Jumping the Snark: The Timely Return of Mystery Science Theater 3000

The show’s founder has launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring the beloved schlockfest into the age it always belonged to.

MST3K / YouTube

It went like this: Two mad scientists were working at the Gizmonic Institute, trying to develop a weapon for world domination. They decided that the perfect version of this weapon would allow them to drive people crazy. And they realized that there’s an extremely efficient source when it comes to crazy-driving: terrible B movies. So they launched Joel Robinson, a janitor at Gizmonic, into space with nothing but a selection of those terrible B movies to keep him company … and proceeded to test his sanity to determine his breaking point. Joel, meanwhile, built robots to keep him company in his satellitic isolation. The human and the machines end up watching the terrible B movies together.

That is the basic plot of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which ran for 12 years on a variety of networks and platforms and which is much, much better than its own B-movie-ish conceit would seem to indicate. That’s almost entirely because the janitor and his robot friends—the meta-audience for the show’s meta-movies—were witty and snarky and exactly the kind of characters you’d want to watch terrible movies with. Their running commentary on the films put before them was the star of the show, and, in that, consistently delightful.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K to its fans) was a show that, you could argue, perfectly anticipated the hate-watching and the Twitter-viewing and the Sharknado-ing and the Honest Trailer-ing of the present day. Back in the late ’80s and ’90s it foreshadowed the current moment’s obsession with snark, with camp, and with the cultural glories of the cinematically unworthy.

MST3K was cancelled back in 1997. Now, though, its creator is trying to bring it back via that other most contemporary of things: Kickstarter. This week the show’s creator, Joel Hodgson, launched a bid to raise $2 million to fund up to 12 new feature-length episodes of MST3K. (The number will be determined in part by the amount of funding pledged during the Kickstarter campaign.)

As Hodgson explains on the Kickstarter page:

We debuted on Minneapolis’s KTMA, local television, on Thanksgiving Day 1988, as the world was in the final throes of Teddy Ruxpin-mania. That was almost thirty years ago, but for some reason, people still seem to like the show—it’s a mitzvah!

Our show has had a long, strange run. Across a UHF channel, a cable network, cancellation, a feature film, then another cable network, the show lasted for 12 years, two generations of hosts and puppeteers, 2 Emmy nominations and a total of 197 episodes before we got canceled again for good in 1999. Sadly, it was just as Prince predicted.

He added, “But maybe that’s not where it all ends.”

So far, the campaign has raised more than $965,464—about half of its $2 million goal. Since the campaign has been operational for only a few days, and since it still has 30 days to go, odds are good that the goal will be easily met. Likely exceeded.

Which means: More snark. More camp. More terrible B movies, made delightful by a dude and his robots.