Why the Veronica Mars Kickstarter May Be a Sign of Bad Things to Come

Are crowdfunding campaigns that bring back canceled TV shows really a good thing?

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Justin Lubin / Warner Bros. / Getty Images

Following Veronica Mars’ demonstration of the potential for fan-funding to bring critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful projects back from the dead, the Internet came alive with rumors of which shows could be next to Kickstarter their way back to screens. (Terriers, Pushing Daisies and Chuck are possibilities, according to reports.) Seemingly missed in this rush of wish-list making is one simple question: Is this really a good idea?

This is not to be confused with “Is crowdfunding a studio project a bad thing?” — I’ll let John Rogers handle that. The question I ask is rooted in story, audience expectations and the inevitable backlash when everything doesn’t work out exactly as the fan-base funders had spent years dreaming about and hoping for.

One obvious problem with many of the shows proposed for resurrection is that several of them had story lines that brought the series to a close. Admittedly, those endings may have been the result of some last-minute rewrites (Pushing Daisies) or longer-term planning (Chuck), but character arcs were completed and plot threads tied up (as much as such things are ever tied up). Bringing back such shows for one more adventure feels, in some way, unnecessary and selfish.

(My favorite example is a Kickstarter-funded Firefly revival. People! Not only is the series over, but there has already been a movie follow-up with the explicit purpose of wrapping up the mythology. The series could only be more finished if all the characters had ended up dead, and you know Whedon would do it. Don’t tempt him.)

Don’t get me wrong: I understand the immediate, emotional appeal of being able to relive the experience of watching a new episode of a favorite show. I even get the whole excitement around the idea that, maybe, just maybe, the new stuff will be as good as — or even better than — the original, and will somehow represent a moment of pop-culture nirvana that will retroactively make up for the emotional roller coaster that fans had been on since the show was canceled the first time around. As an idea, it’s a pretty tempting one, something that validates the fans’ relationship with the show past cancellation: See? It’s back, better than ever, to reward me for never giving up. There’s only one problem with this idea: history suggests it’s not going to happen.

If there’s one thing that everyone should accept as a pop-culture rule by now, it’s that attempting to relive former glories will only break your heart even more. True, there are occasional exceptions (hi, Blur. You too, Futurama). But, for the most part, when creative people of any stripe attempt to recapture lightning in a bottle, the result is inevitably disappointing at best and embarrassing for all involved at worst (Example A, Example B, Example Need I Go On).

Part of this is the fault of the people responsible for the work, sure, but equal (if not more) blame goes to the audience. Intentionally or otherwise, we tend to get too emotionally invested in the subject; in addition to whatever value the work actually has, we feel a nostalgia for everything that accompanied the original incarnation that is so overwhelming that reality has almost no chance of measuring up.

The most frustrating part of the whole thing is that the Veronica Mars Kickstarter may end up unintentionally destroying projects with genuine potential. Ignore the nostalgia component of the Veronica Mars campaign, and you’re left with Kickstarter’s highest-ever fully funded goal, and the entire (if, admittedly, low) production budget for a studio movie being funded by fans in just 12 hours.

This could be — likely is — the start of something revolutionary in terms of movie production, for both independent and studio releases. Unfortunately, the thing that made the movie so attractive to fund (the audience’s emotional connection to the characters and world) also makes the potential for audience disappointment all the greater.

If Veronica Mars flops, will studios go for a similar funding model in the future or write it off as an Internet fad doomed to failure (à la Snakes on a Plane)? We might have witnessed the, or at least a, future of moviemaking only to find ourselves wasting it on a movie that audiences will almost certainly find disappointing.

47 comments
Annie11133
Annie11133

Where is your editor? There are so many basic errors in this piece it's distracting. "...that will retroactively makes up"? Take a breath and proof read your work before posting it. This is supposedly TIME? I read blogs with better grammar.

steve7701
steve7701

Sure, why should the fans get what they WANT to see.  Better to get an endless diet of 'real' housewives, child beauty contestants and duck callers.

