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August 24, 2007

*SPOILERS* What’s Wrong With Veronica Mars? *SPOILERS*
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:52 PM *

The first season convinced me to watch the second season. The second season convinced me not to bother with the third season. What happened to the program Joss Whedon called the “Best. Show. Ever”?

Continued below the cut.

First season on DVD made me want to watch second season. Second season is convincing me to skip third season.

In the first season we had the Maiden Wronged (who raped her at that party?) and the question of who murdered her best friend. (Was it her boyfriend? Or was it her best friend’s brother?)

In the second season we had the question of … what? At any moment Veronica “Nancy Drew Noir” Mars could have said “Screw this, let’s order out for pizza” and it wouldn’t have made a difference. A bus plunge? A bus full of characters who I-challenge-you-to-name-any-of-them? That’s hardly a compelling mystery.

I have my thoughts about how to have made second season worth watching. I’ll put ‘em in the comments.

Comments on *SPOILERS* What's Wrong With Veronica Mars? *SPOILERS*:
#1 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:14 PM:

When I recommend the show to people, I often tell them to just watch the first season and skip the heartache of the other two. There are some very, very good moments in the third season, but they are few and far between. I will say that the final two episodes kind of redeemed the whole thing in my eyes, but many people felt differently.

My impression is that the difficulties in the second season arose primarily from the fact that the first season mystery was built so powerfully into the structure of the show; every character was there solely because of the overarching mystery, as suspects, people affected by Lily's murder, or, usually, both. So then in the second season, they didn't know how to make anyone invested in anything, including the viewers.

The third season is heartbreaking, because I see so many signs of the creative team getting their bearings back and figuring out how to make it work, but not being able to get past the increased interference from a new network determined to make the show a hit by taking away anything interesting it once had.

I have a feeling this thread is going to reopen a lot of still-fresh wounds for me. Loving that show for three years was hard.

#2 ::: Jon Gallagher ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:06 PM:

I am a San Diegan, and at the very least I had to watch to watch for the "I know where that is" moments. But the second season for me was all about Veronica and her father tiptoeing around what had happened, trying to get back into their lives as they had been (the run for sheriff) and realizing that wasn't going to happen

*****MILD SPOILER*******

*** Seriously I think you should check out Season 2 ***

The business teacher with the picture of the sailboat he would retire to? Great.

Veronica tracking down the falling down motel sold as a luxury resort? Fabulous

The dad realizing that Veronica's visit would be followed by the Feds? Priceless.

Of course I never knew the powerful use one could make of an Ipod shuffle either (Seriously, no one had a video Ipod the prop man could borrow?)

#3 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:16 PM:

Skip the third season. After being madly in love with Season 1 and vaguely fond of parts of Season 2, I followed along with Season 3 on the CW's online replay, and -- yeah. Definitely skip the third season.

#4 ::: JoXn Costello ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:23 PM:

I didn't watch Season 2, because Season 1 was as satisfying a story as one ever finds in a one-season American television series.

The most important point to me is that at the end of Season 1, all the backstory was used up. I've seen many other creative works use up all their backstory, and the result of continuing to flog them into another couple seasons or another couple books has always been painful to watch. I figured it would be best to not give Veronica Mars a chance to disappoint me.

#5 ::: markp ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:26 PM:

I just couldn't believe that both irritating love interests were carried into Season 2, and then she was still with Logan in S3... Also the writers never really sold the "everybody hates Veronica" thing to me... I mean she is super cute, smart, generous, funny so it's pretty tough to see her as the social pariah.

#6 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:35 PM:

I can definitely see Veronica as a social pariah. She uses her friends abominably, and her father even worse. On the other hand, I adored every manipulative bone in her body. I continue to think that she and Logan may not have made a good couple, but they'd sure keep each other from ruining the lives of two other perfectly nice people. They deserve each other, and the passion might actually make the pain worthwhile.

#7 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:35 PM:

Mostly agreeing with Ethan @ #1. It reminds me a bit of Twin Peaks: signs of recovery just before cancellation, but you should only stick with it to the end if you feel the need. (Third season starts off with a terrible arc: campus rapists? That's just a bit too dark for the usual tone of the show. In mysteries, murder is fun, but rape isn't. But the potential new boyfriend is fun. I would've watched the first episodes of Season 4 with renewed hope.)

