Farewell, Legend of Neil, You Naughty Game-Changer

No more dirty talk from Felicia Day in fairy wings. No more papercraft props. No more musical guests singing about a man pleasuring himself to a video game. Today’s series finale of Atom.com’s The Legend of Neil, and the show’s signoff — an epic 20 minute mash-up of pop culture references, inspired spoofs and real character moments, which debuted at a screening last night for cast, crew and friends — is a more-than-fitting farewell to the NSFW Nintendo-spoofing series.

Legend of Neil has always been a consistent source of comedy well-tailored to a specific audience, so saying goodbye is actually kind of sad. There aren’t a lot of examples within the web video world of shows with that kind of longevity and consistency — three seasons online is like twelve seasons in TV land — and so today marks the end of a true poster child for quality web content.

Not only did truly talented actors deliver the hell out of Sandeep Parikh and Tony Janning’s punchlines, but on a technical level, the Neil finale showed how it has evolved since the first season.

According to Parikh during the post-finale Q&A last night, the final episode had 255 effects shots, which meant more effects shots than the entirety of season two. And Season 3 production designer Greg Aronowitz, who has not only designed props for The Guild but also has an impressive past working on films like A.I. and Minority Report, really lived up to the challenge of recreating Hyrule.

Neil‘s value for Atom.com can’t really be underestimated; for three years, the show has been a brand ambassador and audience-getter for the site, a true flagship series that helped establish the site as a major comedy destination. That’s a big deal, when you consider that it was only in June 2008 that Atom ditched drama and experimental shorts and rebranded itself as a comedy-only site.

The catch, of course, is that it was the most expensive project Atom has ever produced, one that could have been even more expensive had Neil creator Sandeep Parikh and his team not called in multiple favors. While budget numbers have never been released, Parikh himself hasn’t really made any money off the project. In an interview last July, he said that while he received an increase in budget for Season 3:

We threw it all on the screen. I didn’t do a really good job budgeting anything for myself. I still view it as a calling card for me, you know, and rather than pocket an extra thousand dollars here or there it’s just more important to me that I make a good show and have it be a beacon for my work.

Legend of Neil, however, is also one of Atom’s most-viewed shows (the finale, which as of this writing has been online for only a few hours, has already received over 1,600 views), and thanks to this “calling card,” Parikh’s got a sweet development deal with Comedy Central for a potential TV series. As for other potential revenue streams, a DVD edition of Neil is currently held up by guild issues, but during last night’s Q&A, Parikh promised that it was something the team was working on.

Neil‘s spent three seasons showing what happens when companies invest in talented (if slightly demented) creators, illustrating the value of targeting niche audiences and raising the bar for what you can do with web content.

I’ll miss you, Neil. But I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

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