Throwback TV: Veronica Mars Season 1

Throwback TV: Veronica Mars Season 1

I’ve written a fair amount about Veronica Mars, because I just love it. I’ve written about the movie trailer, the film itself, and have even read the first novel in what is a possible VM book series, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line.

Going back to where it all began, season 1 of the cult TV show is simply an awesome watch. Over the course of the season, we see the development of the characters that would play roles throughout the series, and we would see Kristen Bell become Veronica, to the point where she is one of the best female TV characters of the last decade.

And seeing as how Veronica Mars has been a recent addition to the Netflix lineup, it seemed an appropriate time to write about it. While I have gone through the entire series three times prior, seeing it on Netflix drew me back in for another complete viewing.

veronica2After Laura Palmer, and well before Rosie Larson, we wanted to know who killed Lilly Kane.

The premise of the first season is to introduce the once popular, but now pariah character of Veronica Mars, daughter to the former sheriff of Neptune, California, where the social divide is great between the haves and the have nots. Veronica used to run with the popular group, date the son of a billionaire, and be well respected among her peers at school. But that all changed after her best friend, Lilly, was murdered. Her father, Keith Mars, tried to pin the murder on Jake Kane, Lilly’s father, which essentially ostracized both of them from the high end people of Neptune. Veronica stuck with her father, not believing that the murder was solved, as the new sheriff would have everyone believe. Sure, there was a man behind bars, but something never fit right with the Mars family. Now, no longer sheriff, Keith is a private detective in town, and Veronica helps him on some of his cases. Often of the more sordid variety, such as cheating husbands.

But Veronica wants to know who really killed her best friend. Not to get back in with the cool people at school, but for her peace, Lilly’s peace, and her father’s vindication.

The first season of Veronica Mars has the long, over-arching story line of who killed Lilly. But in between, there are smaller arcs, as well as episode one offs, all of which are fun and interesting little mysteries, filled with wit, humour, and the perfect amount of seriousness, all while exploring topics of class division, popularity, and the typical teen issues. Veronica deals with small cases, like mysterious dog disappearances, to bigger things, like drug smuggling, and her own drugging and rape at a school party.

Veronica has a chip on her shoulder, and she is determined to get revenge on people who have wronged her, and wronged the people that she cares about. While her behavior can be morally questionable at times, Veronica always has justice at heart, which makes her an intriguing character.

She has a veneer of sarcasm that is able to protect a hurt girl, who has many wrongs in her life. Aside from the fall from popular grace, she has had to deal with an alcoholic mother who eventually abandons her family, questions about her own paternity, the scorn of the people from her past, and the struggles to balance her unique job and her studies, where she is a top student without the money to go to an elite school. She needs to earn everything she gets, and she is faced with tough decisions all the way through the first season.

But she is tough, which is why we love her. There is nary a situation that doesn’t warrant a quip from her, and the writers of the show gave Bell some great material to work with. But it is Bell that really makes this character come alive, and she gives Veronica the edge and humour that make her so lovable, and an easy character to cheer for.

The first season is full of twists and turns, both within the small story lines, as well as the big one. There are plenty of laughs, and plenty of strong secondary characters that make the show go round. Particularly strong is the relationship between Keith and his daughter, as they are serious about their work, but also seem to have the perfect father-daughter relationship, in that they can confide in one another, and do so quite hilariously at times.

Regardless of your taste in TV, Veronica Mars should be considered as a must see series. It never got the viewers it should have during its time on TV, but warrants a watching now. It is non-stop entertainment, with clever writing full of allusions that will make the knowledgeable pop culture junkie happy. Even having gone through the series several times, I still find myself enjoying the show, the quips, and being more knowing and involved in the mystery.

From Dusk ‘Till Dawn (TV Review)

From Dusk ‘Till Dawn (TV Review)

Netflix has been pretty consistent in delivering original TV series that are well worth our attention. Shows like Orange is the New Black, and House of Cards have been excellent examples of what the streaming company is able to do with television. Provide viewers with fresh, original series, while giving it to us one entire season at a time, so that we can devour it as quickly as we choose.

The latest effort from Netflix is a little different, in that episodes were released on a weekly basis, so someone would have to wait each week if they began the series at the very beginning. The newest series is a TV adaptation of the Robert Rodriguez cult movie, From Dusk ‘Till Dawn, which originally starred George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, and Salma Hayek, among others. The basic film plot revolved around a pair of criminals who kidnap a family in order to get across the border to Mexico. Once there, they stop at a bar which turns out to be a haunt for vampires. Fighting ensues.

duskAs for the TV show, the plot (to the point in the series I have reached, at least) is fairly consistent with the movie. However, it is much more detailed, as it has taken several episodes for the brothers to even get to the border. This has allowed for more in-depth character and plot development, which is an added benefit that the time a TV series has to offer.

Not all of it works, however. The show does use an interesting time frame, as there are flashbacks and overlapping scenes in order to tell the complete story, often from the perspectives of multiple characters. There are some parts that don’t work too well, and some of the writing and acting is definitely questionable.

