Making the world a better place, one show at a time.

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Washington, DC, United States
I guess you would like to know a little bit about the person making all these proclamations upon good taste and horrid characters. I'm Andrea and when I was 15 I fell in love. An hour after meeting "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" I was forever altered in the way only love can, and I never questioned for one minute afterwards that television offered me an amazing chance to experience lives and moments that I could never imagine. So now, when I'm not getting distracted by my real life, I write about TV. I also read, am finishing a Master's degree in English Literature, travel, am attempting to learn vegan cooking, am the 5th of 6 children, and drive my roommate nuts by constantly cleaning our already clean apartment. Now that we're old friends, time for you to take my opinions as the be all and end all.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Veronica Mars (9.5): Was it worth it (Season One)?

KP ( asked me to write about Veronica Mars, specifically she ask me “was it worth it?” As everyone should know, Veronica Mars was cancelled at the end of its third season (May 2007), and I have to say, that was a sad day in my life. But, the fact that the show is over kind of gives me a little leeway, because I don’t have to be as careful about giving something away. I’m not going give just a plot summary, but I won’t check myself the way I would with an ongoing show. (Its killing me not to talk about Battlestar Galactic, but two very good friends haven’t seen Season Three and I don’t want to give it away for them. I have to figure out what I am going to do.) Also, since it is completed, I can answer KP’s question in three parts, one answer for each season. Each season was distinct, but they were not equal, and since all are out on DVD, you really can pick and choose what you want to watch (as if you don’t have that option already).

Season One of Veronica Mars was univocally worth it. I’ll give you my top five reasons why Season One is a standard by which all other television should be judged.

One: Veronica (Kristin Bell)
You know how watching House is in the end just watching Hugh Laurie be awesome, well Veronica Mars is kind of an analogous situation. All of the actors in Season One (and when I write about Season Two the distinction will become apparent) were good, some where really good. But Kristin Bell is fantastic. She lives and breathes her character so well that I never feel like she’s acting. Her performance isn’t lazy I-don’t-want-to-bother-acting acting, it is though out, determined but delicate, and respectful of the character. And the character requires nuance and love. Veronica is compelling but complicated. Season One relies on narrated flashbacks to fill in the back-story and the back-story necessitates Season One. (Tangent: Veronica Mars uses voice over for narration, and everyone should notice how it works, because then it will be very clear why the opining voice-over on Grey’s Anatomy is so very, very, very annoying.) Veronica is caught between the life she had before her best friend was murdered and the life she leads in reaction to that event. She is very intelligent, and though she has a strong sense of self, she struggles because she learns faster than she grows. Her maturity is tempered by her age, so she isn’t a smarmy know-it-all. She fails, and she gets it wrong sometimes.

Two: Wallace (Percy Daggs III)
Wallace is Veronica’s new best friend, whom she meets in the first episode. Wallace is kind, loyal, and social. On the outside he is the opposite of misanthropic, untrusting Veronica. His friendship keeps her both sane and honest. It is one of the few (if maybe only) portrayals of friendship between a heterosexual man and woman that never becomes romantic. Their friendship is better than any romantic relationship could be; demonstrating the Aristotelian principle that friendship is the highest form of love.

Three: The Plotting
Season One is immensely well plotted. There is one main premise; who murdered Lily? In addition there are two main sub-premises; where is Veronica’s mom and who date-raped Veronica? The answers to these three questions are intricately connected, and investigation into one leads to information about the others. The show is subtle and requires work. The viewer has to pay attention and process information at the same time as the characters. Rob Thomas (not the tool from the tool-band) created the show as whole season, not piece by piece, therefore there aren’t loose ends at the end. The plots fit together, and the viewer can logically deduce anything that is not explicated by a character.

