November 30, 2006

Things We Like: Veronica Mars

That’s the royal we, of course.

In an attempt to get a little more positive here at, periodic mini-reviews of things we (I) like. Why mini-reviews? Because actual reviews are hard to write. Since my media reviews leave something to be desired, I’m setting the bar low and aiming for that.

In any case: Veronica Mars. I think I watched half of the first episode when it first came out because of critical acclaim which preceded it and thought, bleh - another of those teeny bopper shows. A season and a half later, it was still getting praise, so I figured it was time to Netflix the DVDs.

What I found was that I hadn’t given it a fair shake. Yep - the first two seasons had more than their fair share of teenage angst storylines, but the strength in this story is that it has some good characters with interesting strengths and weaknesses, and a nifty story arc which took the whole season to resolve (each) in the first two seasons.

Responding to criticism about how it’s difficult to jump into the middle of this series, the writers have opted for shorter story arcs in the third season. This week saw the end of the first 3rd season story arc in a fairly exciting and well-timed action climax in which our heroine actually fails to find the serial campus rapist via her usual detective skills, but instead puts herself in jeopardy to save a potential victim (driven by the guilt of not acting sooner in the season, somewhat a la Peter Parker). Hazardous consequences ensue.

And, on top of that, Veronica changes her hairstyle. I’m not sure that’s relevant, but it was revealed dramatically in the first half of the episode, so I thought I’d mention it.

Yeah, this show is part teen soap opera. But there are middle-aged main characters, too. Like Veronica’s father, the ex-sheriff-turned-PI Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni, known in our family for his excellent performance as Mathesar in Galaxy Quest). Keith is my favorite character in this show; he’s an idealized Dad in a lot of ways. Protective, but trusting his daughter. Tough, but quiet. Emotional, but in check. He’s a model for cool dads everywhere. And since I’ve passed the age where I can identify with kids who are just out of high school, he’s one of the many hooks on the show.

As the show kicks off its next story arc (Who killed the suddenly-very-unpopular dean O’Dell (Ed Begley Jr.)?) I suggest you take a look at the first season DVDs if you’ve got an interest in long drawn-out mysteries with spunk. Maggie can’t stand the snappy dialogue which she finds inane (think a toned-down Buffy the Vampire Slayer repartee). But it keeps the show moving along.

If I’m willing to suffer the ridicule of my wife for watching this teen show, there must be something to it.

[Update: I knew I would forget something]

A big draw of this show, for me, was that the mystery aspect and the subjects covered in the episodes and the story arcs were not light and fluffy teen fare. The mystery is not who stole Veronica’s lunch money, or why Biff won’t date Muffy. The first season has Veronica coming to terms with having been sexually assaulted at a party after being dosed with GHB. After that, she has little trust in anyone. Other themes, such as murder, wrongful death, STDs, being abandoned by her mother all figure in subsequent episodes. It’s not the Brady Bunch.

It doesn’t make a series good just because it has dark elements to it. However, it does make a series good if they effectively use realistic fears mixed in with fantastical ones, and that those realistic fear mirror the kind of problems that real young people might face in today’s world. Veronica’s world of Neptune (the town she lives in) isn’t like most towns any more than Murder, She Wrote’s Cabot Cove is like your average New England town (think of all the murders!) but stories are supposed to be about exceptional places. And you must suspend at least a little of your disbelief.

Posted by James at November 30, 2006 9:22 AM
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What?? Cabot Cove is not your average New England town???

Bite your tongue! (Or pinch your fingers, or something.)

(BTW, Jessica Fletcher never changed her hairstyle.)

Posted by: Maggie at November 30, 2006 12:00 PM

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