Wednesday wind-back: Veronica Mars
Joss Whedon once described it as the "Best. Show. Ever. Seriously, I've never gotten more wrapped up in a show I wasn't making, and maybe even more than those ... These guys know what they're doing on a level that intimidates me." And though you might think such praise would be heaped on something like The Sopranos, the best-written show of all time, the beloved writer was actually talking about Veronica Mars.
Starting in 2004, Veronica Mars starred Kristen Bell as the title character, a high school student taking on detective cases from her fellow students while investigating the death of her best friend, under the cautious eye of her private investigator father (Enrico Colantoni), and dealing with everyday life as an American teenager.
Created by Rob Thomas (not the Matchbox Twenty singer), the show ran on The CW, eventually finding itself cancelled in 2007 after a disappointing third season. If the name sounds familiar, it's probably because it was all over the news a couple of months back after raising $5.7 million in a Kickstarter campaign to make a follow-up film written by Thomas soon after the show was cancelled.
My fiancée and I sat through the entire first season of Veronica Mars a couple of weekends ago. Well, she watched the entire season. It was her first Veronica Mars experience. But I managed to catch around half of it. She loved it. So did I. In fact, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed rewatching Veronica Mars.
I think I was mostly impressed by how well the show holds up. Television drama has moved ahead in leaps and bounds since the mid-noughties, yet somehow a high-school drama - from the same network behind incredibly dated shows like 7th Heaven, Roswell and Dawson's Creek - is still as entertaining as it ever was.
A large part of the credit goes to the cast. Kristen Bell is a brilliant lead, bringing a youthful exuberance to the role but managing to capture the more mature aspects of the character; it helped that Bell, and most of the other teens on the show, were aged between 20 and 25 during filming.
Bell had plenty of help though, whether it was Percy Daggs III as Veronica's best friend Wallace, Teddy Dunn as ex-boyfriend Duncan or Francis Capra as Weevil, the leader of a local biker gang - not to mention Amanda Seyfried as Lilly Kane, Veronica's murdered best friend. The Echolls family deserve their own sentence: Jason Dohring's Logan was an antagonist for most of the first season, yet I remember him as one of the best characters on the show, and Harry Hamlin was fantastic as A-list actor dad Aaron. It's been great seeing him on Mad Men this season, too.
Series creator Rob Thomas deserves plenty of credit, too. His knack for producing stories and scripts that were interesting and unique and vastly different from your standard teenage fare, while still capturing the trials of being a teen, has rarely been matched, before or since. No wonder Joss felt intimidated.
The production values of the show also stood out during this re-watch. Checking out Veronica Mars with older eyes, I started to notice how the use of colour and lighting affected the tone of the show and reinforced some of the film noir influences Thomas was clearly trying to go for. It's all very clever.
As to how I feel about the show now, it remains a favourite from the past decade or so. I'm looking forward to re-watching Seasons 2 and 3, even though the third season is a step down from its predecessors. I'm also looking forward to the inevitable feature film. I can't say I'll feel good about a version of Veronica Mars that is detached from the nostalgia that accompanies the show, but it'll still be fun to see these characters together again.
What did you think of Veronica Mars? Were you a fan? And have you watched any episodes recently?