Veronica Mars, TV for Mothers and Daughters

I recently sat down with my 2 daughters to watch the entire 3 seasons of Veronica Mars (2004 – 2007). I decided to do this after I revisited My So-Called Life. As a spunky, extroverted, confident preteen, my eldest daughter could not relate to Angela Chase’s angst. So naturally, I thought it was time to introduce her to Veronica; my younger daughter (more reserved and rather enjoyed MSCL) was dragged along for the ride with little protestation.

Veronica Mars is a show that benefitted from a second viewing. I remembered enjoying it but I had forgotten just how much. Veronica Mars (played delightfully by Kristen Bell) is a high school junior who had recently become persona non grata at Neptune High (located in sunny California) following the murder of her popular yet troubled best friend, Lilly Kane (portrayed in flashback sequences by-before-she-was-famous, Amanda Seyfried). Veronica’s Dad, Keith Mars (Canadian veteran actor Enrico Colantoni), who had been Sheriff, was convinced of a cover up by the Kane family. The rich and influential Kanes had Keith booted from this elected position. Because Veronica made a choice to support her Dad, she lost her social standing but not her grit. Unfortunately, her mother decided to bail on the both of them.  And now, with the help of his daughter, Keith operates Mars Investigations. This is a great plot device, as it leaves Veronica with all these investigative tools and data bases at her fingertips. What is a girl to do?

Each episode of the 1st 2 seasons of this show featured a mystery of the week, usually involving someone at Neptune High requiring Veronica’s special skills. The formula was changed somewhat for season 3 as the show struggled with ratings. Running  in parallel with the weekly caper, Veronica made progress on the overall season 1 mystery, which involved finding the truth about Lilly Kane’s murder by the end.

The mysteries of the week were well crafted and quite fun to watch. They ranged from a missing school mascot to tracking down a  classmate’s biological parents. Thrown into the mix are additional mysteries of Veronica’s life, such as who drugged her and assaulted her at a party and what was the real reason behind her mom skipping out.

So what exactly makes this gritty hard-boiled show fun? Certainly the multitude of pop culture references (South Park, the Big Lebowski, Pretty in Pink, The Maltese Falcon and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – to name a few) and clever snarky dialogue are huge factors. It also depicted one of the sweetest father/daughter relationships on TV. Although they’ve got each other’s back’ neither one is afraid to call the other one out on the carpet when required.

Both characters are flawed. Veronica can be abrasive and single-minded when she is trying to ferret out the truth. Skills necessary for an investigator are the antithesis of those that ingratiate oneself amongst peers. Getting to the bottom of things often involves pestering innocent people as Veronica accuses them of wrong doing. But in her mind, the ends justify the means, if it leads her to the answer. So yes, there are red herrings along the way, but there are only so many you can fit in 43 min, rendering the weekly journey to the truth plausible. This reinforced my satisfaction in abandoning The Killing, another show about the mystery about a teenage girl’s mysterious murder, which shared many plot points. However that show was humorless and seemed like a contrived wild goose chase. Veronica Mars raised the bar too high, The Killing couldn’t compete.

There is also an interesting assortment of supporting characters, including Lilly’s brother Duncan,  who is Veronica’s ex-boyfriend and is hiding a mystery of his own. Duncan’s best friend Logan (also Lilly’s boyfriend) seems to be the wild child of famous actor Aaron Echolls (Harry Hamlin) but what pain is he hiding behind his smart aleck remarks? When he loses his mother (played by Hamlin’s real wife, Lisa Rinna) he adds a dimension to his character arc. For comic relief, there is hapless Sheriff Lamb, whom Veronica often manages to get the better of. Vinnie Van Lowe is the only other PI in town, who locks horns with the Mars family every now and then providing light-hearted interludes to some otherwise dark-almost-noir themes.

Veronica, a sassy, smart, tenacious, bold, problem solver, who never let adversity slow her down. She faced public humiliation with courage, repeatedly and was fiercely loyal to all her friends. My daughters enjoyed rooting for her and the episodes provided a springboard for discussing many themes such as peer pressure, bullying, dating, drugs, taking responsibility for one’s actions, suicide, rape. Pretty heady stuff, but I would like my girls to know that these topics are not off-limits.

I was surprised at my sadness, when the end came around too soon – again. However, for the sake of my children, I did not weep as loudly as the first time;). There were so many questions left unanswered about Veronica and Keith’s future; but the one thing the viewer was certain of, was the length that Keith Mars would go, to protect his daughter. There was no doubt about his love.

I confess I was a late comer to this show despite all the positive buzz it received in advance of its airing. It was compared to my beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer , which had been off the air for over a year when this show debuted. I was skeptical until Buffy’s creator started singing its praises and landed a cameo role (as did Buffy alumni Alyson Hannigan and Charisma Carpenter). Better late than never, but I owe it all to the availability of TV on DVD. It allowed me to catch up to the broadcast schedule, get a friend hooked on it as well and enjoy the bitter-sweet ending of this series in sync with the die-hard fans. This show is already truly missed.

So to assuage my pining, I thought I would share some of my favorite quotes:

  • (while Veronica is fixing her vandalized car tire, a classmate approaches)
  • Troy: Flat?
  • Veronica: Just as God made me.
  • Troy: Are you always this persnickety?
  • Veronica: Sometimes I’m even persnicketier.

