The 5 Best TV Tributes to D&D

Including those incredible "Stranger Things" scenes.

With Halloween coming up, I thought it was time to revisit the phenomenon that was the first season of Stranger Things.

Three years ago it took over our entire culture for two weeks, and reintroduced the world to the wonders of Dungeons and Dragons. The first season is perfectly framed by the four young friend's passionate investment in an epic tabletop quest—informing their battle with the Demagorgon, their understanding of the Upside Down, and foreshadowing the events of season two in the finale. It was charming and fun, and many of us were sucked into a love affair with the endless possibilities of D&D. But then, in season three, Stranger Things betrayed us.

Suddenly, D&D wasn't a priority anymore! Just because everyone has girlfriends now, we're not supposed to immerse ourselves in an imaginary world of magic and wonder? Bullshit! Will is the only one who gets it, and he's dressed like a moron.

Luckily, there are other TV shows that have professed their love for D&D without turning their backs. So let's take a look at the best D&D tribute episodes in TV history.

Community: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

Community creator Dan Harmon loves Dungeons & Dragons so much that he has a show dedicated to animating D&D sessions. So when the study group gets together in the second season (the best one…) to help "Fat Neil" by playing the most epic D&D campaign in history, you can expect it to be legit. Everything from the LOTR voice-over opening, to Danny Pudi's earnest devotion to his DM duties, and Donald Glover's basic misunderstanding of the game—"Shouldn't there be a board, or pieces, or something to Jenga?"—is handled perfectly. And when Pierce's narcissism leads to the party splitting, and Neil losing his most prized magical items, the stakes suddenly become real, and the rest of the study group must use all their cunning and skill to save the day.

The episode is so good, Community actually did a follow up in season five—"Advanced Advanced Dungeons and Dragons"—with David Cross reconnecting with Mike from Breaking Bad. Also worth a watch, and notable for not including Ken Jeong in drow-blackface.

Freaks and Geeks: Discos and Dragons

It's fitting that the series finale of the highly underrated Freaks and Geeks ends with one of TVs best tributes to D&D. The titular geeks are strong advocates and the game is helmed by possibly the greatest dungeon master in history, whose low affect air of authority lends necessary gravitas to the scene.

The thrust of their session is the transformation of Daniel, played by James Franco, changing his alignment from Freak (effortlessly cool idiot) to geek (enthusiastic nerd). And isn't it fun to imagine a world in which someone interceded in time to prevent James Franco from becoming pure evil?

iZombie: Twenty Sided, Die

Another entry in the category of underrated shows showing love for D&D, iZombie is the story of Liv Moore (... get it?) a medical examiner who mixes drugs with energy drinks and gains the ability to absorb dead people's personalities and memories by eating their brains. Standard stuff. In Twenty Sided, Die, the corpse in question is a devoted dungeon master, and must play through a campaign with her friends in order to unlock the dead man's memories. Liv's fellow ME, Ravi Chakrabarti, is a reliable nerd, and dives right into the role playing with some solid accent work, but the real fun comes from the stoic Detective Babineaux, who begins the session with an eyeroll, and finishes on the edge of his seat, more invested than anyone. You love to see it, and the resulting fan art is choice.


“Veronica Mars” Explosive Finale Divides Fans (It's for the Best)

Veronica is better as a closed-off, emotionally-stunted pessimist, with a soft marshmallow heart deep inside.



Fans were elated last week when Hulu's reboot of Veronica Mars dropped one week early following the cast's panel at San Diego Comic Con. The hype quickly turned on its head after viewers binged the eight-episode fourth season only to find that Veronica's nemesis-turned-lover-turned-husband, Logan Echolls, was blown to smithereens by the last bomb planted by serial bomber, Penn Epner (Patton Oswalt). So what happens when an underdog series with a cult-ish following kills off its fans' favorite love interest? A fandom fractures.

When the series began in 2004, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) was a young teenage private eye, following in her Sheriff dad's footsteps and trying to solve her best friend's murder. Meanwhile, Logan (Jason Dohring) spent much of the first season as a volatile rich kid organizing bum fights and ostracizing Veronica when her father fingered the wrong guy in the murder case. But soon, Logan and Veronica bonded over their grief over the loss of Lily Kane, and they ended up secretly dating at the end of season 1, kickstarting an on-again-off-again affair. Fans of the series (coined "marshmallows") shipped them hard, creating the nickname "LoVe" for the two unlikely lovers.

