit card fees (8%), reward and shipping costs (27%), they would need $550,000 on startup costs (creating designs, building sets, models, robots, etc.). He says, “At the end of the day, our goal is to make each episode for around $250K.” Also, as each level is met and they can add more episodes, fees are adjusted. Here’s a chart that was posted:
Okay, I get it. Making a TV show (even an Internet TV show) isn’t cheap and Kickstarter rewards and fees can eat up tons of money. …but $250K per episode seems pretty generous for a show where people loved its cheap look. I’m worried that it won’t look like the MST3K we’ve all come to know and love.
I suspect if a guy and a couple friends wanted to re-create a classic-style MST3K and watch some public domain movies, it would cost them a fraction of what Joel is looking for. Get some initial investment to build sets and props and borrow some cameras. Then try a Patreon model to get people to pay per episode. (The first one’s free to get you hooked.)
I’m willing to bet that when Joel set up the Kickstarter rewards, he didn’t talk to many people who had actually run a successful Kickstarter. If he had talked to some of my friends who have run them, he’d have been told to avoid physical rewards as much as possible. Not only do you lose some of the contribution to shipping, but fulfillment is a pain in the ass. Almost all of the original reward levels had some sort of physical reward. (Joel later added a digital-only one at $85.) Some of the stuff in the Kickstarter seems to go directly against advice from some successful Kickstarter organizers.
The pricing of reward levels is also quite terrible. Really, most people want to get the new episodes and the rest of the stuff is just fluff. The cheapest level to get all the new episodes is currently the new $85 level. When there were just three new episodes, that was terrible. I haven’t seen anyone charge $85 for three episodes since I was buying anime on VHS in the late 1990s. At nine episodes, it’s more reasonable, but that’s still more than $9 per digital download. Sure, they’re movie-length, but that seems steep. For comparison, a one-hour episode of Doctor Who on iTunes is $2.99 and you can get the whole 12 episode season (and extras) for $30.99.
I really think they’d have way more than twice the number of supporters at half the price. For every 100 people that can cough up at least $85, there would be at least 200 or 300 that would have done it at $40 or even $50. That’s not only more money, but more supporters who have a stake in the outcome and may help promote it to their friends.
Speaking of rewards, one of the rewards is “mission patches” that have the number of episodes each host has currently done. However, the numbers are wrong. Joel has hosted 106 episodes (including 20 of the 21 KTMA episodes) and Mike has hosted 91 episodes (including the feature film). I’m not sure how they counted, but can’t figure out any way it could total 100 and 97.
Another thing that worries me about MST3K: The Next Generation is the cast. Back in the day, people may have recognized Joel from a couple SNL appearances, but everyone was a relative known. Now they’ve cast Nerdist’s Jonah Ray, The Internet’s Felicia Day, and we’re supposed to believe that a big name such as Patton Oswalt is a sidekick? Honestly, I was fine with Jonah, but was hoping that rumors were wrong and that the bright and cheerful Felicia Day would not be playing a mad scientist. …and while I love Patton Oswalt, I don’t see him as a sidekick. Making him the son of TV’s Frank and Felicia the daughter of Dr. Forrester also seems a bit too convenient. Why can’t Felicia play Dr. Forrester’s old intern? They both have to be children of the old mads?
Speaking of the cast, MST3K is going to have a cast of thousands! …or at least dozens. There are two reward levels that allow people to appear in a new episode of MST3K…”And not as a nameless face in a huge crowd scene, either. You’ll be visible on screen, wearing a costume and makeup. And to prove it to your friends, we’ll put your name in the episode credits AND on IMDB.” Currently, 27 people have bid in one of those two levels. That’s 27 named people in 9 episodes, plus the cast. This is in a show that normally just had the cast and no others. I have a feeling these 27 people will stick out like a sore thumb.
To make matters worse, all of Hollywood seems to be joining in. Joel has posted that Jack Black, Joel McHale, Bill Hader, Neil Patrick Harris, Jerry Seinfeld, and Mark Hamill are all interested in cameo appearances. That’s 33 people in addition to the main cast. …and who knows if any of the original cast would appear again. It seems very unlikely.
Mike Nelson’s posted the following to Facebook:
A number of people were curious, so just FYI, I’m not involved at all with the Mystery Science Theater 3000 reboot.
That is all.
Over and out.
He later added:
Just a quick follow-up to my last post: and I know I risk being insufferable with this stuff, so please, please skip if you’re not interested in the sausage making.
I loved my time at MST, but I was in essence a hired gun. The brand does not belong to me, and I make and have made (almost) zero dollars off it since it stopped production in 1999.
But HAPPILY — I’ve spent nine years putting all my energies into RiffTrax (we now have created more tracks than we did in our time at MST!) and we have tons of exciting stuff coming up, including more live shows, more feature length stuff (including one of the finest films to ever feature an NES Power Glove), shorts, etc., etc.
As a fan of riffing of all kinds I’m glad there’s going to be more out there, but just wanted to give a fuller picture of why I’m not involved.
Let me just close by saying how enormously grateful I am to be able to continue to work at something I love. So, thank you, all.
Anyway, I’m in the Kickstarter at the $10 level. I can’t justify $85 for 9 episodes…and who knows if it will be any good given all the required appearances promised and potential cameos crammed in. It’s not even due out until 2017, so I’ll just wait and see.