Welcome to the latest episode of Too Long; Didn’t Watch, a new podcast produced by Rolling Stone and OBB Sound, presented by Google Assistant, and hosted by yours truly. In each episode, we attempt a new method of scaling Peak TV, by pairing a celebrity guest with a series they’ve never seen and showing them only the very first and very last episodes, to see if they can figure out what in the world happened in between.
For this week’s episode, we welcome actor, Oscar-nominated screenwriter, pop-culture superfan, and shockingly buff dude Kumail Nanjiani to watch Veronica Mars, the high school noir starring Kristen Bell as a teen gumshoe in a town with no middle class. It’s another fun conversation, but also one that added a complicated wrinkle to the TLDW formula, namely:
What exactly counts as the Veronica Mars finale?
In the mid-2000s, the show ran for two seasons on UPN, then a third on the CW after that network was created by the merger of UPN and the WB. The CW canceled the show in 2007. There was then a fan-funded movie in 2014, followed by a sequel season on Hulu in 2019. As my producers and I planned this episode, a debate raged over which episodes to show Kumail. The UPN pilot was a given (it remains one of the best premiere episodes I’ve ever seen), but did we want to follow that with the CW finale or the Hulu one?
Ultimately, we went with the CW episode, because that felt like the conclusion of the story that began in that UPN pilot — not the “Who killed Lily Kane?” plot, since that had been resolved in the first season, but the idea of Veronica as a kid getting in way over her head with these very adult mysteries. In both the movie and the Hulu episodes, she’s a grown-up. The dialogue is still snappy, and Bell and co-stars like Enrico Colantoni are still terrific together, but Veronica’s adulthood fundamentally changes the premise enough that it felt safe considering it a separate thing. (Though we do briefly discuss both the movie and the Hulu season’s divisive conclusion. As always with TLDW, spoilers abound.)
Kumail and I wind up discussing this whole process within the episode. TV revivals are all the rage these days, which means few shows ever truly stay dead, and thus I’ll have to confront this decision again down the road. And I’m not sure I’d make the same choice the next time. If a guest chooses Twin Peaks, should I freak them the hell out by showing them the ABC pilot and then the last episode of Twin Peaks: The Return? Would a Deadwood podcast conclude with the last regular episode, or the reunion movie? Do I punish a guest who picks Arrested Development or Gilmore Girls with their Netflix revivals? It seems like a question where I won’t be able to come up with a hard-and-fast-rule, but will have to feel it out as we go.
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Back next week with another special guest to talk about The Leftovers.