Mars Attracts

I’ve been on a big tv show rewatch kick over the last few months and have just finished with Veronica Mars – the first time I’ve watched any of it since its original transmission. Time can be less-than-kind to shows one remembers fondly but I think I appreciate Veronica and her Neptune adventures even more now.

The premise goes thus… In a California town where the line between haves and have-nots is laid out in bold, the smart daughter of a P.I. is the only person still investigating her best friend’s death. This leads to clashes with the rich and privileged of the town – many of whom used to be her friends. Like all good pitches it is slick, simple and unpacks itself into numerous episodic stories.

The show operates a mystery-of-the-week approach whilst planting the seeds for the wider season-long arc, and quickly establishes strong recurring characters, murky family relationships and one of the best star-crossed lover storylines to grace any tv show in a long time.

Much like the ill-fated FireflyVeronica Mars never reached the audience it deserved. In a year when Lost became a television phenomenon, this clever, witty High School noir quickly endeared itself to a cult following but then spent the next 3 years being adored and fought for by solely this cult following, until cancellation reared its familiar head. Of course, Captain Reynolds and his crew could only dream of a three year run, yet the overwhelming feeling I am left with come the end of Veronica‘s season 3 is one of sadness and loss. From season 1’s central Lily Kane mystery, through the suspicious road accident and social tensions of season 2, to the 3-bitesize-arc approach of the third season, the show manages to remain fresh and engaging throughout. And just so damn likeable.

A huge amount of this is down to the sharp writing but Veronica Mars really stands on the shoulders of its cast. Kristen Bell is, for me, the strongest female lead who ever graced a show of this kind. Her Veronica is tough like Buffy but minus the life-saving superpowers or penchant for melodrama, vulnerable like Joey from Dawson’s Creek but without the mawkishness. She’s very, very real – just a bit smarter than everyone else. Enrico Colacotoni as her father, the disgraced ex-Sheriff, is warm and goofy and strong and protective all at the same time. Then there’s Jason Dohring’s Logan, a tortured rich boy who continually self-destructs and plumbs new depths of pettiness, yet simultaneously oozes charisma and is prone to bouts of selfless chivalry. In this madcap collection of spoiled kids, gangbangers, criminals and victims there isn’t a bad performance to be found. And the whole thing is wrapped in a pleasingly teen-noir colour scheme: lots of vivid oranges, reds, browns, shafts of light cutting through shadow.

It’s not often a show comes along which makes you really root for the characters, no matter how flawed, unlucky or downright stupid they can be. Veronica Mars does all of this and more. It deserved a longer run of mystery and intrigue when it first transmitted, and it deserves a space on your DVD shelf now.

I’m off to Google the latest on the proposed movie Kristen Bell has been trying to get off the ground for the last 5 years…

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