Buzzramjet
Buzzramjet

The movie follow up to FIREFLY did not by any means wrap up the series. This is science fiction and there are a hundred stories that could be told all the way from the exodus from Earth to the months between the last show of the series and the movie and EVEN after the movie. Hell they could do a series about a need to return to Earth That Was and do a whole retro of the past years since the war ended and not just the short bit about OUT OF GAS, they could find a new pilot, Enara and Mal could finally get it on, Zoe, could find a new love, Jayne could become a solid member of the crew, The Doc and his sister could be written with so many stories as to be beyond belief. The Story of BOOK would be great. 

So spare me the BS there is nothing there. There is plenty. And as for Whedon killing everyone off, sure he could but I don't think he would push it that far. That would wreck any sales of the DVDs, online sales whatever.  And the cast has said they would do it in a heartbeat especially Nathan.

Rljohio
Rljohio

I would chip in if there was a project to redo the last season of Lost (or a movie explaining everything

ceh
ceh

Veronica Mars was a nice show but things end and then... it's time to move on. There are series that end so badly (Monk and House and, really, Battlestar Galactica, for instance) that the bad ending almost makes the whole series a disappointment. Also, Kickstarter wasn't meant to be a site for multi-million dollar projects; it was meant for worthy little ones that (maybe) wouldn't have gotten anywhere without it. If VM was meant to be... the producers should be calling in their favors and pursuing the money through their "normal" (ie studio) channels.

EjectDiskNow!
EjectDiskNow!

Cliffhangers are great.  Permanent cliffhangers (like when a studio cancels a series) are not.  People what closure to their story lines and characters.  Like wrapping up her case-of-the-week, if it provides any answers to outstanding questions, Veronica Mars will not fail.

Destructor_Doug
Destructor_Doug

@domalessio interesting read though. i keep thinking that surely the money for crowd funding has to run out at some point?

Tejal63609600
Tejal63609600

@Tejal63609600 Yes! If there is a big enough fan base for anything then the fans should be able to fund it, rather then studios.

fpvs
fpvs

@domalessio 'Tis a silly, unresearched article. Among other issues I had, Joss said he is BUSY with Marvel & Firefly would need much more $.

Codey Amprim
Codey Amprim

Haha wow that's pretty sweet!! Glad Scribes is getting some spotlight!

Elaina M Roberts
Elaina M Roberts

The only thing I don't agree with is the reference to Firefly. Serenity didn't answer all the questions - such as why Shepherd Book knows so much about the Alliance and what's Inara's big secret (the Comic Con panel stated that she's terminally ill). There may not be a lot of main stories, but there are plenty of background stories that fans want to know about. Whedon has stated that he followed the Veronica Mars kickstarter very closely with the knowledge that Firefly fans would be screaming for him to start one. He's not opposed to the idea but is tied up with the Avengers storyline for at least three years. Also, a SciFi movie costs a LOT more money than a modern-day Nancy Drew so he doesn't think it will really be feasible. :(

DaniFredo
DaniFredo

This articles was a bigger waste of time than any movie ever written or conceived. In fact if this article was crowdfunded, it would have raised only the dollars the author would be willing to invest. Go back to school.

NeverGoOutside
NeverGoOutside

Veronica Mars never really had an ending to wrap things up. Audiences like closure. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing the cast back together again. 

Hell, I would watch another Firefly movie, although my favorite character got killed off in Serenity. :(

_BrantM
_BrantM

@textfiles Ouch, this reads like every paper I ever wrote in high school.

robinashe
robinashe

You're missing the point. It takes advertisers out of it. It takes large publishing houses out of it. This is going to lead to something very different. What matters is the middle man is taken.

