How meta do you like your entertainment? That’s a good question to ask yourself going into Play It Again, Dick, the new web series from the Veronica Mars team airing on CW Seed. If you are fine with a show being as self-referential as they come, then Play It Again, Dick is for you. If you grow weary of fan service, you should perhaps refrain.
Play It Again, Dick really works best if you’re not obsessed just with Veronica Mars, but obsessed with the people who are in Veronica Mars. The series follows actor Ryan Hansen, playing a version of himself, attempting to get a spin-off about his Veronica Mars character, Dick Casablancas, off the ground. The first episode finds Hansen pitching the show to Kristen Bell, Veronica herself, and to CW executives, who give him the go ahead for a micro-budget pilot.
Later we will see Hansen bro-ing out with Jason Dohring, who latches onto the idea of a Dick-Logan buddy show, and who plays an even more deluded version of himself than Hansen does. Hansen plays himself as sweetly doofy; Dohring plays himself as, well, a dick. (There are a bunch of “Dick” jokes in the show.) Dohring spends most of his time on screen shirtless, doing pull ups, and ordering around the crew working on the “making of doc.” When Hansen goes to Chris Lowell—who played Veronica’s other love interest, Piz—to get him on board, he gets a less enthusiastic answer. Their acrimonious video chat also reveals that Lowell doesn’t necessarily feel the need to wear pants when video chatting. Yes, there’s a butt shot. (Not complaining…)
The entire enterprise feels like the Veronica Mars gang letting us in on their inside jokes, and surely there’s an audience for that. Fans, after all, are a reason the series has a life in any form, contributing to the Kickstarter campaign that got the movie made. Hansen even called the effort “fan porn” in an interview with BuzzFeed. But whereas the Veronica Mars movie at least tried to expand the fan base, by creating a story that could stand alone even if knowing the series certainly helped, Play It Again, Dick is really for the people who care about Bell and Hansen and Dohring as much as they care about Veronica and Dick and Logan. One recurring joke in the first episode revolves around a real-life video of Hansen dancing; there’s a reference to Bell’s recent stint in Hair at the Hollywood Bowl. Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas, who is also behind Play It Again, Dick, appears at the beginning of the second episode doing a junket for his new show iZombie. For a show that’s attempting to skewer Hollywood egos, there’s something just a tad egomaniacal about the whole enterprise. Whereas Thomas has said that the show is “tonally” like his other cult favorite Party Down, it lacks the bite of that show, which was realistic in its depiction of the inherent disappointment involved in pursuing a career in Hollywood. In Play It Again, Dick‘s world an actor can waltz into a meeting with CW execs and leave with a go-ahead.
That’s not to say the show won’t grow. In future episodes some actors play themselves playing Hansen’s conception of their Veronica Mars characters, a convoluted concept, but one that has the potential to be engaging. After all, this part of the Veronica Mars saga just makes us actually want to return to Neptune.