#8 ::: mimi ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 10:06 PM:

I adored the first season, but by the end of the second season (especially the final couple of episodes), the show had become one that I was still watching only in memory of what it had been. I gave up entirely somewhere in the middle of the third season, because I was busy and keeping up was an effort. Maybe someday I'll watch it, but it's not high on my list.

#9 ::: jennie1ofmany ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 10:08 PM:

I adored every manipulative bone in her body.

See, I didn't. I couldn't get past feeling like the narrative was telling me I was supposed to like this self-important, manipulative, amoral person.

In S1, I could forgive her the amorality and the abuses of her friends, because she was sacrificing pretty much everything to finding out who killed her best friend. Even then, though, I couldn't get past how her friends just let her use them, over and over again. Without that compelling excuse, though, I couldn't stand watching her.

#10 ::: Suzanne M ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 10:31 PM:

It's pretty simple, really. When that bus of schoolkids went off the cliff, it happened to jump over a shark as it hit the water.

I think the only thing in that show that frustrated me more than the second season was... well... the third season. I actually bought the second season DVDs, for reasons I have yet to understand. I won't be buying season 3.

#11 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 11:01 PM:

The biggest problem I had with seasons 2 and 3 was misuse of the surrounding characters. In season 1, Veronica has to ask for help when she is out of her depth, and can't depend on getting it; later, she just blithely assumes that she'll get Mac to go along with her schemes. (Maybe she should have been tranced and tagged by nerd hunters...)

Basically, Veronica never learned how to be a very good friend. That's sort of a direct subtext in season 1, but it's still sitting there in seasons 2 and 3 with nowhere to go.

I don't see the later problems as plot problems as much as character development problems.

#12 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 11:15 PM:

I thought it was a nice detail in the first season when her former boyfriend took up with a girl who was more like Veronica used to be.

The manipulativeness makes sense if she's still staggering under a load of unresolved, barely acknowledged hurt and betrayal. It's not just that she uses people. Consider, for instance, the way she makes her money: by charging other kids to look up dirt on their parents. That's got to be causing all kinds of untimely revelations and heartache, but I don't recall her spending two seconds worrying about it. She hasn't been protected, and she's not going to protect anyone else. Her experience is that secrets hurt, so she's waging a one-woman war on them. And if she continues on in that direction, she's going to wind up about as sane as Batman.

I know the show's creator is a big fan of Whedon, and he uses one of Whedon's most consistently reiterated tropes: no matter how horrifying and unfair the circumstances you're having to deal with, if you deal with them by becoming a monster, you'll still be a monster afterward.

That's a huge moral debt to be carrying forward. I understand the second and third seasons don't address it. That's a pity.

#13 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 11:26 PM:

Here's how I think season two should have gone:

Veronica's dad, Keith, is elected sheriff. He's assassinated in a way that implicated Veronica. She has to a) prove her innocence and b) find the real killer. Her allies are Cliff the cheap lawyer and Vince, the cheaper-still PI. Sometimes ally, sometimes antagonist, is Don Lamb, former sheriff, now used-car salesman, the other Prime Suspect.

The mystery-of-the-week can be anything, but hopefully not as lame as $12K dollars in a cashbox at the Winter Carnival (I mean, why?).

As it stands, in season two the interesting character is Logan Echolls. He's the active one. He's the one with the problem. But he's ... a minor character.

So. That's why season two doesn't work.

Heck, if they needed to the writers could have taken the plot from Red Harvest. It isn't like they'd have been the first.

#14 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 11:27 PM:

What Ethan said about why the first season worked so well and the second didn't.

Personally I'd say seasons two and three were uneven rather than flat bad... they both had their moments. Though I wouldn't push 'em on anyone (whereas I would *strongly* urge S1).

Still, I want to also strongly second what Ethan said about the final two episodes: at the every last moment of S3, VM refound it's voice: the final two eps are as good as S1. Even if they didn't have time to run with it.

#15 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 11:29 PM:

The biggest difference between the Veronica Mars universe and the Buffy universe is that in the Buffy universe redemption is possible.

#16 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 11:32 PM:

The problem with the assassinate-Keith idea is twofold. First, it would have eliminated one of the best relationships on the show... watching VM & her dad interact was one of its highest points. Second, it would probably have felt forced to have a *second* murder that close to VM so soon. (Which may be equivalent to saying that there was no good way to do S2 at all, I don't know.)

IIRC Abigail Nussbaum argued that they should have skipped several years between S1 & S2 -- let additional backstory accumulate. Gone straight into deep college. I think that -- combined with a willingness to really shed old secondary characters and replace them with people more integral to the second mystery -- would have been the best way to do it.

