Cult TV show Veronica Mars made headlines back in March when creator Rob Thomas successfully kickstarted his way to $5.7 million for a feature film. The funds were raised by over 90,000 eager fans who donated between $1 and $10,000 to see the revival of the series which was cancelled by the CW in 2007. The filming began a few weeks ago. This week comes the news that Veronica Mars will be heading to Comic Con for a Friday panel in Hall H with many of the show’s stars, including Kristen Bell, and creator/film director Rob Thomas. Also that James Franco might be making an appearance. The film will be hitting theaters in 2014, so now is clearly the right time to start watching Veronica Mars whether or not you’ve seen it before.
So what’s all the fuss about? Described as a modern Nancy Drew, the series centers on the titular Veronica, played by Bell, a high school student and part-time detective in the fictional SoCal town of Neptune, a town “without a middle class.” Veronica is working for her father’s private detective agency on cases ranging from the abduction of the school mascot to the murder of her best friend, Lily (Amanda Seyfried). Class conflict is palpable throughout the series, and much of the action is a direct result of the Mars family’s loss of status when Lily was murdered and Veronica’s father, then the Sheriff, accused Lily’s billionaire father of the crime and was booted out of office. Consequently, at the beginning of the series, Veronica has few friends and a hardened outlook on life. She’s smart, charming and manipulative, which is how she solves her mysteries. Everybody hates her, so she’s got nothing to lose.
The show is both procedural and serial; there’s a new mystery every week but the first two seasons each have an overarching mystery (season 3 has two big mysteries followed by several free-standing episodes, an attempt to change the format when the show moved from UPN to the CW, but wasn’t enough to save the show from cancellation). The great thing about the show is while it is suspenseful and exciting enough to keep a binge going all-weekend long, you could also watch it in smaller doses. It’s a crime drama but it is more relatable than one where the weekly crime is a murder: Did someone fix the school election? What happened to my dead-beat dad? Who stole the school fundraiser money? And so on.
The pilot can be a little rough because it is very heavy on the exposition. Everything about who Veronica is at this moment is completely dependent on the events of the preceding year: Lily’s death, her father’s firing, her mother leaving them, their worsened financial position and also Veronica’s own date-rape (none of these are spoilers, they are all explained in the pilot). But once past the very first episode, everything starts moving more quickly. Veronica gathers her own group around her, she dates, she solves mysteries, and more mysteries open up every week.
But it’s not just about the mysteries. Beyond Veronica there is an amazing cast of characters including her father, Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), who is way cooler than a dad should be, her best friend, Wallace (Percy Daggs III), her ally and leader of a biker gang, Weevil (Francis Capra), and Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), son of a movie star and sometimes antagonist. The strange politics and workings of Neptune are also fascinating, and take center stage in season 2 during a mayoral election.
The show saw some great actors in its short run, including early work from Amanda Seyfried, Max Greenfield, and Krysten Ritter. Also, Jessica Chastain guests in a season 1 episode, Steve Gutenberg has a season 2 arc, Ken Marino is fabulous as a private eye competitor, Alyson Hannigan guests in a few episodes as Logan’s sister, and Charisma Carpenter has a substantive arc in seasons 2 and 3. Oh and Joss Whedon was in an episode one time.
I’d recommend it to anyone but especially if you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Psych, Castle, and Fringe. Veronica is the same kind of independent and strong teenager Buffy was, but she’s a super sleuth, not a super hero. The show isn’t about saving the day so much as it is about making sure the bad guy pays. In the crazy and often corrupt world of Neptune, CA, jail isn’t always the best option.