Six years after its cancellation, fans raised $5.7 million on Kickstarter to see their favorite sassy sleuth back in action, resulting in a 2014 movie that fueled the saga of LoVe and reignited their sexual tension. Now, 15 years and another tumultuous season later, Logan and Veronica finally tied the knot— only for Logan to be offed just minutes after the nuptials. To say some marshmallows are upset would be the TV understatement of the year.

Although the quick one-two of marriage and death might have had a rushed execution, you can't help but balk at the overreaction from fans. Longtime fans have given up on the show, turning their backs on creator Rob Thomas for good. Some have even called him sexist and the writing lazy. For me, a strong reaction of any kind is a good sign; indifference is the enemy of fiction. I'd also argue that one character should not make or break a show. But in all the excitement, some may have missed the clues dropped by Thomas and Bell; and clearly, fans' failure to crack the case left them feeling blindsided.

But we can't say we weren't warned. Before season 4 debuted, Thomas tweeted, "The movie was nostalgic. The Hulu limited series isn't going to be. Hardcore So-Cal noir. One big case...This is a detective show." Bell even chimed in on the press tour, stating, "You might not want this version, but you do need this version."

It should've been clear that this was no longer the CW's VeronicaMars, nor would the season serve up a double-scoop of fan service like the movie did. As Thomas told TV Guide, "The show started out as sort of a teen soap-noir detective show hybrid. And in order for us to keep doing these, I think it needs to become a detective show—a noir, mystery, detective show—and those elements of teenage soap need to be behind us."

It was the right call. LoVe's relationship was just as much a ticking bomb as the explosive that killed Logan, and Veronica's tendency to emotionally manipulate Logan early in the season proved it. Drawn to the bad boy version of Logan from seasons past, the writers made it clear that Veronica was baiting him to lash out, despite his efforts to put his demons to rest. He worked overtime to overcome his traumas and be a better man for her, but Veronica remained hardened by her own past. Her initial rejection of Logan's proposal and her inability to confront their problems at his request is textbook Veronica: Trust is difficult for her, so she stays guarded. In sum, she's deeply flawed.

The DNA of the show needs to expand to move forward—and Veronica needed to be separated from Logan to do that. A season of couple's therapy isn't compelling television, nor is Logan's perpetual on-call status for the military. Veronica is now a woman in her 30s, and without Logan she can dig elbow-deep into her next case as a workaholic with severe trust issues, a passion for justice, and an extensive taser collection. Without Logan, her fire will burn brighter than ever.

It's uncertain if Veronica Mars will fight, scratch, and claw its way to a fifth season. If it's anything like its namesake heroine, it will. But the polarized reaction to Logan's death draws a definite line in the sand. There are those with fantasies of LoVe who refuse to let go of the past, and there are realists who can accept a necessary evil if it means more of the show they love. Veronica is most compelling when she's fighting from the bottom. Like so many classic noir heroes before her, Veronica is better as a closed-off, emotionally-stunted pessimist, with a soft marshmallow heart deep inside. She's the underdog we root for because she never gives up. But, as in all great fiction, the protagonist can't have everything she wants, and as viewers, neither can we.


Veronica Mars may be just a forgotten "teen show" to some, but to others it's a razor-sharp neo-noir with snappy dialogue and a penchant for justice.

Revived from the dead six years after it first ran, it raised a whopping $5.7 million on Kickstarter to fund the eponymously-titled 2014 movie that turned the gone-too-soon series into a record-breaking viral phenomenon. Mars fans (known as "marshmallows") shelled out over $2.5 million in a single day proving that fans will pay in advance for content they want. And they wanted Veronica.

For three seasons, Mars served up skin-tight noir-mysteries with gritty realness, comedic quips, and a no-BS attitude. Premiering July 26 on Hulu, Kristen Bell and creator Rob Thomas are back as Mars Investigations reopens to hunt a spring break murderer wreaking havoc in the oceanside town of Neptune. Veronica will chase down felons for eight episodes, reuniting her with old friend Wallace (Percy Daggs III), her ace of a dad (Enrico Colantoni), and everyone's favorite villain-turned-softie, Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring).

