‘Veronica Mars’ Spinoff ‘Play It Again, Dick’ Is Aimless, But Great Fun

The Veronica Mars movie was inevitable, and you can even make the argument that the novels were, too, because the show’s themes lend themselves well to a mystery series. A web series spinoff seemed less likely, especially one premiering ten years after the original’s run, starring a side character, and hosted by the network that canceled the show. But somehow today marks the premiere of Play It Again, Dick. Did we need a Veronica Mars web series? Not at all — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.

In Play It Again, Dick, Ryan Hansen plays an exaggerated version of himself, still trying to coast on the success of Veronica Mars by attempting to launch his own series starring his Mars character, Dick Casablancas, as a private detective — ahem, a private dick. It’s an odd little web series, not just because of its mere existence, but because it doesn’t exactly have an interesting narrative, nor does it have anything to add to the Veronica Mars universe. Despite all that, the first two episodes manage to fully entertain.

Play It Again, Dick is wildly different from the Veronica Mars world that we’ve come to know and love. It’s straightforward humor, all light laughs, shirtless actors, and completely shameless plugging. Even Mars creator Rob Thomas makes a brief appearance at one point, mostly just to mention iZombie. This isn’t about teen soaps or mysteries, and it certainly lacks the zippy dialogue of the show, but these are all things that don’t really matter. There were bits of humor in Veronica Mars, but the web series goes all in and showcases how funny these actors are. Play It Again, Dick isn’t so much a Veronica Mars spinoff as it is The Ryan Hansen Variety Hour (or: Ryan Hansen Variety Couple of Minutes), with a bunch of dick puns thrown in. And somehow that’s enough.

Hansen is one of my favorite underused comedic actors. Even outside of his other beloved Rob Thomas series, Party Down, he brightens up all of the mediocre shows he’s been reduced to appearing on, from Bad Teacher to 2 Broke Girls to The League, with great comic timing (and perfect surfer hair, of course). So I’ve always wanted to see him headline his own sitcom. Play It Again, Dick isn’t what I had in mind, but it comes pretty close in that Hansen in just about every scene, truly shines, and is obviously having a ton of fun doing it. Also, Play It Again, Dick opens with him spooning a dog — what else could you possibly want?

PIA101a_1985The loose narrative is simple. Ryan Hansen (or “Ryan Hansen”) is set on creating a Veronica Mars spinoff centered around Dick Casablancas. There are many problems with this idea, as everyone constantly points out to Hansen — Dick’s character isn’t the best choice for a main character because, as Kristen Bell puts it in the pilot episode, “If you were really paying attention to the story, [Dick’s] a likely date rape enabler.” Plus, it makes no sense for Dick to suddenly become a private eye. Hansen turns a blind eye to all of this and forges full speed ahead with a pitch to The CW.

In order for this to fully work, Hansen (both the real and fake versions) has to enlist the help of Veronica Mars alumni. Play It Again, Dick could even be considered the Ocean’s 12 of web series: Much of its existence seems to stem from the fact that these friends just wanted to keep hanging out together — but at least this time, the audience is in on the joke and the fun the actors are having is almost tangible. Jason Dohring appears in the second episode and gets too invested in Hansen’s idea too quickly, trying to take over with his own version of a buddy comedy spinoff. In case you’re wondering how much this show caters to Veronica Mars fans, here’s all you need to know: Dohring spends a large amount of the episode shirtless and/or working out; later, Chris Lowell shows up for a funny vid-chat session with Hansen.

There really isn’t any point to Play It Again, Dick, but it’s funny nonetheless, and full of in-jokes (and eye candy) for Veronica Mars fans. It won’t satisfy anyone who’s looking for a continuation of the series, but if you liked the show and the actors enough to spend a few extra minutes with them every week, it might just delight you. Now, if only Ryan Hansen can parlay this into a lead role in his own sitcom.