Veronica Mars
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Veronica Mars

There is something about a detective story that appeals to people in very special way. Millions of people are arm chair detectives who are certain that give a set of clues they could readily solve the mystery at hand and catch the responsible criminal. This is not a recent occurrence; mysteries have been among the most popular genres on literature having a revival in the Edwardian era. Ever since television became the primary source of popular entertainment a significant number of series have found their way to this format to the enjoyment of audiences around the world. Many of these series came for famous detectives novels or are based on such well-liked detectives. One attempt was to bring a certain teen girl detective to TV, Nancy Drew. Unfortunately for the legion of loyal fans the series was abruptly cancelled but this sub genre has not been forgotten. In 2004the WB television network came up with a fairly inspired concept; bring Nancy Drew into the new millennium. The result was a perk, exceptionally curious and determined young woman named Veronica Mars. The trick here was not just to modernize the cases or account for the advances in forensic investigative techniques. The real challenge was to rewrite the archetype of the character to bring the girl detective to an audience that would find little in common with Ms Drew. Veronica Mars was created with these differences in mind. Veronica is a modern girl that those in the audience can understand and relate to. This is important since in order to work the audience should be able to live vicariously through the character. Nancy Drew was just too far behind the times to make this transition successfully. The TV show tried but the appeal of the Nancy Drew novel was her near matching the near perfect All American Girl trope. Veronica Mars possesses most of the admirable attributes of Drew but she has humanizing flaws and difficult circumstances in her life that not increase the viewer’s ability to relate but more importantly it affords the writers a lot of room to construct a more interesting character. Like many series that exhibit above average quality the studios cancelled this after just three seasons making this series a prime candidate for the lamentable brilliant but cancelled list and is well worth getting as a full series DVD box set.

The taking on the challenge of creating this character and placing her in a novel set of circumstances fell to Rob Thomas. He has a fascinating albeit quirky background creating series such as ‘Cupid’ and ‘more recently ‘Party Down’. Both shows were cancelled before they had sufficient opportunity to find their stride and grow an audience. A similar thing happened here; the premise was strong and the implementation solid but unfortunately the plug was pulled in part due to changes in the network ownership and affiliations. There are always plenty of blame and suspicion to go around in cases like this. What truly separates ‘Veronica Mars’ both as a series and a character is Thomas’ commitment to crafting an emotionally honesty. Unlike the previous generation’s plucky girl detective Veronica is not universally well regarded. Veronica is considered trouble in class by the school administration. She frequently falls asleep in class although in her defense it’s usually because she was up all-night on a stake out. She is also alienated from her peers but not for the reasons you might think. To properly consider that it is necessary to step back and look at her environment. Veronica (Kristen Bell) lives with her father Keith (Enrico Colantoni) in the ultra wealthy community of Neptune, California. Usually her family income wouldn’t register a blip on the awareness of the inhabitants but an exception was made because her dad was the town’s sheriff. This permitted her to attend the exclusive Neptune High school and have a relationship with Duncan Kane (Teddy Dunn), the son of an internet billionaire. By the time the series begins they have broken up because of Veronica’s fall from social grace. He was her social connection to the ‘09’ers’ the in-crowd named for their elite zip code 90909. The breakup was instigated by a murder case that went awry, that of her best friend and sister to Duncan, Lily (Amanda Seyfried). The trouble gets out of hand when Keith accuses Poppa Kane, Jake (Kyle Secor). He responds by using his extensive power and influence to have Keith removed as sheriff. Veronica’s mother unable to deal with the social downgrade left town. Keith now barely makes a living as a private detective with the help of his ingenious daughter.

Veronica is tough and independent but not without some major issues. Besides the desertion of her mother Veronica was a victim of rape. The thing is although no rape victim is to blame for the crime Veronica’ lack of prudent judgment increased the risk factor. When she was fifteen or sixteen she was drinking at on 09er’s party. She thought it was only rum and coke but someone slipped her a roofy raping her while she was incapacitated. This infuses the character with a vulnerability and pathos that adds a dimension of emotional realism to Veronica. She is not the perfect young woman but one the audience can readily identify with and understand. Naturally, Veronica has a couple of friends helping her out; fellow social outcast Wallace Fennel (Percy Daggs III) responsible for the requite background work and biker gang leader, Eli "Weevil" Navarro (Francis Capra), who is not exactly the bad kind of biker. The first two seasons follow Veronica in Neptune high switching to Hearst University. Initially the major story arc is Veronica investigating the truth behind Lily’s murderer superimposed over episode centric smaller mysteries. The series could have proceeded along this approach for at least a few more years but the network had other ideas. At least this series made a star of Bell who is finding a nice niche in romantic comedies and as an electrifying villainess in the now defunct ‘Heroes’. Seyfried used this role as a springboard to a regular part on HBO’s ‘Big Love’ and upward to becoming one of the most sought after actresses in the industry. They series is gone but still makes for better entertainment tan most networks currently offer.

Posted 05/22/11

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