Before Bell slides back behind that long-focus lens, here are five reasons why Veronica Mars is the real deal.

1. Veronica Mars delivers edge-of-your-seat mysteries

Veronica MarsHulu

When we first met Veronica, she was a high school junior figuring out who killed her best friend, Lily Kane, all while becoming a social pariah after her father, the sheriff, pointed the finger at Lily's dad. The show sprinkled subtle clues throughout each episode and as she inched her way closer to the truth, she found herself in danger like never before. Season 2 upped the ante with a bus crash that killed several of her classmates. When she found out that she was the target of the crash, she made it her mission to find out who was responsible, putting her at odds with Irish mobsters, a biker gang, and old acquaintances with deadly vendettas. The stakes are always high in ol' Neptune, but no matter the cost, Veronica tirelessly works her cases...especially when they're personal.

2. The show is a treatise on classism and social justice


In Veronica's world, the middle class barely exists. Led by the town's uber-rich and powerful, deemed the 09ers, Neptune is swarmed with high-status townies who flaunt their privilege and break the law at the expense of poorer constituents. Some 09ers achieve their status through crimes and fraud, and watching Veronica take them down is a treat. It's a weekly dose of what would happen if our government actually helped lower classes instead of helping the rich get richer. Veronica, however, is always there to even the playing field. Veronica for president!

She was also on hand to help destroy a serial rapist at Hearst College, fighting for the rights of victims and bringing guilty parties to justice. After all, she was a victim of rape herself. The show never glosses over difficult topics, but rather deep dives into them head first using Neptune scum as a microcosm of society.

3. Keith and Veronica's father/daughter relationship is the best there is

Veronica and Keith MarsHulu

Nothing tops the chemistry Bell has with her TV dad, Enrico Colantoni. With Veronica's alcoholic mom out of the picture (she skipped town with Veronica's college tuition fund), Keith and Veronica have lived outside of the town's social circle as outcasts from the Lily Kane aftermath. She's grown up relying on Keith, the one and only person who never left her side ("The hero is the one who stays.") and literally walked through fire for her.

Keith was there for her through her sexual abuse, bad-news boyfriends, and stood by her when his biological paternity was questioned. Watching these two lean on each other is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, hilarious and comforting. And we need more of it.

4. Bell's reunion with creator Rob Thomas

Since the show ended, Bell became a movie star ( Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and found a new home on the small screen with the incredibly brilliant and critically adored The Good Place. But to fans' delight, she's always ready for more Mars. Bell and Thomas remained in touch over the years, frequently kicking around new ideas to bring Veronica back to her Marshmallows. The movie was a great start (as were the two novels that followed), but Veronica Mars truly works best in a serialized format where the clues and mysteries can breathe. Bell and Thomas's collaboration has been the meat and potatoes of this series, and the fact that Bell is still down to revisit Neptune and taze some con men melts my marshmallow heart to fluff.

On returning, Bell said, "Ultimately, the decision came down to, 'Do I want a world where my girls grow up and Veronica Mars exists as a point of reference for them?' And I do. I want that world."

Thomas teased: "The movie was nostalgic. The Hulu limited series isn't going to be. Hardcore So-Cal noir. One big case. Eight episodes to tell the story. This is a detective show."

5. Veronica Mars. Period.

Veronica Mars in her officehulu

Veronica is tough as nails. She takes no shit. She makes criminals pay. She sticks up for the little guy. Despite being constantly kicked down herself, she finds a way to move forward toward the future, whatever that future may hold. She's the warrior you'd want your kids to look up to and the role model you can draw strength from. Her monologues can be dark, but they're rooted in reality and relatable to those moments where you have to dig deep to survive.

She says things like, "Tragedy blows through your life like a tornado, uprooting everything. Creating chaos. You wait for the dust to settle and then you choose. You can live in the wreckage and pretend it's still the mansion you remember. Or you can crawl from the rubble and slowly rebuild."

Veronica is proof that your past doesn't have to define you. Through public scandals, murdered friends, an absentee mom, date rape, social rejection, slut-shaming, and more, Veronica never wallows; she gets back up.

Veronica Mars is now available to stream on Hulu.