Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Veronica Mars

I'm always on the lookout for new stuff to put on my Netflix list and several people including sfmike of the Civic Center blog recommended Veronica Mars, a show that played on UPN and the CW networks. I rarely watched anything on those channels, so this didn't catch my attention when it first aired.

The premise of the show is the town of Neptune, California has no middle class. There are the rich people and the people who clean the rich people's homes. Veronica Mars has a pass into the rich people's world because her dad is the country sheriff and she is dating a rich kid and is best friends with the rich kid's sister. But the sister, played by Amanda Seyfried in flashback scenes, is murdered, and Sheriff Mars steps on toes investigating the crime and is replaced. He becomes a private investigator and she becomes an outcast.

Kristen Bell plays Veronica, and as we can see in the picture, Ms. Bell is actually cuter than a button. You might think that this is the reason a dirty old man like myself watches the show, but News Flash! TV and movies are filled to capacity with attractive women. The story has to work or I lose interest.

Veronica is a superhero without powers. She is an A student, she is at the Sherlock Holmes level of sleuthing abilities and she always puts together cute outfits and just the right lip gloss on a very modest budget. The show is filled with nods to earlier TV feminist icons. Two actresses from Buffy play recurring roles, Charisma Carpenter and Allison Hannigan. The creator of Buffy, Joss Whedon, showed up for one episode as an annoying car rental employee. In an episode where the FBI is brought in to investigate a kidnapping, the lead FBI agent is played by Lucy Lawless. There was no Veronica vs. Xena climactic battle. Veronica lives on her wits, not on beating people up. Also, Lucy is about six feet tall and Kristen is barely over five feet. I think if she really annoyed Ms. Lawless, she would be found stuck in a locker somewhere.

For me, the weak link on the show is the young male cast. The show is about class war, so there isn't supposed to be much mixing of the different classes. Even inside the different classes, there is strict ethnic separation. The most interesting young male character is Weevil, the leader of a Hispanic gang for whom Veronica has done favors and vice versa. (Everyone is always doing favors for Veronica, usually without pay, and she is almost always taking people's cases, also often without pay.) Weevil is played by Francis Capra, a former child star. He's a good looking young man, but his height is listed at 5'5", which limits his options as a leading man. In any case, I like his work on the show.

One of my favorite aspects of Veronica Mars is her relationship with her dad Keith, played by Enrico Colantoni, who was the lead alien in Galaxy Quest and had a featured role on the sitcom Just Shoot Me. There has been a long and storied tradition of TV dads being clueless idiots, but Keith Mars is shown as being competent at his work and a loving father. At the end of the first season, Veronica is in a damsel in distress situation, not a common theme on the show, and it's her dad who saves the day. I like the actor, I like the role, I'm glad to see Mr. Colantoni continuing to get work.

As for Ms. Bell, she is continuing to get work, but like the post-Buffy career of Sarah Michelle Gellar, I haven't found anything she has done since quite as interesting, though some of the work has been popular, like a brief stint on Heroes, the successful but truly awful comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the narrator on Gossip Girl.

I recommend skipping those and watching Veronica Mars instead. The CW website has seasons 2 and 3 online, so you need to rent the DVDs to catch up on the show from the beginning.

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