This week I’m changing things up. Instead of a movie, I’m featuring one of my favorite TV shows—the sadly canceled Veronica Mars. I’ve often been teased for watching it, but I stand by Veronica Mars as being one of the best things on television—ever. A lot of people don’t know what Veronica Mars is, perhaps you’re like me and had the idea it’s about a teen psychic (maybe I got it mixed up with That’s So Raven?) or maybe you think it’s a UPN teen soap-opera in the same vein as The OC, or maybe you’ve just never heard of it at all. Whatever you thought, it’s worth giving a chance, because you might just end up as obsessed with it as I am.
Veronica Mars is a television series about a teenage girl (Kristen Bell) living in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Southern California, the fictional town of Neptune—but Veronica lives on the wrong side of the tracks. She used to live on the right side, she used to be one of the popular kids, and she used to be the daughter of the local sheriff, but things change. We meet Veronica a year after she has lost everything, and we watch as she tries to sort out what happened to her life. A year earlier Veronica was happily attending the homecoming dance and pep squad meetings with her best friend Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried), she was also dating Lilly’s younger brother Duncan (Teddy Dunne), and living in a big house with her mom and dad. But when Lilly is found dead on her parent’s estate, (they’re the wealthiest family in Neptune) her murder sets off a series of events that will change all the character’s lives forever.
Veronica’s father Keith Mars, (Enrico Colantoni) the sheriff of Neptune, investigates Lilly’s death and believes the wrong man has been arrested for the crime. When Keith accuses the Kane family of foul play in the murder of their own daughter, the town (and the nation) turn against him. Keith is removed from office, leaving the Mars family with no money and no status. After her mom leaves town, Veronica and her dad set up “Mars Investigations” and move into a small apartment on the other side of Neptune.
Veronica Mars recalls another dark television mystery—Twin Peaks, the question on everyone’s mind (especially Veronica’s) being “who killed Lilly Kane?”.
The first season (there are two more) of this series is the best mystery I’ve ever seen played out on TV—and maybe ever. After the first episode you’re hooked, and from then on it’s a ripping yarn to the finale. Each episode follows its own storyline in which Veronica solves a mystery, but the season-wide arch involving Lilly Kane’s murder, keeps you eagerly watching as things unfold.
This show features some heavy issues not often seen on television, let alone a teen show; classism, racism, rape, and violence are all dealt with often throughout the series. Despite the high school setting and the focus on hefty subjects, there is nothing sappy or “after-school special” about this series. The writing is incredible, the characters are diverse and well-developed, and the result is an extraordinarily mature show that was unfortunately sold to a teen audience on UPN. The marketing plan was just all wrong. I used to cringe at the commercials for Veronica Mars, even while I loved it, because it was edited to look like an overly dramatic, cheesy, high school series. I just don’t think they knew how to market it, or who to market it to.
This is one of those rare shows, like My So-Called Life, where the parents and teens are equal characters, fleshed-out and sympathetic, they interact with one another in a believable way. I’d watch a whole show just about Keith Mars, but the bond between Veronica and Keith is what turns this show to gold. Maybe it’s just that Kristen Bell and Enrico Colantoni have incredible chemistry, or maybe they’re both simply great actors, but the father-daughter relationship is what gives the series heart. Their love for each-other is so tangible it has brought me to tears many times (not that it’s hard to make me cry).
The show is packed with great actors, some known and some unknown, but they’re all well cast and each one adds something to the story. There are appearances by well-known actors such as Alyson Hannigan (from Buffy and How I Met Your Mother), Harry Hamlin and wife Lisa Rinna, Ken Marino (from The State), Tina Majorino (Napoleon Dynamite) and lots more. Joss Whedon and Kevin Smith have also made guest appearances because they were both huge fans of the show. The unknown actors are just as skilled as the veterans, rounding out the cast is Percy Daggs III as Veronica’s best friend Wallace, Jason Dohring as the school’s “psychotic jackass” Logan Echolls, and Francis Capra (although to anyone who has seen Kazaam he is hardly unknown) as the leader of high school motorcycle gang the PCHers.
I don’t want to give anything else away—it is a detective series after all. So, I am commanding you to watch this show. Seriously, you should, if you like mysteries, if you like good stories, cliff hangers, and twisting plot lines, you’ll love it. Kristen Bell is excellent, sometimes I still get sad when I realize she is just an actress and not Veronica. I can’t emphasize how refreshing the character of Veronica Mars feels, and it’s a shame we don’t see more female characters like her on television. She is smart as a whip, tough as nails, and full of surprises. Veronica is a role model for all women because of her strength and determination, and she doesn’t let anyone push her around—she will tase you if she has to. She doesn’t have super powers like Buffy, but she does have tons of awesome gadgets and a dog named “backup”. Veronica always does whatever is necessary to find the information she needs, and usually gets herself into heaps of trouble, but more often than not she beats the bad guy, saves the victim, and she always, always, solves the mystery.
So come on, aren’t you just dying to know who killed Lilly Kane?
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