#17 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 11:34 PM:

Just being dead wouldn't have stopped Keith from getting a lot of screen time. I mean, look at Lily. She was dead before episode one of season one even started....

#18 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 11:35 PM:

will shetterly: I would've watched the first episodes of Season 4 with renewed hope.

I would have too, although the Veronica-as-FBI-agent fast-forward concept that was being bandied about towards the end there seemed pretty dicey.

Jim: That could have been more interesting, but if they had killed Keith off, I don't think I ever could have watched again. I would have been too busy weeping. To me, the very best thing about the show was Keith and Veronica's relationship. Also, I don't think there ever could have been even a brief moment of happiness in the show ever again, ever, if they had done that.

Also, if you think Logan's the most interesting character (I semi agree), definitely don't watch the third season. The level the writers reduced him to was criminal.

#19 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 11:36 PM:

Incidentally, it's seems to me that between them Buffy & Veronica frame a new genre. (I don't know a third example, but they're good enough -- and, really, different enough -- to imply other possibilities.) The new genre is this: take *another* existing genre (fantasy/horror for Buffy, mystery/noir for Veronica) and set it in southern California with a blond teenage high-schooler as its protagonist. (Presumably the "living with a single parent" and other overlaps are optional...)

I wonder what other genres would work in this format?

#20 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 11:37 PM:

If the second season of Veronica Mars hadn't followed the first season of Veronica Mars, it would have seemed not-bad verging on a-cut-above-average. But the first season of Veronica Mars set the bar almost impossibly high: in addition to being about as good as television can get, the first season was a single, standalone artistic whole.

#21 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 11:45 PM:

Stephen Frug #19: That's the reason I started watching Veronica Mars...I thought, "The ads make it look pretty dumb* but maybe a show about a blonde high school girl in southern California will make me miss Buffy less."

I loved the first season so much that seeing people criticize later seasons automatically upsets me, even though I have exactly the same problems with them. It's a purely reflexive reaction.

*Which they totally did, for some reason.

#22 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 12:00 AM:

Stephen@19: need other examples be any good to still be part of that genre? Because there's Clueless.

If it needs to be good and some of your other constraints are in fact optional, there's Ugly Betty. She's not a blonde teenage high schooler and she's in New York rather than California -- well, okay, that pretty much wipes out all your constraints. But at least it's good.

#23 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 12:19 AM:

Jim, I can think of another way to handle Season 2. Have the big motivating plot point be something fairly awful happening to Wallace. He either can't remember or is no longer capable of explaining how it happened, but the initial evidence points to it having been some excessively hazardous thing he did at Veronica's behest.

First season, she's furious because all that bad sh*t came down on her when she was innocent. Now she gets to find out how much worse it is when you're at fault. Then, people hated her for no good reason. Now, they justifiably don't trust her. Have some of her paid S1 investigations for her fellow classmates, and her other corner-cutting behavior, come back and bite her. Put her in positions where she needs the good will of people she screwed over.

Overall lessons: 1. The consequences of your actions aren't limited to the ones you intend. 2. If you don't help protect the people around you, you become one of the monsters from whom they need to be protected. 3. The rules that forbid us to do stuff like that aren't arbitrary. 4. No one ever plays just one role in life.

#24 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 12:24 AM:

I loved the first season when I was finally convinced to watch it. A friend had recorded all the eps, so I had an intermittent marathon for about two weeks. I was all ready for the second season, which was... well, the dialogue was still fun. I watched it, and there were some good moments, but if it had been my first exposure to the series I probably would have skipped it.

The important thing to know about the third season is that the network told the writer he could no longer do season-long arcs; they wanted sort of mystery of the week crap. What I loved about the first season was the slow revelations about the characters, the build-ups, the relationships, etc. Without that momentum (and with a somewhat warmed over, possibly offensive theme) the third season was pretty tough to like. Although I do agree with the posters here who said there were some great shows in the third season.

I'll miss the writing, but not the frustration of watching a once great show just kind of get pounded into the ground.

#25 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 12:46 AM:

Teresa, I can go with that. What I can't go with is a mystery that has no personal significance for Veronica. I also have a hard time believeing that the NTSB wouldn't have pulled that bus out of the ocean within the first day and figured out What The Heck.

Plus -- if they were planning to get convictions for anything -- all the playing around with chain of custody would kill that pretty thoroughly. I'm deeply disappointed in Season Two because suddenly all the characters are idiots.

