Welcome Back: MST3K to return

photo-originalThanks to Kickstarter, a cult classic rises again

In this era of reboots and revivals comes an unlikely name surfacing: Mystery Science Theater 3000.

And so it shall be done.

Thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, the movie mocking series Mystery Science Theater 3000 – or MST3K, for short, is indeed coming back with fourteen new episodes – thanks to a Kickstarter project which brought in $5,764,229 from backers as of Friday evening – a record, beating previous record holder Veronica Mars, which raised $5,702,153 for the movie version of the now-defunct CW series.

In addition, Hodgson kicked in $600,000 to bring the grand total to $6.3 million. Hodgson has helped secure the rights to the series in a joint venture with Shout! Factory, partly making the revival possible.

The new version includes Hodgson, who co-created the series and was in the original from 1989-93. New cast members include Jonah Ray as the new “victim” aboard the Satellite of Love; Felicia Day as the daughter of Dr. Clayton Forrester (played by Trace Beaulieu in the original); and Patton Oswalt as the son of TV’s Frank (played by Frank Conniff.) Hodgson has also invited other alumnus from the show to appear.

And of course, the bots – Cambot, Crow, Gyspy, and Tom Servo – are also back.

Also on tap are celebrity cameos and a few guest writers, including Community creator Dan Harmon.

Social media was heavily involved in the campaign, which used the Twitter hashtag #BringBackMST3K as well as an accompanying website. A telethon featuring past episodes were also streamed the last few days and was deemed a success, despite technical glitches.

You know the plot: Joel (and later Mike, played by head writer Michael Nelson) worked for Gizmonic Industries, and is launched into space by his mad scientist bosses (Forrester and Frank) and is forced to sit through bad movies each week as an experiment to see which one can drive a person insane and for Dr. Forrester to use for world domination. You know, similar to what Chicago Bears fans have to put with every week (Ha Ha).

Yours truly at an MST3K celebration in 2013. Not exactly a great seat…but at least I captured the logo!

In order to keep sane, Joel built some robots to keep company while watching the movies and “riff”, or make fun of what’s on the screen. Usually, the movies are of the Science Fiction genre, the low-budget variety of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Films featured on MST3K included The Hands Of Manos, Wild Wild World of Batwoman (no relation to the Batman franchise) and the 1957 film Beginning Of The End, where big bugs take over Chicago – the ChiRaq of its day.

MST3K’s roots lie deep with the late-night horror hosts of the 1950’s and 1960’s, where local TV stations would employ ghoulish hosts to introduce movies. Most notable ones include Terry Bennett’s “Shock Theater” over Chicago’s WBKB-TV (now WLS) and “Ghoulardi”, played by Ernie Anderson at Cleveland’s WJW-TV . And of course, Svengoolie, first played by Jerry G. Bishop and later by Rich Koz, as Son of Svengoolie at WFLD-TV and Svengoolie on WCIU. Koz’s Svengoolie is still going strong, airing nationwide Saturday nights on digital subchannel MeTV.

Movies appearing on both Svengoolie and MST3K include Beginning Of The End and Santa Claus Conquers The Martians.

MST3K itself started at a local Minneapolis TV station in 1988 at KTMA (now Sinclair-owned WUCW.) In 1989, it moved to the Comedy Channel (now Comedy Central) and moved again in 1995 to the SciFi Channel (now SyFy), running until 1999. Since then, MST3K has remained popular with fans, with releases on home video and streaming services. Reruns of the series currently appear on Retro TV Network and also ran briefly on WTTW last summer.

On November 16, 2013, a 25th Anniversary celebration was held at the Museum of Broadcast Communications here in Chicago, attended by yours truly.

As for the new version, specifics ares sketchy – no word on where the new series will air, but a streaming component is likely.