Sunday 16 March 2014

Veronica Mars by Rob Thomas

I've been aware of Veronica Mars for years but I've only just now found time to catch up with this excellent TV show. (Translation: I finally found a boxed set that was cheap enough.) A teen noir set in a California high school it's involving, funny, stylish and brilliantly written. 

Veronica (Kristin Bell) is the eponymous teenage private eye, working for her dad Keith who had to set up his detective agency when he was unjustly kicked out as the local chief of police.

Created by Rob Thomas, it has sharp characterisation and it's consistently funny. When Veronica goes on a stakeout her dad warns her to "Take back up." It turns out that Back Up is their pet dog, who pluckily launches himself on the bikers who try to molest Veronica, and smartly drives them off, jaws snapping.

And the dialogue is lovely. In an episode written by Harry Winer we have the following exchange. Veronica, who is a magnet for trouble, says to her fellow social outcast Wallace "I need a favour." Wallace says, "Why did the hair on the back of my neck just stand up?"

I love this show. My only criticism is the way some flashbacks and fantasy scenes are shot. When Veronica's ex boyfriend comes off his medication he starts to hallunicate. His dead sister (Veronica's best friend, played by Amanda Seyfried) comes and sits on the couch with him, chatting happily despite her lethal head wound.

The scene is shot with a greenish tinge and smoke floating in the background... in fact, they do everything except run a caption on the screen reading It's an hallucination, folks! I assume some suited dullard insisted on this to prevent audience confusion — those suited dullards really do have a rock-bottom opinion of their viewers.

Instead, the scene should have been staged in as naturalistic fashion as possible. This would have been far more effective and creepy — and more like a real hallucination. (That's the way Polanski would have shot it.)

Anyway, minor quibble. Veronica Mars may well be my favourite US TV series of all time. Individual episodes are delightful but the entire first season adds up to an arc-story of breathtaking adroitness. It was a whodunnit which completely pulled the wool over my eyes.

And in the course of researching this post I discovered that Veronica Mars, which ran for three seasons before being cancelled in 2007, is alive and well as a movie project. The feature film was first proposed by Rob Thomas when the series was cancelled, but Warner Bros. passed on it. Earlier this year Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project. It set a new record when it reached its two million dollar goal in less than ten hours, and eventually topped out at nearly six million dollars.

The film has now been shot and and indeed was released in the UK this week (albeit in a handful of cinemas) and as a digital download.

I notice that Rob Thomas didn't start working on the movie script until the two million dollars were in place. That's my boy. Professional writers everywhere will love him for that.

(Image credits: the DVD cover is from Wikipedia as is the shot with Veronica and her dad, gun in hand. The shot of Amanda Seyfried with her head wound is from Fanpop. The nifty noir poster is from Telestrekoza. Very Very Veronica is from Rolemancer, another Russian site. The Russians seem big on Veronica. )

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