#26 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 01:03 AM:

Jim, did you like anything about the second season? Mr. GoodWood, at least?

#27 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 01:48 AM:

Jim, if they had killed off Keith in the second season I probably would have stopped watching right there. Kristin Bell is pretty good for a young actor (did you see her turn on Deadwood?), but Enrico Colantoni is one of the best character actors around just now, and he really could work with her. I agree with the others who've said their relationship was the best part of the show.

IMO the best single thing they did towards the end of season three was put Keith in a position of not being able to trust or depend on Veronica. It put a lot of additional stress on their relationship, and made it even more important to the show. Putting the relationship more and more in the background during season 2 and the beginning of season 3 was the single worst thing they did in the entire run of the show.

#28 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 02:07 AM:

Bruce Cohen #27: During the last episode, my heart was pounding, I felt like vomiting, and I was clutching the arms of my chair in absolute terror the whole time, all because I was scared out of my mind that the show might end with Veronica and Keith on bad terms.

In other words: I totally agree.

#29 ::: Janus Daniels ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 03:04 AM:

Worst thing about the show: the long voice overs in the season opening episodes. The "don't tell, always show" rule goes double for video.
Personally, I made allowances for the second season. Unlike Joss Whedon, the creator hadn't spent a decade developing years long plot arcs. So the writers screwed up a lot; the screwed up plot, procedure, character... I rewrote a lot of it as I watched. I deleted some occasions when characters violated their established nature.
Even so, the second season gave us multiple long arcs, including some (the unraveling story of her drugged double rape, the final and permanent parting with Duncan, the whole wretched Casablancas family) that began early in the first season. The second season had some superb episodes; it only needed editing.
The third season had strong points, and the network forced the writers away from them. I'd have liked a third season that dealt with the consequences of the neglected murders and... But, time to let go.
Veronica is not a pariah; her Buffyish high school graduation proved that. She just lives like one. For the most part, she charges other kids, who have far more money than she does, to help them (and not "to look up dirt on their parents"). Even for them, she sometimes drops the charge.
Duncan's interim girlfriend tells her, "You could have friends. People like you. But you scare them." Veronica says, "Then I'm doing something right." We may guess that she feels scared, and we can see reasons for that.
Like Buffy, Veronica rarely has any time to regain balance, often fails to appreciate her friends, and spends most of her life suffering from some degree of battle fatigue and PTS. Considering circumstances, that seems plausible. I often dislike her, but she stays interesting.
Veronica FBI sounds like one more female cop show.

#30 ::: Mike McHugh ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 07:25 AM:

I loved the first season. I thought the second season was terrible at the time, but viewing it through the haze of awfulness that was season three makes it almost quite good, really. For me, season three was about pinching off all loose ends really quickly, dialling up the stupidity of the characters, and reducing the respect for the audience to nil. I stopped watching when the Moral Of The Week Episodes kicked in ("drinking is bad", "foreigners are people too", "all you need is self-belief"), which means I missed what could be the redeeming final episodes, but it just wasn't the show I loved.

Disregarding the "mysteries" in the final season, what bugged me the most was mentioned in #11: the assumption was that everyone in the show would be willing to do anything for Our Heroine. Character X is on probation and and slowly stitching their life back together in a society that doesn't trust cons and definitely doesn't trust them? That must be the perfect person to ask to commit grand theft auto! What makes it even worse was that that act was just an excuse to show VM's maturity. So, yeah, I'd definitely advise against S3.

Having seen what the reality has been, I'd say that S2 would have been better if it had taken elements from S3 and brought them forward: Keith is appointed temporary sheriff after Don Lamb is shot during a car stop. The Keith & Veronica relationship is strained as he can no longer turn a blind eye to his daughter's activities. The car stop killing turns out to be less random than it first appeared, and V comes to suspect her father is covering something up. This could address some of the same themes as the shows they made: how much does Veronica want to rock the boat, does family come first, how important is trust in any relationship, are identical actions morally different if the power behind them is increased, and so on.

I'm still a bit bemused at the way the national TV station here showed S1 at 2pm: I wouldn't have thought that was the, um, prime target market for the show.

#31 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 07:30 AM:

Season 1 was terrific. (The "vulnerable woman in peril saved by the male authority figure" ending didn't do much for me, but everything up to that point was spot on.)

