Nubile Noir: Veronica Mars

One writer described Veronica Mars during her pre-fandom days as “outrageous,” writing that the writing was “clunky,” the one-liners too “crisp,” and the teens too “clever and in charge.” The show was saved in her book when someone called it “camp.” That made it all click for her. I only take issue with that designation because I have a narrower definition of camp (I immediately think John Waters), but by her estimate, if Veronica Mars is camp then so are the Scream movies. The thing she’s referring to is the over-the-top, in-your-face stance of the show. It’s not as if Andrew WK wrote the dialog, but you know everything is not this well-scripted IRL, and dramatic events don’t self-organize into perfect act breaks. Well, that’s probably because… It’s a fucking TV show!

With that said, it’s one of the best TV shows I’ve ever indulged in. Kristen Bell’s depiction of Veronica Mars is more than enough to carry this show, but the inimitable Enrico Colantoni (Just Shoot Me and Flashpoint; as her dad Keith Mars), Percy Daggs III (as Veronica’s sidekick Wallace), Jason Dohring (as complex pretty boy Logan Echolls), and Francis Capra (as bad boy Weevil) as well as minor characters like Tina Majorino (Napoleon Dynamite; as the aptly named computer wiz Mac) all do major heavy lifting.

Annoy, little blond one! Annoy like the wind! — Logan Echolls

Rob Thomas (not to be confused with that lame Matchbox 20 dude) put this show together during a five-year dry spell in what had been a flood of good fortune in Hollywood. According to Neptune Noir (Benbella, 2007), the critical essay collection he edited, it saved his career and his soul.

The series so far (I wanted to wait until I watched the whole thing to write this, but I’m only on the second season, and I’m convinced. I also wanted to wait until I finished the book, but the book keeps spoiling the series!) mixes elements of Heathers (snarky, dark humor), Twin Peaks (the haunting of the show by Lily Kane, just as Laura Palmer did in Twin Peaks), 21 Jump Street (whip-smart whippersnapper detectives), American Beauty (stereotypes on the surface, crazies underneath), and several other teen dramas and comedies. The writing is razor sharp, the plot twists are white-knuckled, and the characters are as multidimensional as they are memorable. It’s everything I want from a TV show or a movie.

And speaking of, the way we watch hath changed. If it weren’t for the streaming of TV online, I wouldn’t know the first thing about this show. This is important for a show like Veronica Mars, which is available on Netflix Instant, or other cult favorites like Twin Peaks: The ratings don’t matter online. A show that critics loved but mass audiences barely got can thrive in the minds of millions through internet-enabled rediscovery. In the case of Veronica Mars, this is good.

So, while I’ve never owned a television, I do love the medium done brave and done well. And Veronica Mars is a prime example of that. I am hereby recommending it to you.

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Here’s a fan-made trailer for season one [run time 2:16]:

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I marshal the middle between Mathers and McLuhan.