WadeWilson
WadeWilson

Firefly could easily come back and explore Book past and it would cause the crew to have to deal with something from it. Yes he's dead however River would know his secret.

nvmtherage
nvmtherage

This is the most boring load of nonsense I've read all week. And I'd been on livejournal on Tuesday.

flailtastic
flailtastic

%s But VM's plot was NOT resolved properly! It was hastily cancelled. %s %s

RvLeshrac
RvLeshrac

@WoodyTondorf Soon it will be "You want a new X Film? Better raise $100 million in the next 30 days, or you'll never get any ever again!"

RvLeshrac
RvLeshrac

@WoodyTondorf No, everyone stopped looked around for a sec, then immediately dismissed every single one of our warnings without any thought.

DrgnQLrd
DrgnQLrd

%s %s In other words, more mediocre TV shows adapted for the screen. %s

UHR
UHR

@TIME @TIMECulture beyond fluff. why wouldn't you talk to one person in the entertainment industry?

MarcoVoigtel
MarcoVoigtel

%s %s Salto C-105 Amazonas em 06 Mar 2013 - ZL Itaguaí Grande %s6%sSCO SEMP%sO%site

Boone41
Boone41

Wow, if there is such a thing as a Seinfeld article, this one is it.  Nothing else to write about?  I'll just write about nothing.

Cinephilia
Cinephilia

This isn't the case of some suits going "Remember that thing that made a bunch of money?  Let's do that again!" (like the franchises that are given as examples).  The people involved are genuinely passionate about the project.  It is not very likely to disappoint fans if everyone involved is enthused to do it.  You can tell the quality difference in projects in which all the players are having fun and want to be there.  I will continue to throw money at those people to see the great things they can create.  The Veronica Mars/Party Down group, all The State members, Chris Hardwick, Felicia Day,... they do not disappoint me.  

Grrrrds
Grrrrds

The series of Veronica Mars didn't wrap up at the end though - there were some serious unanswered questions, such as whether or not Keith Mars won the election for mayor.

WalterQuinn
WalterQuinn

I think the implications of the Veronica Mars Kickstarter explosion are being seriously over-hyped. While it was exciting to see this movie product get funded as quickly as it did, it is hardly unique. Kickstarter has funded many artistic endeavors including several films. These projects have garnered a few Oscar nods and a win for documentary short at this year's telecast.
I did not watch Veronica Mars when it was on TV, nor am I likely to see the movie, but I like that Kickstarter has opened up a new avenue for producing films that breaks out of the traditional studio mold and even out-independents the independent film industry model. I do not share the author's fear that a Veronica Mars Movie bust could jeopardize the future for these endeavors, any more than box office flops have doomed any other fad. It just broadens the horizons for getting projects funding, period.
I also doubt most of the other shows he mentioned will gather any steam for a movie either. The Veronica Mars project not only had a very loyal fan base, but also had a production team and stars that were also very interested in doing it again.

jordangrevet
jordangrevet

@debrouckere Bah si ! Tu débarques ? C'est l'info de la semaine (enfin ça date de la semaine dernière en fait) !

LucyWatson
LucyWatson

@NeverGoOutside Yes, exactly!! The third season got cut off half way through. There was no ending! Which is one of the reasons VM fans are so eager to see a movie version.

And I don't think these projects are always doomed, I'd put my money on the new Arrested Developments being good. In the case of Star Wars and Indiana Jones you had a much bigger franchise, and you were dealing with childhood nostalgia, which is different to a show from a few years ago, where the central production team won't have changed that much.

textfiles
textfiles

@swirlee Well, obviously you wanted to read an article with no information in it!!

shernnotsean
shernnotsean

@epak Christ. That article is akin to berating a vendor who sells you a falafel at 2am & yourself for waking up with it in hand, untouched.

debrouckere
debrouckere

%s %s je la préférais dans Gossip Girl ...

jordangrevet
jordangrevet

@debrouckere Tu la préfères quand on ne la voit pas à l'image ? :p Il va être bien ce film connaissant le génie de Rob Thomas. J'ai hâte !!