Season 2 really seemed like they were making it up as they went along. i.e., the band that had years to polish their best 45 minutes for their debut CD suddenly found they had mere months to come up with another 45 minutes for their follow up. The central mystery wasn't all that compelling. Whereas the first season had a mystery Veronica cared deeply about, this one, not so much. I think if they had left us with a sensational ending, I might have forgiven much of what happened before. But I didn't care much for the actual ending. (I was starting to wonder if they'd haul out a tired stereotype for the end of every season.)

I like Teresa's suggestion for season 2. Veronica's ability to Make Stuff Happen borders on the supernatural (unless it interferes with the plot), and she rarely seemed to face the consequences of her actions. I think they did start to get into this in season 3.

I liked season 3 better than season 2. However, it was clearly their "we need to be more commercial if we want a season 4" season. There's more emphasis on the mystery of the week. But I think any of the plot arcs in season 3 were better than the one in season 2. Veronica actually faces some consequences and she runs into people she can't simply steamroller over. Veronica never really struck me as an actual matriculated college student, but TV doesn't do college well, for some reason. (Also, I suppose she never struck me as actually going to high school either. However, no, there's nothing there near as compelling as "Who killed Lily Kane?"

#32 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 08:49 AM:

Mike McHugh #30: I stopped watching when the Moral Of The Week Episodes kicked in ("drinking is bad", "foreigners are people too", "all you need is self-belief"), which means I missed what could be the redeeming final episodes, but it just wasn't the show I loved.

God, how could I forget? That run of three episodes was utterly atrocious, especially the foreigners-are-people-too one. Actually, honestly, I didn't see the third one (even though the story must have been based on Ishmael Beah, who I went to college with, so I had a vested interest) and never felt the need to go back and watch it online.

I do recommend, even for you (and even for Jim), watching the last two episodes. The penultimate one starts mightily un-promisingly, full of snoozy soap opera nonsense, but pretty soon it came to its senses and those two episodes become by far the best thing the show had done since the first season*. The final moments of the last episode are, I think, a perfect conclusion to the Veronica Mars that I love, and (maybe even deliberately) a slap in the face to the nonsense it had become.

It's even more heartbreaking because the two-part mystery of the week (and not just the mystery, but other aspects of the story, like the emergency election) are pretty clearly what the last arc of the season would have been about rather than those three awful standalones, had the network not played its stupid shell games with the number of episodes the show could have. What was great in two episodes would have been even greater had it had the chance to build up over five.

God, am I making any sense at all?

*I'm losing track of verb tenses, so if this is confusing, I apologize. Insomnia strikes again**!
**That's right, it's quarter to nine in the morning here and I'm not getting up, I'm still up. Huzzah.

#33 ::: Total ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 10:52 AM:

One of the things that I found interesting about the first season (which, as everyone has already pointed out), was that it was one of the few American shows that had a distinctly class-warfare edge to it (as opposed to race or gender warfare). And it wasn't the "poor kid taken in by rich family, fish out of water class warfare" as in "The OC" and "Fresh Prince" (I suspect that those two shows have never ever been used as examples in the same sentence before). The class warfare in S1 was nasty and uncompromising and the rich kids were genuinely quite unpleasant.

#34 ::: par avion ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 12:38 PM:

I know the show's creator is a big fan of Whedon...

Actually, I disagree. I was active in Veronica Mars fandom and during season one Rob Thomas repeatedly stated in interviews that he had never seen Buffy. He may have checked it out eventually, but it wasn't an influence on how he conceived of the show.

The plot of season one is basically lifted from a YA novel that Rob planned. Which does much to explain why S1 is so tightly plotted and the rest...isn't.

I could write an entire essay about my bitterness about Season 3, in particular, but it would involve massive spoilers. I certainly wouldn't suggest that you buy the season 3 DVDs.

#35 ::: DonBoy ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 01:46 PM:

S2's main weakness, ultimately, is that the crime makes no sense as presented. (Total SPOILERS allowed here, right?)

-- We're to understand that Beaver killed all those people to prevent them from revealing that he (and they) had been abused years earlier. Now, this is within the possible range of human reactions involving shame and sexual assault, but you'd think that at the end, someone would at least mention "wow, that is way effed up".

-- If my source (Alan Sepinwall) is correct, this was not the original plan. At some point, the plan was the revelation that Beaver...comes by his name naturally. He's a hermaphrodite or something. Which is the source of his trouble with Mac, and explains the cruel nickname. (Oh, you though that was just a joke, so everyone would be saying "Dick and the Beaver"? Sucker.) In which case, now Cassidy (and there's an ambisexual name) has a secret. Anyway, Rob Thomas decided not to go that way.

