Thursday, May 19, 2011

TV – Veronica Mars (2004 - 2007)

Veronica Mars was a great TV show that unfortunately only lasted three seasons.  It debuted on UPN, and then shifted to The CW network when UPN merged with The WB network.  Even though it had a relatively short run, it had a lot of fans.  Among those fans was Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.  He even appeared in a second season episode both because he liked it so much, and to draw the attention of his fans to the show.  Whedon alumnus Charisma Carpenter also appeared as a recurring character in Season 2 because she was a fan.

The concept of the show is that the title character, played by Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Heroes), is the teenage daughter of the former town sheriff.  He lost his job when he investigated the richest family in town for the murder of their daughter (Amanda Seyfried in an early role.)  They were too powerful and forced him from his job.  His ostracism spread to Veronica and she went from being really popular in school to being an outcast.  To make matters worse, the girl who was killed was Veronica’s best friend, and the girl’s brother used to be Veronica’s boyfriend.

Her dad is now a private detective in town and Veronica helps him on the cases.  In fact, she solves quite a few of them herself.  In addition to having great episodes where mysteries are solved, the relationship of Veronica and her father is one of the best presented on TV in the last 10 years. 

As a man it bugs me when most fathers on TV are presented as idiots, molesters, jerks, children themselves, emotionally absent, abusive, etc.  It’s rare for there to be a father who is actually a good dad.  Castle is one of those rarities and it’s a reason I like that TV show, too.  (See my post on Castle here.)

It would have been easy for Veronica to hate her father, since his investigation led to her losing her boyfriend and being a leper at school, but she doesn’t.  She circled the wagons with him, grew a tough skin, and she is with him every step of the way.  The two present a strong front to the rest of the town.

The character of Veronica Mars is the show.  If you don’t like her character then you won’t like the show.  Most of the criticisms I read about her were that she was “too smart.”  It blows my mind that being smart can be a bad thing.  I suppose you could make something of the fact that she was female and maybe people just didn’t like smart, strong women, but I don’t know that that was the case.  As for Joss Whedon and I – we loved the character and so did millions of other people. 

The first season is absolutely great with twists, turns, mysteries, romance, and much more.  I loaned the first season DVD set to a friend.  He and his son started watching it and both really liked it.  His daughter asked them what they were watching.  She tried it and she watched almost the entire season in a weekend.  Her father asked her why and she said that she really wanted to know what was going to happen.  In case you’re wondering, you do find out who killed Veronica’s friend.  It’s the season-long story arc that the individual episodes fit within.

The second season presents a new mystery and it also follows a season long arc.  The third season changes things up a bit.  The show’s ratings were not that high so they told the creator of the show that he had to stop the season long stories and write shorter ones instead.  As a result of the network’s interference, the third season was not as good.  As anybody, except a network exec could tell you, this will only alienate the people that are watching the show without bringing in new viewers.  Sure enough, the ratings dropped enough the third season that it was cancelled.

Prior to being cancelled the show’s creator filmed a pitch for a real change in direction for the show.  The first two seasons Veronica was in high school, and the third season she was in college.  The new idea was to jump several years and have her graduating from the FBI Academy and starting as a rookie FBI agent doing investigations.  This filmed pitch is on the third season DVD set.  It was actually an intriguing idea, but it didn’t convince the network execs and they cancelled the show.

The first and second seasons were both five star seasons.  The third season had multiple shorter story arcs.  A couple of storylines were still good, but at least one was nothing special.  Overall, the show still gets five stars from me based on the strength of the first two seasons. 

You should definitely check this show out.  If you like strong, intelligent, witty characters and great mysteries then this is definitely the show for you.

Chip’s Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

Season 1 DVD Set     Season 2 DVD Set    Season 3 DVD Set


  1. This is one of my favorite shows. :-)

  2. I watched the first season after reading Chip's review, and the series is as good as advertised. The father daughter chemistry likend to that in Castle was my trigger. I understand why some would find Veronica as "too smart"...she is a smart high school student, but she's also exceptionally street smart. The season finale was very satisfying.

  3. @Anonymous - Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you enjoyed it.