|Veronica Mars - Let it die
||[Sep. 20th, 2018|06:57 pm]
Please don't bring back Veronica Mars. I know that I'm shouting into the void, but as a fan of Veronica Mars, as someone who tried to get all of his friends to watch that show, who spammed everyone he knew to watch the first episode of the third scene in hopes that the thing kept going, please don't.
I get that we are in the era of resurrected television shows, some worthy of their late renewals - Twin Peaks, Doctor Who (well the first few years) and that new Star Trek I hear. And most are just ugly attempts to cash in on nostalgia - Gilmore Girls, Murphy Brown, Roseanne, The Anita Hill hearings, Norm MacDonald acting like an asshole, X-Files, Full House, Will & Grace. The weird thing about these new seasons of old shows is that the old shows ran their initial premises into the ground. And then continued on after they were no longer interesting or even current. Murphy Brown talked shit about Dan Quayle after he talked shit about her, but then the show just kept going. Gilmore Girls had three good seasons and then a couple seasons that were ok but not really the same and then two seasons that were just so fucking sad, there was really no getting around just how depressing everything was.
But what about Veronica Mars? Veronica Mars didn't have musical episodes. It didn't make us all sad that it was still on the air. It was canceled too soon. It was just getting an audience. There was a fourth season where she was in the FBI. How cool would that have been?
Only it did have that sad season, the one that said that everything was over and while the brilliance of the first couple seasons was still there, it would never be the same.
Let's back up.
Most of us did not discover Veronica Mars right away. When the ratings on television channels mattered, it was almost always at the bottom of the list. I found it when they were showing reruns on Sunday night. This was halfway during season 2 and before I knew what to make of anyone on the show (it's a little confusing to jump into the middle of) I had spoiled the first season for myself (thankfully I don't care too much about spoilers but for mysteries it might be better to go into blind). I fell in love with the show, watched all the first season and tuned in for the surprising end of the second season and was ready to preach the VM gospel to everyone who would listen. I kept up the enthusiasm for most of that third season but I remember thinking at the end that I didn't really mind if it got canceled because it told most of the story it needed to tell. But for that year and a half Veronica Mars was THE show to push on friends. I still love the soundtrack and would still want everyone to watch the first and maybe the second season.
The first season was special. Joss Whedon called it the romantic comedy of the decade after noting that her best friend gets her head bashed in and she gets roofied and raped in the premiere episode. Still not sure what to make of that introduction to the series, but Whedon did touch upon why the show was special. It was a show that took a long hard look at rape culture (the sheriff just dismisses her rape report without even looking into it), classism, child abuse, spousal abuse and Hollywood narcissism all with the high school setting that worked surprisingly well for a detective series. Where Brick made the Raymond Chandler tropes into a highly stylized joke, Veronica Mars updated it so these were believable characters but ultimately high school is a place where no one knows anyone else, not really. Unlike crime stories where everyone is hiding nefarious secrets and past lives, high school settings are full of people who are hiding from themselves. This becomes even more obvious now that Facebook has replaced the high school reunion and we get see how our friends and acquaintances have developed - for better or worse. At very least you are friends with someone whom you wouldn't have talked to in high school and have stopped talking to at least 3 people who turned out to be just awful.
Veronica Mars as the character who lost her status as one of the cool kids shortly after her best friend is murdered (a murder that forms the first season's main mystery) forms a more independent group of friends and associates as many of the mysteries and stories are intensely honest about the ways that growing up in a classist society can destroy people. In one episode, a teenage girl is blackmailed by her boyfriend into staying with him because of a video made when she was under the influence. Another story has a cult that is actually not a bad place, just a little too earnest for the rich kid's parents. Everyone grows and changes. Logan starts out as the psycho but he is believably changed into someone that VM could start a relationship with.
The second season had the same formula. Large mystery at the beginning (in this case, a bus goes over a cliff in the first episode) with discoveries about all the characters including new characters. Tessa Thomson is in this season as the "bitchy" girlfriend for Wallace (who admits to being a single mother in the very last episode which seems like more of a weird way to write her out of the show). Kristin Ritter is also in this season but she's not given nearly as much to do as she could.
These might not be perfect seasons. No show is. But most of the issues were understandable. Paris Hilton guest star could have gone much worse. There might have been too many mysteries in that first season and the second season seemed hell bent on undoing the few happy endings from the first season. There was a little too much softening of the characters just because they got the funnier lines.
And then the third season happened.
First off, Sheriff Lamb is the guy that dismissed Veronica's rape allegation in the first episode. So naturally that guy becomes a series regular.
At this point, Rob Thomas decided that instead of one overarching mystery, he would have three different mysteries. Only the writers seemed like they really wanted to kill all the good will. The first story was a campus serial rapist story that felt like a desecration of the original story of the kind. In the original story, Veronica Mars was traumatized but she kept going. She wasn't defined by the rape. Nor was the rape treated like a fun little lark (yes, I know that's a weird thing to be impressed by but 80s movies were very popular once). Even when they brought it back in the second season, they helped to undo some of the ick factor of the first season's resolution (when it was her very dumb boyfriend who didn't know the difference between drunk & horny and unable to give consent). It was proof that people could write about rape without getting it so damn wrong.