-- Especially by comparison with S1, I don't like how the murderer has a hidden, completely crazy aspect. The great thing about S1, from a "mystery" point of view, is that the trickiness is in the fact that there are several mysteries going, and we don't know which facts go into which pile (or piles). Who killed the teenage girl? The testosterone-y, prone-to-violence adult male. Oh, you thought showing us his violent side was to make a character point about Logan? Sucker.

#36 ::: DonBoy ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 01:47 PM:

And instantly thinks he should have rot13ed, despite the warning zone being in effect.

#37 ::: Stephen Granade ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 02:59 PM:

Janus @ 29: The VOs in general bothered me, until I realized that not all of them were the problem. The ones that fit with the noir conventions were just fine. It was the ones that were undoubtedly added due to network notes that were grating, the ones that explained in great detail things that you just saw or were about to see.

#38 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 03:43 PM:

Stephen Granade #37: On Television Without Pity they took to distinguishing VMVOs (Veronica Mars Voiceovers) and NVMVOs (Network-mandated VMVOs). They're pretty easy to tell apart, and once you realize that there are two types, as you say, the good ones become, well, good.

#39 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 05:28 PM:

Jim, I must join the pile-on: S2 needed to be personal, but killing Dad would destroy the show. I'm with Teresa on this.

And, thanks to hindsight, I think they should've killed the boyfriend of the time. But, frankly, none of her friends that season were well-used; they could've all gone in the bus.

Ethan, I think we watched pretty much the same show. I also hated the rumors of FBI girl; if they'd gone with the jump-forward in time, I would've like to see Mars & Mars, P.I.s.

#40 ::: maidstragedy ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 06:09 PM:

I throw my lot in with Stephen@16, as a single dad with a 16 yo daughter, Keith Mars is my hero. I enjoyed the show all the way through despite the ups and downs (except that awful episode on terrorism), but I would have liked it to skip a few years between seasons, it might have been worthwhile to have a season of VM working at the FBI.

Joe over at Crappy Movies has some clever takes on selling Veronica to your friends:

#41 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 07:31 PM:

Total @ 33

Yes, and one of the important ways they had of selling the class war theme was the relationship between Veronica and Weevil, which was a lot less one-sided in the first season than later. Veronica was forced to actually deal with Weevil rather than just waltzing past him with a "Would you mind ripping off the psychopath's most jealously guarded possession for my amusement?" So, second worst thing the writers did was to have Weevil take a maintenance job at the college in Season 3. Why didn't they just geld him and make the destruction of his character complete?

will shetterly @ 39

Up until they started making so much noise about the FBI summer camp I thought they were going for a Mars & Mars partnership, and I was rooting for it all the way. It would be so nice to a relationship on TV between a younger woman and an older man that didn't involve either statutory rape or a lobotomy in the girl's backstory.

#42 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 07:33 PM:

"... to see a relationship ..." damnit! The words, they are too small, they keep slipping through my fingers.

#43 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 10:14 PM:

Up until they started making so much noise about the FBI summer camp I thought they were going for a Mars & Mars partnership

I don't know why Rob Thomas thought she should be an FBI agent, anyway. I think her obvious career path -- both from within the story and from a story-external view -- was as an investigative reporter. She did stuff towards that anyway (on school papers), but it would have been an interesting & *different* show (how many cop shows are there anyway?). And of course she still could have looked into crimes, dealt with class, etc.

#44 ::: Nina A ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 01:24 AM:

I think that the Veronica as FBI agent thing could've worked-there was some talk of her becoming a profiler-which I think could've been interesting-all those really negative traits of hers mirrored in the criminals she's hunting...
Season 2 was mostly a waste,I've not watched any of Season 3 and don't really plan to.

#45 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 09:53 AM:

Another possible way to have fixed season two by making the stakes personal, without sacrificing the viewer-appeal of either Keith or Wallace: have Liane Mars turn up dead in a hotel room, or floating face-down in a fish pond, shortly after the events at the end of season one, under circumstances at least initially incriminating toward either Keith or Veronica or both. And then give Veronica a reason nobody else knows about to start wondering if maybe Keith might actually be guilty (the stolen college money, or an equivalent amount, showing up again in the family exchequer, for example, with Keith not being up-front about where it came from.)

There's lots of different ways the second series could have been fixed. The problem is that none of them got used.