And some of it is simply awful.

Part of the point of the film version was to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but the TV show tends to take itself too seriously.

One of the brothers, Richie, has visions of evil laying all around him. He sees the beastly, or demonic, side of people, and this leads him to murder. Many of his thoughts are guided by the beautiful Santanico Pandemonium (the role that was brought to life by Salma Hayek in the film- who can forget her famous introductory dance with the snake in the movie ?), as she wants to be found, or saved, or something (I haven’t got to that part yet).

dusk2The film was a campy adventure that was full of blood and gore, and the TV series has its moments of the same. It is definitely bloody, but it is missing the cheese of the original work. However, I have still found this to be a watchable series, and even though I pretty much know what is going to happen, it is a bit of a fun adventure on how we are getting there. Despite the many negatives of the series, it is not enough to ruin it for me. It is still something that I will complete, as I am nearing the end of the first season.

For fans of the movie, it is worth watching From Dusk ‘Till Dawn. It is different enough to keep you entertained, and provides enough new material if you wanted more from the film. And if you don’t take the whole thing too seriously, it can be a pretty fun ride.

Veronica Mars (Film Review)

Veronica Mars (Film Review)

The largest Kickstarter campaign ever comes to fruition in the film version of the TV show that quickly became a cult classic during its three-year run on the air, the Veronica Mars movie leaves no disappointment for fans of the series.

Ten years after leaving Neptune, Veronica has left her private detective life behind her, and is on the verge of becoming a high end lawyer in New York. Her life has been a success, as we all knew that it would be. She has a degree in psychology, and is weeks away from taking the bar exam. She is interviewing with top firms in NYC, on the cusp of a great career.

Until the call comes in.

“Veronica? I need your help.”

marsDrawn back to Neptune to help out Logan Eckles, her ex-love, who is again facing a murder rap when his former girlfriend and pop singer is found dead in her bathtub (Carrie Bishop, from the original show, although she is no longer played by Leighton Meester, one of the few disappointments in the movie). Of course, Veronica begrudgingly accepts to help him out with finding a lawyer, which turns into a much longer stay than she had intended.

Veronica Mars has everything one could want in a YV series-turned feature film. This was, after all, mostly funded by the fans, who raised millions of dollars to see this made. That is a dedicated fan base.

All of our favorite characters are back, and Kristen Bell, as Veronica, is in her finest form. She is as sharp and witty as ever, now able to say some of the things that she couldn’t on TV (I always enjoy hearing TV characters swear, it is partially unnatural, and partially awesome, because we know it’s what they would have really said, anyways). Even ten years after the first season began, we still love Veronica. She is still the underdog, despite the success in her life. And she continues to fight for what she believes to be right, which is the part of her character that we probably always admired most, even if we didn’t realize it.

There are great nods to the fans, even mentioning the cancelled fourth season where Veronica was to be an intern at the FBI. In the opening minutes, she even calls herself a Marshmallow, the name Veronica Mars fans have adopted for themselves. These subtle nods are fantastic, as they are not punch-you-in-the-face obvious, and it would not detract from a person watching the film as their first exposure to the character. In fact, this film does a good job of being a somewhat stand-alone production, in that you could watch it with someone who was not familiar with the series, and they would easily be able to follow along and enjoy it.

As for the story, and the mystery, it is as solid as always. There are some twists, and it is a good murder mystery, as was nearly every episode of the show. There is no let down here. At an hour and 45 minutes long, it is basically watching two back-to-back episodes, with an entire murder plot crammed in. But it doesn’t feel to rushed. And for fans of the show, watching back-to-back episodes is something that we have all done. Probably more than once. Ok, maybe some of us have managed to watch an entire season in one sitting (that’s a lot of sitting, but it got done!).

Not many actresses really own their character in the way that Bell owns Veronica. She is her. And even though she continues to act, and hasn’t been pigeon-holed due to the success of this show, there will always be a part of Kristen that truly is in a part of this character. We want to see them as the same person, because she is so good as her. Veronica Mars is the girl with the smart answer to everything, but who can also be fiercely loyal and loving at the same time. She uses her sarcasm as a mask, something too many of us are able to identify with. She is the outcast who never should have been the outcast in the first place, but wears her letter with pride, and always manages to hold her head up high, not ashamed of who she is. She is a true television hero.

One of my favorite things about the film is that they did not deviate from the formula of the show. This is exactly what people wanted to see. And they got it. They did not try to go crazy just because there was some more money and a built-in audience. They knew how Veronica Mars worked, and they stuck with it.

As usual, Veronica narrates the film, as the did on the series. She compares her need to help, to be near Logan, near Neptune, as an addiction, something that she dealt with in her life with her mother, and the various issues that floated around the elites of Neptune. It is a clever under-current to the story, the tale of a girl who wants nothing more than to get away, and stay away, but can do nothing of the sort. Another layer to the story, that is great entertainment.

For any fan of Veronica Mars, this movie is an absolute must-see. For those who never watched the show, you can count on a pretty solid murder mystery with some good comebacks and wit.

Just as the show always was.