Veronica Mars – Season 1 (DVD)
Creator: Rob Thomas
Starring: Kristen Bell, Percy Daggs III, Jason Dohring, Francis Capra, Enrico Colantoni, Teddy Dunn
I guess there’s a trend that I follow with critically acclaimed television shows. I usually don’t catch it when it’s on the air, and only after it’s released on DVD do I actually get into the series where I become so obsessed I complete the entire thing within a few days. Shows that have fit this pattern include Friends, Extras, The Office, House, Arrested Development, Heroes, and most recently… Veronica Mars.
When I first heard about Veronica Mars, I really didn’t know much about it… no that’s unfair… I knew absolutely nothing about it at all. And then I started seeing ads popping up everywhere in magazines, and I still didn’t think anything of it. Actually, the truth was that I thought the show was about some alien girl who was trying to fit in high school… kind of a Kyle XY, but a female version. So what caused my change of heart to actually give the show a chance? Well, only a handful of episodes into the second season of Heroes, a new character was introduced, Elle played by Kristen Bell. With not much more to add besides saying that she blew me away, the next day I took out the first season of Veronica Mars from the library.
Again, I was going into the show with no expectations, no recommendations, no hint at what kind of show this actually was… and maybe that worked for the better, or maybe that really didn’t matter. But for all of those who actually watched Veronica Mars, it’s fair to say that the show cannot be categorized quite simply, but I’ll try the best I can to do so.
To compare Veronica Mars to other television shows, I would have to say it’s a mix between The O.C. (hold your groans), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Twin Peaks all in one. I’m sure that has you scratching your head in confusion, but that’s the best I can come up with. It’s basically a high school drama full of crimes, mysteries, and surprising twists and turns with a kick-ass heroine in charge.
The show revolves around the titled character and her peculiar life. Set in Neptune, California (someone enjoyed astrology in high school) the show is a typical high school drama at a quick glance. With a cast of pretty guys and girls wearing the latest fashions, cruising around in sports cars, and partying every other episode, it’s impossible to not get a vibe of The O.C. But bare with me, it’s a lot more than that. You see, Neptune is a town infested with rich families, with an occasional misfit here and there. Veronica was a misfit until she started to date Duncan Kane, an “0-Niner” (a term to categorize the rich kids from the rest) and soon became involved with all the kids with lots of money. Life was great and everything seemed like a dream come true, that is until Veronica’s best friend, and Duncan’s sister, Lilly, was murdered. This was the point when everything fell apart.
Veronica’s dad, Keith (my favorite character by the way), used to be the sheriff of Neptune. Keith was certain that the man who confessed to Lilly’s murder didn’t actually commit the crime, and he tried to pin the murder on Lilly’s dad, who just happened to be one of the most powerful men in the town. Things didn’t turn out, and Keith was removed from his sheriff position. No one in town approved of what Keith was saying, and a tension between the Mars family and the rest of the town grew. Veronica had to make a choice, stick with her friends, or her family. She chose her family, and since then has lost her mom, along with all of her friends and has been the target of cruel jokes from the rest of the school.
After the first couple episodes, I admit that I was cringing at the tacky teen drama plots and the bizarre situation of Veronica solving crimes Nancy Drew style. My mind was racing with “not this again” at the sight of another California-based teen show or “yeah, that’s not possible” with a 17-year-old getting away with stealing records and sneaking around places without being seen. But once the show got over the hump (or maybe I just let all the nonsense slide for the time being and learned to accept it), I learned that it was a lot more serious with domestic family issues, rape and murder, and dealing with peer pressure and high school’s cruelty. With some fantastic writing, the show had me hooked until the end.
Kristen Bell does a phenomenal job as Veronica Mars, with her “I don’t care” attitude on the outside, but being tormented on the inside. She plays the “tough chick with soft buttons” role to perfection, making you melt with her smile, or soil yourself with her glare. And her subtle mannerisms illuminate the intelligence and wit of the character to its peak.
Alongside Bell is a fantastic cast that consists of Enrico Colantoni who plays her hard-edge yet loving and caring father… Teddy Dunn who plays her quiet but unpredictable ex-boyfriend Duncan… Jason Dohring who plays Duncan’s hilariously cruel best friend … and Percy Daggs who plays her naïve best friend Wallace.
As you can tell, I was blown away by this show. The format reminded me a lot of House, in the way that every episode there was a small case or two that Veronica and/or her father were solving. And while they were locating missing people and digging up information for clients, they were revealing more and more evidence for the Lilly Kane murder case. Probably my favorite part of the show was the storytelling. Full of flashbacks and twists, I felt like I was solving the case along with Veronica Mars. And the thing that the show did extremely well was that it didn’t confuse me with the detective/police work and terms. The show never lost its “teen” vibe and it had as many warm-hearted moments as it did thrilling/suspenseful ones.
Veronica Mars was balanced, smart, funny, edgy, and undoubtedly intriguing. Not only was there a mystery to be solved, we really wanted it to be solved because we cared for the characters involved so much. This show should not only appeal to teen audiences, but to adults as well because of its complex plot, character development, and unpredictable writing.
Watching the first season on DVD is quite an experience. Just like Heroes, once you begin, you won’t want to stop. All I can say is to give Veronica Mars a chance… you won’t regret it.