#46 ::: Diana Peterfreund ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 02:17 PM:

I'm a huge VM fan and have been since I first saw the pilot. Season One is one of the best seasons of television I've ever seen, and I think it makes a really good case for the idea that maybe we should move towards a system where networks develop really well done, amazing, season-long miniseries. I know that the audience is trained to keep watching shows out of loyalty for decades at a time (this was definitely the case with VM for me) but when I look at a lot of shows recently where the first season has blown all the others out of the water (Joan of Arcadia, Veronica Mars, Lost, 24), I wonder if some shows aren't built to have a decided beginning and end. I worry about the future seasons of Heroes, for example.

I recommend that all the VM fans read NEPTUNE NOIR, which is released from Ben Bella Books. I *loved* it.

I wrote on my blog, during the third season, what my perfect, flash-to-the-future S4 of VM would be:

Veronica is out of Neptune, doing her FBI internship or whatever, Keith is sheriff. Logan and Parker are still an item, and then Parker winds up dead. Logan, naturally, is implicated. You've got mars v. mars again, a big mystery, possibility for Veronica to be reviled, big season-long mystery... could be great.

#47 ::: Total ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 08:19 PM:

Bruce @41. Agreed about Weevil, and the other characters. One of the things about the first season was that Veronica didn't necessarily seem like the center of the universe to the other characters (ie. they didn't seem solely to exist for her convenience). That was a lot less true of S2 and S3.

#48 ::: myrthe ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 11:10 PM:

Stephen Frug @43

Oh! An investigative reporter, very nice. Is it too snarky to suggest there'd also be a great chance to demonstrate *actual* investigative reporting to the degenerate, modern members of that breed?

#49 ::: Laurie D. T. Mann ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 12:22 PM:

I never watched VM when it was being broadcast because it seemed to be marketed too much like Nancy Drew by another name.

A friend of ours, knowing of Jim's intense love for Buffy and Angel, said we really had to watch VM, so we've been renting it from Netflix. We're about 2/3rds of the way through the first season, and I've liked it much more than I expected to. But, I really like season-long arcs and don't like "the mystery of the week" so much. So I may stop watching it once Jim starts renting season 2.

I really like both Enrico Colantoni and Kristin Bell (for folks who don't rely on IMDB, he was one of the aliens in Galaxy Quest and played Elliott on Don't Shoot Me). Bell is headed for Heroes this fall! The kids are generally a blur; no one really sticks out but her one friend who isn't seen much after the first six episodes or so.

#50 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 07:11 PM:

Oh, that actress was annoying. And untalented. And so skinny as to be deformed. And all the characters were boring AND irritating, except her father. I could never keep her boyfriends' names in my head, much less tell the difference between them. I got through season one, on the recommendation of someone whose recs have always worked very well for me (Firefly! for instance). Watched 3 eps of season 2, just coz I hoped ... it was EVEN MORE ANNOYING, and far more boring. No point to bothering any longer so I haven't. It was a cheapjack show all around.

I also felt embarrassed watching all those actors from Buffy showing up and employing all the manners that they'd developed in those characters that worked so well in those shows, but seemingly incapable of working up something else for a new character, new show. It broke my heart, actually, because I'd gotten convinced they were good at their job.

Saw Anthony Head in an ep of MI-5. He's good at his job.

Ah, opinions. About television! And I'm sounding off mine, and I don't even have a television!

Love, C.

#51 ::: Wax Banks ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 04:02 PM:

Dunno why, but I'm apparently alone in having quite enjoyed Mars Season Two! The mystery picks up over the course of the year, and the ending is brutal; to be sure, the who-did-the-bus-thing? thing lacks the dreamlike horror of LilyKaneBitesIt (which drew much of its potency from the parallel rape/sex-secrets plots), but the saga of Weevil's boys coming apart takes on S1-level momentum by season's end. Wallace gets good material to work with, Veronica's misanthropy and disgust deepen, and Keith plays the field a bit: all to the good. Remember, the middle of Season One lagged too, and its treatment of race was always less-than-skin-deep, but S2 expands the world of the show effectively and trades S1's eerie sensuality for a more jaundiced, wider vision.

I confess that after S2 I'm in no particular hurry to see the third go-round of V. Mars, but I found its sophomore season to be far better than it had a right to be, especially given the clear signs of studio interference. The whole show wobbles midseason, but when it lands in 2x22, it crashes - beautifully so. Churlish to complain?