**********

  • Keith: So, Veronica tells me, uhm, well actually she hasn’t told me anything about you.
  • Troy: Well, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
  • Keith: Neither do I. [both laugh uncomfortably]
  • Troy: Well, if you have any questions or you know you want a list of references or anything.
  • Keith: So, you going to the homecoming dance?
  • Troy: Oh yes, sir, if that’s okay with you.
  • Keith: Oh, of course. And after the dance?
  • Troy: Well I think that Veronica said that she had to be right home after.
  • Keith: Yeah, good. And you’re gonna stay for the whole dance. I mean, you’re not gonna leave early and go to a party or a hotel, and still make it back by curfew?
  • Troy: No, uh, I mean, the whole point of going to the dance… is to go to the dance.
  • Keith: Good. Good. So you won’t mind then, that I cancelled your reservation at the Four Seasons?

**********

  • Troy: Isn’t this where we parked? Tell me that this isn’t where we parked. Please, someone tell me that you can see my father’s car and this heart attack I’m having now is for nothing.
  • Logan: I don’t know. Maybe it’s like Brigadoon. Come back in a hundred years and it’ll be right back in this spot.

**********

  • Veronica: Tough day?
  • Keith: [imitating Phillip Marlowe] That ain’t the half of it. See, this dame walks in, and you should’ve seen the getaway sticks on her. Says something’s hinky with her old man.
  • Veronica: [imitating Marlowe] Did ya put the screws to him?
  • Keith: You ain’t kiddin’, he sang like a canary.
  • Veronica: [normal voice] You’re in luck, Phillip Marlowe, because it’s dessert for dinner night, and I’ve got a sundae thing set up here.
  • Keith: [normal voice] If child services finds out about this, they will take you away.
  • Veronica: Well, that’s a risk I’m willing to take.
  • Keith: Honey, shouldn’t we try something at the base of the food pyramid? You know – fruits and vegetables.
  • Veronica: [gasps] What is that? A maraschino cherry.

**********

  • (school principal) Clemmons: Mr. Echolls, I was wondering if I could have a word?
  • Logan: “Anthropomorphic.” All yours, big guy.
  • Clemmons: Oh. [fake laugh] Your father has generously offered to donate a pair of boots for our school fundraising auction.
  • Logan: Not the ones made for walking? God, I love those boots.

**********

  • Mr. Daniels: Ah, alas, you both get zeroes. No talking during tests.
  • Logan: I guess Mrs. Daniels ain’t giving it up at home, huh?
  • Mr. Daniels: You know, the glow of your father’s wealth and celebrity may be enough to sustain you through high school, Mr. Echolls, but do you know what it will get you in the real world?
  • Logan: [sarcastically] Please say “high school English teacher.” Please…say “high school English teacher.” [Weevil Navarro snickers]
  • Mr. Daniels: Mr. Navarro. I wonder if you’ll find Mr. Echolls so amusing ten years from now – when you’re pumping his gas.

**********

  • (classmate asking for help)
  • Meg: You believe me?
  • Veronica: Meg, you’re the last good person at this school. I’d believe cartoon birds braided your hair this morning. If you want, I can find who posted that test for you. We’ll clear your name and make somebody pay.
  • Meg: Really?
  • Veronica: Unless there’s a fairy godmother already on it.

**********

  • Veronica: The downside to being an only child – you know all the scary handmade ornaments are yours. [holds up ornament] This concerns me.
  • Keith: Whoa, whoa, whoa. You gotta put another Padres ornament over there. What? It should be spread out so it’s even.
  • Veronica: You know, there are some people who think Christmas is about the birth of Christ, and not baseball.
  • Keith: We’re all entitled to our own religions, Veronica.

**********

  • Veronica: I’d be the best rich person, seriously. I’d be the perfect combination of frivolous and sensible. Money is so wasted on the wealthy.

**********

  • Sheriff Lamb: Veronica Mars. Is your daddy here or is he busy peeking in people’s windows?
  • Veronica: You stop dressing up like Little Bo Peep, he’ll stop peeking.

**********

  • [Keith and Sheriff Lamb enter a guitar shop.]
  • Keith: Hello, Cleveland! “Spinal Tap.”
  • Lamb: What?
  • Keith: The movie “Spinal Tap.” You’ve never seen “Spinal Tap”?
  • Lamb: No.
  • Keith: That explains a lot.

**********

  • (flirting with a new, cute deputy)
  • Veronica: So, what made you decide to be a cop?
  • Leo: Uh, well, it’s the same old tired story. I was sent here by the agency to do a strip-o-gram for Inga, an armed robbery call came in, I figured I was in uniform anyway, so what the hell.
  • Veronica: So you’re saying you just kind of stumbled into it.
  • Leo: Oh, what I’m trying to say is, this uniform, it’s a tear-away.

**********

  • Keith: How was school?
  • Veronica: You know – mean kids, indifferent teachers, crumbling infrastructure.
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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Veronica Mars: Mixed Feelings from a Kickstarter Backer and a Diehard Fan | What is Ann Watching?
  2. Trackback: GLOW: a review | What is Ann Watching?

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