Eulogy for a Friend No. 2: Veronica Mars

When I was young, I preferred Nancy Drew to the Hardy Boys. I guess I’ve always had a thing for smart girl detectives. . .

On September 22, 2007, Veronica Mars aired for the first time on the now defunct UPN network. It was brilliant. Over the course of its three seasons, the few people actually watching it got to see television at its best. When it wasn’t picked up for a fourth season, I actually took the time to write to the network and tell them what I thought of their decision. Suffice it to say that TV doesn’t usually stir such passion in me.

I have to start with our firecracker title character. Kristen Bell was perfectly cast in the role, giving her a depth of character I rarely see in any entertainment medium. Veronica was complex. Sure she was witty and intelligent. Of course she was good looking and funny. Yes she was the girl I always wished existed when I was in high school but would have to wait much, much longer to actually meet. She was also overconfident, occasionally petty and insensitive, and very prone to trusting her gut when she shouldn’t, often to disastrous consequence. In short, she was very nearly a goddess. When her heart broke, mine did too.

The rest of the casting was also very good. While virtually all of the characters were standard archetypes (the steadfast best friend, the bad boy with a heart of gold, the sleazy PI, etc…), the actors brought something to make them special and memorable. Enrico Colantoni as Veronica’s dad and Tina Majorino as Mac are particular favourites of mine. Michael Muhney as Sherriff Lamb also deserves a special mention.

This show was densely plotted. There was a single overarching mystery that ran the length of the season, there were also smaller mysteries that would get solved over a three or four episode arc, and each individual episode would have a mystery that would be solved during the episode. The third season broke from this in that there was no season long mega-mystery. Instead, the writers decided that it would be easier to get new viewers into the show if they broke the season in half and had two smaller mysteries rather than the larger one. I’m sure that opinions differ, but season three, while being very good, was definitely my least favourite for that very reason.

I don’t know why Veronica Mars failed. Maybe playing in the same time-slot as Lost was its undoing. Perhaps the network didn’t promote it effectively. Maybe the continuity heavy serial nature of the show was its undoing, although programs such as the aforementioned Lost or Heroes are just as continuity heavy and seem to be thriving. I’m sure the reasons for its demise are just as complex as Veronica was.

I do know that I can see Kristen Bell in Heroes now, and though I like the character she plays (Elle) it isn’t the same. So raise those glasses again and toast Veronica Mars. Two amazing seasons and one really good one, at least she never got the chance to age gracelessly.