For two weeks now, since Din Djarin (Din is also known by the name “The Mandalorian”) showed up on The Book of Boba Fett, I’ve been racking my brain to come up with a comparable example to what we saw play out here. For two full episodes the title character of the show was absent for one full episode, then appears as basically a cameo in his own show in a second. (In the season, or series, finale, Fett is back in what could be described as a co-lead. Also, I do want to point out a few weeks ago I joked that Grogu should join Boba Fett’s team, “Maybe Boba Fett should recruit Grogu to be part of his team. I bet Grogu could come in handy during an underworld fight.” I did not actually think this would happen.)
The best example I could think of was a season three episode of The Facts of Life titled “Jo’s Cousin.” In the ’80s, backdoor pilots were fairly common, and also, for the most part, pretty terrible. In an era where there weren’t that many options for people’s viewing selections, most backdoor pilots worked as far as people actually watching them. By the time viewers realized they’ve been tricked, there were only 15 minutes left anyway and, who knows, maybe the cast of characters we tuned in to see will actually show up after all. In “Jo’s Cousin,” Jo Polniaczek (played by Nancy McKeon), leaves her boarding school in Peekskill, New York, to visit (you probably can guess where this is going) her cousin in New Jersey.
So, that day, viewers tuning in did not get to the further adventures of Tootie, Blair, and Natalie. Instead, they spent a half an hour with Jo’s Uncle Sal at his New Jersey gas station, with his wiseacre son Paul and daughter, Terry (played by a young Megan Follows). These are Jo’s cousins. I only bring this up because, at the time, it was equally as confusing and for 30 minutes, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out who these people were or why this New Jersey gas station had anything to do with a prep school for girls. And there was no one on Twitter screaming, “what is going on!” or even anyone to explain what a backdoor pilot is to a seven-year-old kid.
With that said, even “Jo’s Cousin” makes a little bit more sense because Jo was actually in the episode and the producers were hoping America would fall in love with Jo’s family and it would become its own show. (Spoiler: America did not fall in love with Jo’s family who owns a gas station in New Jersey.) So even this example is flawed because The Mandalorian isn’t a backdoor pilot. In the second season of Fraiser, Ted Danson reprises his role as Sam Malone and visits Fraiser in Seattle. Sam Malone is a very popular character and people were excited about this happening. But what The Book of Boba Fett did would be like if there were two full episodes of Sam Malone before he wound up in Seattle. It’s just Sam back at Cheers, hanging out with Carla and Norm and Cliff (and I guess Paul, who became a somewhat important regular character during the end of Cheers‘s run, even though the actor who played him, Paul Wilson, never made the opening credits but probably should have), having adventures that would really be no different than a normal episode of Cheers. Like, say, in the first one, Sam and the gang at Cheers have to square off against Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern again. Then at the end of that second episode, Sam decides he wants to visit his old friend Frasier in Seattle. (I’m going to point out that I’m proud of myself for looking up the spelling of Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern, because if I hadn’t I would have spelled it with two missing “e”s and then found myself yelled at on Twitter all day by die-hard Cheers fans for a piece that’s supposed to be about Boba Fett. It’s here I’ll also point out I’d happily watch a Sam Malone, Boba Fett crossover episode.)
What’s funny is, I initially thought of this Sam Malone example as a way to convey just how weird it is what The Book of Boba Fett did, but the more I thought about it, the more I found myself liking the idea of two episodes of Cheers hidden in the middle of a season of Fraiser, a show I also like. It’s a weird experience to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to wrap my head around something, trying to justify why the creators of a series would do something so bizarre, to just wind up at the conclusion that, as it turns out, I don’t care. Though, I guess I did learn about myself in the regard that sometimes I give topics that I don’t care about a lot of thought. That seems like it shouldn’t be true, but now I believe it is.
The fact I realized I don’t care doesn’t mean I can’t have a guess what happened. And my guess is Jon Favreau and/or Dave Filoni and/or Robert Rodriguez said, “Hey, remember in The Star Wars Holiday Special when Boba Fett rides an Ichthyodont?” (I’m going to pause my guess for a second to admit, yes, I had to look up “Ichthyodont.”) “I dunno, what if we had Boba Fett ride a rancor? Wouldn’t that be cool? How do we get there?” And the story on how to get there lasted a grand total of five episodes. So they added two more featuring Din Djarin so they could explain why Grogu somehow shows up. Though, I imagine people who passed on The book of Boba Fett, or checked out early, will be very confused at the beginning of The Mandalorian season three as Din is just scooting around the galaxy in a Naboo Starfighter back with his old pal Grogu. Which is, I’m sure, also by design. Because those viewers will then have to go back and watch those episodes to get caught up. And that’s the second part of my guess: that Din can just be a recurring character in all these post-Return of the Jedi shows. It’s pretty genius actually because, technically, Pedro Pascal only has to do some voice work here and there. So Lucasfilm has these two enormously popular characters and no actor’s schedule needs to be worked around. Yes, of course they are going to use them.
I’m going to miss having, basically, a new Star Wars movie to watch every Wednesday morning. I have the same melancholy feeling right now I do when The Mandalorian ends, which, I guess, in a way, it just did again. (Speaking of that, right before the pandemic started I installed a 95-inch theater screen into our second bedroom, that we use as an office, of our Manhattan apartment – a screen that is comically oversized for the size of that apartment. Then in December we moved, and one of the requirements was a place where this screen and a 7.1 sound system could still be installed into a Manhattan apartment. For the past seven weeks, every Tuesday night, I get excited about waking up and blasting the new episode on this 95-inch screen. Every Wednesday morning I wake up early, ponder getting everything set up for the screen, then give up on that idea and instead just watch the episode on my phone while still in bed.)
But Star Wars is a weird entity. I realize, since 2015, it’s seems like there’s been a lot. But there’s still that part of me that remembers the era between Return of the Jedi and The Special Editions when there was literally nothing but a couple Saturday morning cartoons that both didn’t last very long, the Ewok movie Caravan of Courage, then, eventually in the ’90s, some books came out. So there’s a big part of me that still can’t believe there’s a live-action television series in which Boba Fett rides a Rancor.
Do I want to see more Boba Fett? Yes, I do. Were the two episodes only featuring Din Djarin and Grogu better than the others? Yes. But both of these things can be true. Did I enjoy watching Boba Fett ride a rancor? I sure did.
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