But the rape story in season 3? No. Seriously, this is why writers should avoid writing about rape. Too many use it as a plot point without understanding it. Oh sure at first there was some support for the victim - she's not a slut, she shouldn't drop out of college, it's something that happened to her, not who she is. That's great, but then the story turns quickly into shit. The feminists are all humorless assholes while the douchebag guys are depicted as dumb but basically ok. Dick, the dumb blond dude that was the antagonist the first couple seasons, becomes just a regular guy right?
Divorced from the high school setting Veronica Mars no longer has anything meaningful to say. In college, people start figuring themselves out away from their parents and peers. There's a great deal of experimentation and refining. Yet, nothing in Veronica Mars gives the impression that anyone is changing in any significant way. Veronica is still hanging out with the same cast. Logan is still a "bad boy" and at its most shitty, there's ANOTHER ending where Veronica needs to get rescued. In the first season, that made sense. She got in over her head. In the second season, it was straining credibility as the murderer was a guy that she could have pushed around easily up until the point that the script called for her to scream and cry and get rescued by Logan.
Even better, the answer to the serial rapist story line was based on the college allowing one professor to do a Stanford Prison Experiment on an annual basis.
The season gets no better. The second story is a dean getting murdered which is mostly blamed on straw feminists until Veronica discovers that it's the douchey TA who is trying to frame the professor. At least this time she confronts the guy without him trying to kill her.
Oh yeah and also throughout this Logan and Veronica break up but then they get back together but then Veronica finds out that he fucked Madison who was the evil mean girl in the first season and kind of stuck around to be a foil but never really had much of a character and then there's Piz who's the really nice guy that VM should be with but then that would be boring for the writers because television writers don't believe in healthy functional relationships and prefer the Joss Whedon solution where the happy coupling means that someone is going to die and holy fuck Piz is the boring character, he's badly written but also that actor brought nothing to the table.
The mysteries stopped using seemingly small stuff to make large points and just became small. Veronica's dad needs to find out whose making the fake IDs. It's her friends. Paul Rudd plays a nice version of Noah Gallagher and his tapes are missing. Someone is breaking into houses and it might have something to do with the security systems.
The whole damn season just fizzled out with Veronica voting for her dad for sheriff in one of those television elections where people really care about who gets elected sheriff or judge (still annoyed that HIMYM actually had them sitting around the bar waiting for the election return for Marshall running for "judge" - not DA or anything important but judge).
And now the movie (I swear I thought this would be a short post when I started it) where the common wisdom was that the third season was trying too hard to be all things to all people and bring in new audiences and lost its way by making more one-off episodes.
The movie decided to be SOLELY for the fans, the hardcore fans, the fans who paid for it through kickstarter, the fans who knew the name of the student that accused Adam Scott's "cool teacher" character of statutory rape in class (turns out it was her friend who got pregnant) in that one episode where Adam Scott played a cool teacher. She dies. Mostly off camera. Also Krysten Ritter is in it because she's a star now. And Marvin Starr is in it because why not just pull a Law & Order? The movie is a series of "look, hey that's that guy!" fan service. It even has Piz for Veronica to dump at the beginning because that was totally the relationship that everyone was rooting for. And then Logan calls her and she comes back to solve a murder.
Not until Darth Maul showed up to imply that he was going to fuck Daenerys in Solo: The Star Wars Movie that No One Cared About was there such an egregious fan service as Veronica Mars: The Movie. Only Veronica Mars movie was full of so many boring minor characters that you needed to actually look up the Wiki to even get who everyone was. And of course, if you look up the Wiki you get to find out who the killer is - but yeah, it's Martin Starr.
And that's where we leave it. Two decent seasons. One season that seemed ok at the time but just got steadily worse in repetition and then a movie that was so much fucking fan service that there might as well have been a test afterwards.
There are places that Veronica Mars could have gone. Sure the third season was awful but maybe the movie could have actually caught up with the characters and shown them going off in different directions. Maybe the characters could have changed and grown in that time. Ok, I'm just wishing that the Veronica Mars movie was like Trainspotting 2 where the characters were recognizable but also older and different.
Instead, Veronica Mars the movie was depressing because unlike the first two seasons grounded in high school where everyone is mysterious even to themselves, the movie continued the trajectory of being tone deaf about college by making all of the characters depressingly the same. Weevil is still getting in trouble and being the tough guy with more brawn than brains. Logan is the "bad boy" and all of the other high school students at the class reunion are having the same rivalries and same bullshit. There's even a new scene with Madison because why not have the exact same dynamic that you had in high school? That's not boring at all.
That's why I'm avoiding season 5 and wish that everyone involved would just give up. Rob Thomas has had hits. Kristen Bell is on the Good Place. The rest of the actors - well they aren't that good really. I'm sorry but the actors that you see all the time from the show have careers. The rest of the actors are just going to be happy to be working and it will be sad like American Reunion bringing back all the actors from American Pie and you can see who still has careers by how they've aged.
Also Firefly is just not as good as you remember it.