Four: Mr. Mars (Enrico Colantoni)
I admit that I am a sucker for daddy-daughter storylines, but the relationship between Veronica and her father Keith is truthful and beautiful. Keith admires and encourages his daughter, but he struggles with his desire to protect her, and suffers when she deceives or defies him, as teenagers often do. Because his wife left, he is the sole parent, so at times he is in the awkward position of chastising and comforting simultaneously. Furthermore, Keith must act as a model for Veronica. His professional life is profoundly effected by Lily’s murder, and he must demonstrate to his daughter how to accept adversity with good-humor and resilience. He is motivated by his profound love for his child and always acts towards giving her a good life. Keith is one of the top five TV parents, if not the number one.

Five: The Humor
The themes of the show are grim; a young woman’s murder, infidelity, broken families, revenge, sexual assault, mental instability, racism. But the show is not depressing because the underlying assumption is that life is comic, not tragic. The show exists because wrong can be righted, human beings can endure and heal, and what is good will ultimately prevail. From this basis organic humor develops. While there is quick banter and comfortable repartee Veronica Mars is witty in a traditional sense. The dialogue is surprising and allows for connected movement between disparate ideas because the characters have a large world-view, and therefore their conversation encompasses more than their immediate perceptions. It is the natural wit of intelligent people, not the artifical wit of pop-culture drones. There are comic relief characters as well; Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen) and Sheriff Lamb (Michael Muhney), and they are genius. Neither one is very smart, and both are kind of jerks, but they aren’t cartoonish, and both brighten any scene they grace.

I don’t think this even scratches the surface of my love for the first season of Veronica Mars. There are so many other elements that make this show not only worth watching, but necessary to watch. I hope this is enough to pique the interest of the unconverted, and for those of you who have seen it, I hope I did VM justice.

Shout Outs:
Little Things to Know that Make Watching Better

There are kind of too many of these to do. Kristin Bell has moved on to both Heroes and Gossip Girl. Jason Dorhing (my beloved Logan, and I don’t know how I wrote this whole thing without talking about him, but I have two more, so don’t worry, I’ll get to him) is on the CBS vampire drama Moonlight. Alona Tal (Meg) was on a few episodes of Supernatural. Kyle Gallner (Beaver) has appeared on many shows, including an episode of Bones and on (the detested) Smallville. Amanda Seyfried (Lily) is in the movie Mean Girls and on the show Big Love, as well as an episode of House. Max Greenfield (Dept. Leo) joined Ugly Betty. And Harry Hamlin, enough said.

Final Thought:
One of the joys of doing this is that I am learning about the way I watch TV. In the comments on my posts you can see KP and I are exchanging opinions on craft (also go to her blog to read one of the funniest evaluations of actors). I can tell a good actor from a bad one, and I appreciate talent when it’s available. But performance has really not been something I concentrate on too much; I am more attracted to story/character/themes. But KP is right; if I don’t pay attention to performance I am separating form from content, and I am a better-trained English major than that. I started here, and from now on I will make an effort to evaluate craft in respect to the shows I write about.

The TV Girl


Asiankp said...

I'm netflixing Season 1 of V. Mars right now. I've recently become a fan of Kristen Bell and the origins of this newfound affection are rather odd since I saw her in this horrible, horrible Lifetime movie called Gracie's Choice, which I netflixed on accident because I thought it was Sophie's Choice--ANYWAY, to make a long story short, the movie was awful but Kristen Bell's performance was so real and honest that I became a fan immediately. It goes to show that even if your script is shit, you can still overcome. This is not true in all cases because shitty writing can sometimes facilitate shitty acting but...I'm getting away from my point.

Who date-rapes Veronica?? Whoa...sounds like some intense adult situations. And I enjoy Daddy-daughter situations which brings me to my next mention TV parents...I'd love to hear you wax philosophical on fact, would you guest blog on my blog with those thoughts?

And final thought, sorry this is so long but I hear that Kristen Bell does the VO for Gossip Girls and pretty much connects the story and you are right, it makes the Greys Anatomy VO sound like the musings of a adolescent whiny high school girl.

Asiankp said...

PS. thanks for the shout outs. you're the freakin best.