Veronica Mars — Killer TV No.44

Kirsten Bell as Veronica Mars

UPN/The CW, 2004-07

‘I hear you do detective stuff for people.’ – Jackson Douglas
‘I do favours for friends.’ – Veronica
‘I can pay.’ – Jackson Douglas
‘Sit down, friend.’ – Veronica

Kristen Bell, Percy Daggs III, Teddy Dunn, Jason Dohring, Amanda Seyfried, Sydney Tamilia Poitier, Francis Capra, Ryan Hansen, Kyle Gallner, Tessa Thompson, Enrico Colantoni

Identikit: High school girl Veronica moonlights as a private investigator while coping with the fallout from her sheriff dad’s decision to accuse the most powerful man in Neptune, California, of murdering his own daughter – that means dealing with the animosity of all her old friends, her dad losing his job and her mother leaving home.

logosVeronica Mars is a neo-noir mystery series for teenagers, which, although it was never loaded down with Emmys, proved that you don’t need big stars and high concepts to make a winner. Veronica Mars is superb because it is a beautifully written and crafted drama – witty and gritty, and was good enough to win plaudits from the likes of Joss Whedon (‘Best. Show. Ever.’), Kevin Smith (‘Hands down the best show on television right now’) and Stephen King (‘Nancy Drew meets Philip Marlowe, and the result is pure nitro’). We meet Veronica – a snarky, sparkling Kristen Bell – just after her best friend Lilly has been murdered and Veronica’s dad, Keith, the respected county sheriff, has lost his job after accusing Lilly’s powerful dad, Jake Kane, of her murder. In the backlash against the Mars family, Veronica is ousted from the best cliques in school and her mother develops a drink problem and leaves town. Her dad turns private investigator and Veronica helps out, though her pariah status often leaves her wondering if Keith was correct in his costly decision to accuse Jake Kane. Veronica Mars

Cast of Veronica Mars

ran for three seasons, with the first two being particularly well-regarded, both having an overall arc to the series, balanced with Veronica also solving mysteries each week. Glance at it and the show looks like any teen pap on any youth channel, but stick with an episode and the humour, smart plotting and hard edges are obvious. High school is shown to be a zoo of hormones, with all the clique-iness, bullying and status obsessions. But what a joy to see Veronica verbally dismantling rich thug Logan as he vandalises her car, or sabotaging Sheriff Lamb in a court case. The stories have their dark side, such as the rich kids’ racism to the poorer Hispanics, the cops kowtowing to the rich townsfolk, and Veronica having been drugged at a party and raped. The grimness and her loss of status and friends were leavened by Veronica’s toughness and cleverness, as she constantly outwits her foes in the sheriff’s office, the local biker gang or at school. Every episode fizzes with incorrigible one-liners – Troy, looking at her crumpled car tyre: ‘Flat?’ To which Veronica says, ‘Just as God made me.’ And there’s a nice soundtrack of retro and recent sounds. Well-drawn intrigue, humour and drama make this a particularly memorable story of teenage years and lost innocence.

Theme music: We Used to Be Friends by The Dandy Warhols

Clued-up Veronica

Classic episode: Not Pictured, episode 22 and the finale of season 2, in which Veronica graduates, works out that Cassidy sabotaged the bus at the start of the series when several classmates were killed, and she realises that it was Cassidy who raped her at the party.

Watercooler fact: The cancellation of Veronica Mars after three seasons always felt like a slap in the face to devotees of the show. In 2013 creator Rob Thomas launched a Kickstarter fundraiser to raise funds from the public, resulting in $2million secured in 10 hours (in total, 90,000 backers eventually put in $5.7m). The film was made in the summer of 2013, and released last month to good reviews (see trailer below).

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