#52 ::: Laurel Krahn ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2007, 03:07 AM:

I loved the show from the first time I saw the pilot, was the rare person who told people to watch it when it debuted (it debuted opposite this little show called Lost).

I think they screwed some things up at the end of season one. And then there was lameness at the start and middle of season two, but the payoff at the end of season two rocked my world and for that reason alone-- I kinda almost maybe like it better. Or at least I liked the season finale better.

Will have to see how I like the seasons when I revisit them, it's a whole different experience watching episodes from a season in a short span of time, as opposed to spread out over the course of a season.

Season three . . . the less said, the better. Though there were cool bits in there, of course.

#53 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2007, 06:44 PM:

I like the idea of having Liane Mars as the S2 victim. Keith was a strong part of the show's appeal, even when it was bogged down and coming apart. Losing him would be like losing the cheese on a pizza--you could do it, but then it wouldn't be worth the trouble.

Liane (and Lilly) were mostly off-screen figures in Veronica's life. And Liane also had a history with the town that would have been fun to exploit.

Failing that, they should have killed off Logan. Not for a mystery or anything. I wanted him bumped off to rid us of all that annoying soap opera.

#54 ::: innocentsmith ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2007, 12:16 PM:

Season 1 > Season 2 > Season 3

As everyone's said, the real problem with s. 2 is that the story arcs were not very well thought out beforehand. There were good performances and the universe opened out a lot, but for most of the season Veronica had no investment in the mysteries, and while it was credible from a character point of view that after the trauma of s. 1 she'd want to stick her head in the sand for a while, it lost the show a lot of momentum and made her rather more unlikeable.

The strongest things the show had going for it were dropped one by one over the latter two seasons, starting with Veronica's sense of purpose (the show's not called Logan Echolls, guys) and emotional growth, and continuing on to her ability to have friends rather than minions, her relationship with her father as a constant in her life, the whole arc structure...I agree the last two episodes of s. 3 were great, but they were great mostly because for a brief shining moment, the plot wasn't all about "OMG Veronica/Logan or Veronica/Piz??!?!", the characters were all identifiable as their old selves, and everybody's actions were shown to have consquences.

But just for s. 2: What happened to Lianne? Why the flipping heck was Aaron's trial mostly confined to lame plots that went nowhere and then crammed into the most unbelievable (in the bad sense) episodes at the end? What happened to Lynn Echolls (I was really expecting her to turn up again, if only as a corpse)? Why is Wallace's mom no longer around? Where did Veronica's interest in photography and journalism go? Coma baby - WTF? Why in God's name is Veronica still talking to Dick instead of crucifying him when she knows he purposefully put her, unconscious, in a room to be raped?*

There were some really, truly great episodes in there - "Donut Run" comes to mind, as does "Plan B". Mayor Woody was a great character, as was (in a subtle way that gets better with every re-watching) his daughter Gia. (What happens to Gia after s. 2...? Oh, what's the use.) The Casablancas family had potential, as did some of the organized crime vs. biker gang ideas (as opposed to the actual plots).

But most of s. 3 made me want to spork my eyes out, and I cannot for the life of me figure out what would be left of the show in "VM: FBI," after the loss of nearly the entire cast and the town of Neptune as a setting.

Here's hoping the comics thing pans out, though.

* I could almost buy this early on in s.2, as she had other stuff going on, thought she hadn't "really" been raped** and seemed to be out of the revenge business. But I was pretty much shouting it at the screen during s. 3. Nods to Ryan Hansen for doing a fine job and making his character fun to watch throughout the series, but really, WTF?

** Which was a pretty massive rationalization on her part that I would've liked to see addressed again later, but oh well.

#55 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2007, 02:20 PM:

innocentsmith #54: Mayor Woody was a great character, as was (in a subtle way that gets better with every re-watching) his daughter Gia.

For serious! Great characters. Up until the last episode of S2, my money was on Cassidy as the red herring, Gia as the bus-killer. If you go through the events of the season and just make the one assumption that she's smarter than she lets on, it makes total sense.

#56 ::: Justin ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2007, 09:09 PM:

The second and third seasons were not near as good as season 1, but they were still great and better than 90% of the other crap on TV.

#57 ::: re ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2007, 07:16 PM:

i think that all the seasons werew off the chain. i mean 2&3 werent as good as one but v mars was my girl and she was just cool i my opinion on wats wrong with v mars is nothing really except 4 they should have done a 4th season if they didnt

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