Veronica Mars (Season One)

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Rating 4½


Created by Rob Thomas

Written by Rob Thomas (six episodes), Jed Seidel (five episodes), Dina Ruggiero (seven episodes), Dayne Lynne North (three episodes), Phil Klemmer (four episodes), Aury Wallington (two episodes), Russell Smith (one episode), John Enbom (three episodes) and Carolyn Murray (one episode)

Directed by Mark Piznarski (two episodes), Harry Winer (one episode), Michael Fields (two episodes), Nick Gomez (two episodes), Sarah Pia Anderson (one episode), Nick Marck (four episodes), Guy Norman Bee (two episodes), Marcos Siega (three episodes), John Kretchmer (three episodes), David Barrett (one episode) and Steve Gomer (one episode)

Starring Kristen Bell, Percy Daggs III, Jason Dohring, Teddy Dunn, Enrico Colantoni, Francis Capra, Harry Hamlin, Kyle Secor, Lisa Thornhill, Michael Muhney, Erica Gimpel, Corinne Bohrer, Alona Tal, Alyson Hannigan and Amanda Seyfried


A year has passed since Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried), the best friend of Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) and sister of her former boyfriend Duncan Kane (Teddy Dunn), was brutally murdered. Veronica’s father, Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), was the local sheriff at the time, but when he accused Lilly’s father, Jake Kane (Kyle Secor), a billionaire philanthropist, of the crime, he was removed from office and his wife Lianne (Corinne Bohrer) walked out on the family and left town. He now works as a private investigator. Veronica, who was ostracised by her former friends because of her father’s actions, does some sleuthing of her own.

They all live in Neptune, a coastal town in Southern California where the sons and daughters of the super-rich collide uneasily with the have-nots, such as Eli ‘Weevil’ Navarro (Francis Capra), the leader of a teenage Latino biker gang, at the local high school.

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‘Veronica Mars’ premiered on the now defunct UPN television network on 21 September 2004, four months after the finale of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, which had moved to UPN for its final two seasons. It was seen as a successor to ‘Buffy’, an attempt by the network to retain the younger audience that had been attracted by that show. During its first season, comprising 22 episodes, it averaged 2.5 million viewers, compared with the 4.1 million viewers who watched season seven of ‘Buffy’ (4.6 million for season six). The show survived for three seasons in all, the third one on the new CW television network, before being cancelled in 2007. During this time, it garnered a lot of critical support.

Stephen King called the show, “Nancy Drew meets Philip Marlowe,” and that is not a bad description. It plays out as a mixture of high school teen drama and murder mystery, with constant nods to the hard-boiled crime thrillers of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Is it realistic or believable? Hardly at all, but somehow it creates its own internal realism, just as ‘Buffy’ had done. In the end, ‘Buffy’ was far more believable than, as an example, the hospital-based soap-drama ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, despite the presence of vampires, demons and the supernatural. Something similar happens with ‘Veronica Mars’.

Kristen Bell, who, at 24 years of age, was seven years older than her character and looks it a lot of the time, is excellent in the lead role. It is easy to see why some observers expect big things from her in the future.

All of the cast are excellent. Many of them were new to me, although I recognised Bell from the remake of the J-horror film ‘Pulse’ and Enrico Colantoni from his role as Mathesar in the wonderful sci-fi spoof film ‘Galaxy Quest’. Amanda Seyfried had previously appeared in ‘Mean Girls’ and is now probably best known for her lead role in the hugely successful film version of ‘Mamma Mia’, which has a worldwide box office gross not far short of $600 million and is the biggest selling DVD of all time in the UK. Harry Hamlin, who plays Aaron Echolls, the film star father of Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), the boyfriend of Lilly Kane, is well known, of course, and Alyson Hannigan from ‘Buffy’ appears in three episodes as Logan’s sister, Trina.

When I first heard about ‘Veronica Mars’, prior to its premiere on UPN, I was very interested. By the time the show arrived in the UK in October 2005 I had lost interest, partly, I suspect, because of the constant claims that it was the “new Buffy” and what appeared to be some decidedly unsubtle stunt casting, seemingly intended to pander to a particular fan base. In any case, it was broadcast on a UK television channel I did not have access to. Over time, as the hype died down and then the show went off the air altogether, my interest began to increase again, but when I finally got to watch a bit of it, a segment from a random episode from either the second or third season, it made no sense whatsoever and I began to suspect this was a show that would just pass me by. However, following a recent conversation with a friend, I was finally persuaded to take the plunge and I purchased a second-hand Region 1 copy of the season one DVD set (it has never been released on DVD in the UK).

The first few episodes passed by painlessly. I enjoyed them, although I had a few minor reservations. Then, without realising it, I started to become completely hooked, ending up watching several episodes (eight, in fact) in a single day, something I have not done in a very long time. It quickly became completely addictive.

The mix of elements is very successful and the murder mystery is actually rather well done and genuinely diverting, with plenty of twists and turns. I found the character Logan, in particular, increasingly interesting. Initially, he is really rather repulsive and that same assessment is reasonable come the end of season, but he is also, by that time, considerably more complex and I found myself questioning my judgement of him.

‘Veronica Mars’ works much better than the similarly themed but significantly more stylised 2006 indie film ‘Brick’, which, despite generally favourable reviews, I found painfully contrived. I now have DVD sets of the second and third seasons and very much look forward to watching them.


Review posted 16 January 2009



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1 comment:

mony said...

Veronica Mars is an American television series created by Rob Thomas. The series premiered on September 22, 2004 during television network UPN's final two years, and ended on May 22, 2007, after a season on UPN's successor, The CW Television Network.