Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Time of the Season: S1 of Veronica Mars

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 30, 2007

Thank God for Bit Torrent

So after being advised and/or bothered by a number of my friends to watch it (mostly female, but at least one or two guys too), I decided to give Season One of Veronica Mars a shot. And I’m glad that I did–first and foremost, Veronica Mars passes the most important test for TV, which is “Was I Properly Compelled to Get Through the Whole Season in Under a Week?” (something that all worthwhile shows, regardless of how busy I am, should do without fail). And I think I made it through in about five days–not quite a Sopranos-worthy rate, but a fairly good score nonetheless. That said, the show is still highly imperfect, and I have some doubts going into season two. Here’s how I break it down (and spoiler alert, obviously):

The Good:

  • Kristen Bell, and perhaps more importantly, the character of Veronica Mars. First and foremost, one of the great protagnoist character names in history–appropriate, elaborative and instantly memorable. And more importantly, she just seems like the kind of totally unrealistic girl that you nonetheless wish you had at least for an acquaintance in High School–exciting, attractive, and rebellious and yet somehow mature, intelligent and down to earth. Yeah, right. Still, Bell makes her feel plausible.
  • Veronica’s relationship with her father, Keith (played by Enrico Colantoni). Keith is from the Sandy Cohen school of impossibly perfect fathers (the first of many, many facile O.C. analogies I’m going to make in this post, so bear with me), the kind of Dad who always seems to know what’s right, even when he’s wrong. His relationship with Veronica makes for some of the show’s most genuinely touching moments, especially in the season finale–his casual response to Veronica’s tearful declaration of love after he saves her life and is being wheeled out in an ambulance, “Who’s your daddy?,” alone justifies the series’ existence.
  • The way the show cleverly exploits the sense of mystery that High School has to outsiders, where everyone not in the know secretly suspects a world of decadence, intrigue and scandal going on under the surface. House parties and drug use aside, it probably wasn’t really that exciting–but I guess we’d never really know for sure, would we? Veronica Mars posits that the truth is Out There, and it’s fairly thrilling to watch.
  • The theme song, Dandy Warhols’ “We Used to Be Friends.” Far from a great song, and I’d probably never care to hear it outside of the show, but it’s so great to finally have a teen drama without a weepy, wimpy theme song (Gavin DeGraw, Hillary Duff, ….Phantom Planet), as well as one that actually seems to fit the show so well in attitude and theme. Plus, it’s the kind of song that can be perfectly summarized in 30 seconds or less.
  • Jason Dohring as Logan Echolls, easily the show’s best character. Logan epitomizes the kind of Spader-esque rich asshole TV who, despite his relative lack of human decency, is irresistibly charismatic. Too often on female-focused TV shows, male characters only exist in response to the female characters, and with a character as strong as Veronica, that was definitely a danger, but Dohring can more than hold his own against Bell (he can level the great majority of the cast with a flick of his hand), and watching the two of them spar provides many of the show’s highlights.

The Bad:

  • Teddy Dunn as Duncan Kane, exactly the kind of character Logan puts to shame. Sort of a reverse Luke from The O.C.–whereas Luke started out as cartoonishly violent and stupid and transformed into a veritable saint for no apparent reason, Duncan started out as a way-too-nice-and-sensitive-for-his-looks-and-social-standing wet noodle and was about one step away from turning into a total psycho by the end of the season. Whoops. Wikipedia lists him as “Former Cast” on their front page, though, so hopefully they learned their lesson somewhere into the second season.
  • Amanda Seyfried as Lily Kane. A great wild child for certain, and had she still been alive for the first episode, she might’ve made a solid character, but surprise surprise, she turns out to have been a thrill-seeking nympho, thus multiplying her list of possible suitors/murderers exponentially (sounds maybe like another TV teenage girl whose murder was the impetus for a different cult drama about a decade and a half ago?)
  • The case-an-episode format means Veronica has to take on some seriously unbelievable (and often downright stupid) cases–corrupt dog pounds? Corrupt internet hack0rz? OMG!
  • The a little-too-canned dialogue. I mean yeah, it’s TV, and I mean yeah, it’s high schoolers, but at least five times an episode I feel like screaming out NO ONE TALKS LIKE THAT at the screen. At least on Gilmore Girls, the dialogue’s snappy enough for me to overlook it. Not quite so much here

The Questionable:

  • The finale. Great episode, posisbly the best of the whole season, but it seems like it wraps pretty much everything up–just about every mystery, from whether Veronica is spawn of the Kanes, to what happened to Veroncia the night she lost her virginity, and yes, to who killed Lily Kane, is solved, all neat and pretty. I gotta wonder what’s left for season two, aside from the personal drama–which is good, of course, but without the mystery element, the show loses its drive and its originality. That other TV show about a murdered teenage girl didn’t last too much longer after its central revelation, could Veronica Mars?
  • The show’s inability to sustain major characters as enemies. Once again, it’s a problem that The O.C. suffered from–eventually every character that started out as a main antagonist eventually was humanized and welcomed to the fold, and Veronica Mars has a tendency to do the same thing. Even Logan and chop shop bad-boy Weevil, the warring between whom seemed to be one of the show’s main (and best) tensions at first, were already poker buddies by halfway through the season. It’s all right to see the symapthetic side of these characters, but eventually, what drama is this show going to have left?

In any event, onto season two…


One Response to “Time of the Season: S1 of Veronica Mars”

  1. Sonja said

    Well I’m glad that finally enough people persuaded you. Now will you fucking please start watching How I Met Your Mother?

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