Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Veronica Mars: Seasons 1-2

I really like this show. Unlike a show like The Wire where I can tell right away that I'll be interested, I had to be convinced by reading about this in a few places I trust, and in order to get some others to watch it, I had to convince them. It was definitely worth it, though.

Before I say anything else, I ought set up the premise in case people do not know. Anyway, Veronica lives in the posh town of Neptune, California which is starkly divided between extremely rich people and poor people, most of whom work for the rich, and this contrast can be seen on display at Neptune High, where the rich kids, or "09ers" (because of their zip code) are often profiting at the expense of poorer kids. Veronica is the daughter of Keith Mars, who used to be sheriff, but lost the job after he appeared to have bungled the case of the death of Lily Kane, Veronica's best friend, daughter of billionaire software mogul Jake Kane, and sister of Duncan Kane, who used to be Veronica's boyfriend. Keith accuses the parents, but can't find enough evidence, and after being booted from the sheriff's office, becomes the laughing stock of the town, and a private eye. Veronica loses her social status and becomes an outcast, while Veronica's mother can't take their fall in status and leaves them. So there you go. Now, about the show.

On first blush, Veronica Mars looks like it comes right out the Juno universe with it's smart, sassy, wit-packed and sharper-than-adults high school girl in a fictitious white-bread universe (Not to say I didn't like Juno, it's just that's the world it's in). Anyway, I suppose the most obvious difference in the outside is one, the actual presence of minorities in the show, and the idea of the class conflict in the high school, though even that is kind of just for show, since anyone's actual poorness is really not the subject of the show. A couple of more important things make it rise above from just being about a Juno-type.

First, this may sound minor, but really is a big plus for me. She's a step ahead of a lot of the kids, and many of the adults in the show, but not her dad. Her dad is every bit as smart and adept as her. We've all seen enough shows/movies where the kids are all smarter than the adults and parents are idiots and all that. Here, her dad is a great character who works with her, and sometimes even catches her out when she thinks she's smarter than him, and more than once helps get her out of a jam.

Second, the smart, clearly unreal, but very enjoyable dialogue is not simply granted to Veronica. Pretty much all of the man characters are granted a piece of the action. Logan gets many of the best lines, but Wallace gets his share, and Dick in the second season is absolutely hilarious. Again, if you want a gritty show about what it's like to grow up as a teenage, you're barking up the wrong tree, but at least all the characters are on the same level.

Just to some other comments about the show - almost every character becomes more likable as the show goes on. Logan seems like a total dick for the first couple of episodes, but becomes one of, if not the best character. Even the two characters who end up being the most evil characters have some great moments - the only character who never warmed on me at all was Sheriff Lamb.

The plotting of the show is also excellent in its combination of weekly storylines and season-long plots - the shows strikes an excellent balance, and each season has a great season-long mystery, throughout which the entire season, different suspects come up and are vetted, and the endings end with surprising, but not entirely unforeseen, or seeming to come out of totally left field, culprits. The show also strikes just the right balance between drama and comedy - there are extremely serious parts, but tons of levity as well - Logan's inspirational telephone messages are amazing - and as mentioned above Dick Casablancas entire character is pretty much a punchline. Veronica's exchanges with are dad are also fantastic, often consisting of him asking her, much to her dismay, "Who's your daddy?"

Anyway, to sum up - it's a smart teen sleuth show that is equal parts about the plot, and about the characters and dialogue and which teeters on the edge of being too clever for its own good, but doesn't go over the line. Watch it, at least the first two seasons. The third, I have yet to see and I hear worse things - but hopefully I'll see it relatively soon, and see what I think about that.

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