About three and a half years ago, Best Buy ran a ridiculous sale on the first season of Veronica Mars. I had been a fan of the show, but I moved to a different state in between the first and second season, and for some reason, I lost track of the series. Which is weird, because I thought it was one of the only worthwhile hour-long dramas on television at the time.
Actually…now that I think back on it, I believe what may have happened is that the local UPN affiliate in Northwest Arkansas was having some sort of dispute with Cox, and I actually couldn’t watch it. But then, even when UPN went away and Veronica Mars aired on CW–which I did get–I felt I had been away from the show for too long, and I didn’t bother to watch.
So in a strange way, I always felt a little bit of personal culpability for the fact that it was cancelled after the third season. If only viewers like me had stayed loyal! In any event, purchasing the first season on DVD was my way of making amends.
Also, my wife had never even heard of the show, and I had a sense she’d like it. What I don’t think I anticipated was just how much my wife would like the show. We pretty much went on a Veronica Mars binge through the first season, and soon found ourselves back at Best Buy picking up the second and third seasons. Then we binged through those, as well.
From start to finish, Veronica Mars was one of the most consistently good and consistently entertaining programs on television. It wasn’t, of course, without its flaws, but if there has ever been a perfect television series, I’ve never seen it.
For three years we’ve been talking about rewatching these DVDs, and the time was finally right a couple of nights ago, so we popped Season One, Disc One into the DVD player and watched the first five episodes this weekend. I’ll probably wait until we complete season one and then say more about it, but I think that what impresses me about this series is how strongly it starts.
First of all, Kristen Bell was born to play this role, so much so that I almost can’t see her in anything else. I mean, she’s pitch perfect as Veronica. Veronica Mars is an example of a show that maybe wouldn’t have worked with another actress in the lead role. I literally can’t even fathom anybody else playing the part. Maybe that’s my lack of imagination more than anything else, but I’ll stand by that statement.
I remember seeing Bell–after the series had been cancelled–appearing on the show Heroes and thinking she was just terrible. Granted, Heroes never had particularly great writing, but I couldn’t believe somebody who had been so good on one show could be so unremarkable on another. I’m sure she’s a better actress than we saw on Heroes, but the point is that the role of Veronica Mars somehow brought out all of her strengths as an actress, and for Bell’s sake, it’s a little bit sad that she may never be able to escape her association with this character.
Second of all, Enrico Colantoni as Keith Mars seals the deal. His chemistry with Bell is remarkable. This guy is a great actor and should be a much bigger star. Strip almost everything else away from the show, and it still works as an exploration of the relationship between a single dad and his daughter. You rarely see this on television, or if you do, you rarely see it handled so adeptly. One of the mistakes the show made was that Keith Mars got somewhat phased out over the course of the three seasons. Never entirely, of course, because the character was too important to the show, but especially once Veronica went to college, there was less “daddy daughter time”, as Keith would have said, and Veronica Mars lost a little bit of what made it so special.
Third of all, the entire cast. There’s no character that doesn’t work, and no actor who isn’t up to the task of making his or her character work, from Jason Dohring as the angry smartass who is tortured over the death of Lilly Kane; to Francis Capra as the gang leader with a sensitive side who’s on a downward spiral; to Aaron Ashmore, who guest stars in the first few episodes as the irresistible Troy Vandergraff; to Percy Daggs as…well…Percy Daggs, who always puts a smile on your face; and to Michael Muhney as the hilariously spiteful sheriff you love to hate.
Fourth of all, the plots are always fun. Veronica Mars is one of these characters that could only exist in fiction, in that she can fix almost anything. She’s always a step ahead, seems to have unlimited resources, and is just so thoroughly cool that you never particularly doubt she’ll solve any mystery that comes her way. But it’s a lot of fun to watch how she goes about it, and the first few episodes are not without their twists, most of which aren’t telegraphed. The quality of the writing is a notch above what you find in most television programs, in that the series is always juggling about three different plotlines, some of which will take an entire season to see to completion, yet they’re always well integrated.
Anyway, still good, and still a crime that it only lasted three seasons. Veronica Mars had more stories to tell.
[Edit: I just went to the IMDb to check out the user comments. The most recent one is a guy lambasting the series for having a self-righteous protagonist. In a way, I think that was always one of the show’s strengths–especially early on. Veronica was far from being perfect, and some of her actions were indefensible. For example, we sort of hate her when she ruins her father’s relationship with the school guidance counselor. She wasn’t meant to be admirable all of the time, and the characters in the show don’t act admiringly toward her, either, when she crosses a line.]