I am always listing my “top fives” whenever I’m asked about my favorite books, musicians, movies, or shows. Partly this is because I love all the listing of “top fives” in High Fidelity, and partly this is because I find it nearly impossible to pick a definitive favorite. So I’ve decided to add a few “Top Fives” categories — one for TV, one for music, one for film — and I’ll eventually do a post on each item in each list. Fun! (I swear, tons of the fun of a new website is figuring out how to organize it with categories and such.) So, without further ado, here is one of my top five TV shows, Veronica Mars:
Knowing of my love for all things detective, you surely won’t be surprised to hear how much I love Veronica Mars. When it first started, I didn’t know much about it; all I heard was that people really, really loved it. The people on TWOP in particular. (Later, after I began watching it, though, I could NOT STAND to read the recaps or forums on TWOP, since the opinions of the recappers and posters there were overwhelmingly insane and wrong, but that’s a post for another time.) Once I heard it was a witty teen detective show, however, I was pretty much sold and decided to Netflix up those Season 1 DVDs with a quickness.
The show is, indeed, both witty and somewhat teen oriented, but it’s far more sophisticated than any other teen shows on TV. While I have a weakness for shows like The O.C. and Gossip Girl (stay tuned for future Guilty Pleasure Confessions on those), they aren’t really the type of show I’m likely to fall in love with, for obvious reasons. Mars, on the other hand, absolutely is. It’s informed by stuff like The O.C., for sure, but it’s completely self aware and cutting about that. More than that, though, it’s infused with the witty, fast-paced dialogue and shadowy, high-contrast look of the classic film noir detective flicks. It still has a hip contemporary vibe, though, working in nods to The Big Lebowski just as easily as to The Maltese Falcon or Double Indemnity.
The show has its comedic moments, but it’s also significantly dark. I sometimes find myself in awe of the fact that the show was able to air on network TV at 8:00 (or 9:00? but still) for as long as it did. It’s overwhelmingly gritty for a show set in a high school, and in a different way than, say, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is. Buffy is gritty, dark, and violent, too, of course, but it uses unrealistic fantasy monsters as exaggerated metaphors for the real evils of real high school. On Veronica Mars, the evils are all real, not metaphorical or fantastic. While they do explore the social minefield of high school, they also go way beyond things like sexual, racial, and economic tensions and into real crime and violence.
Veronica herself is a total badass on the model of Sydney Bristow or Buffy Summers, two of my other all time top five favorite TV characters. She is smart and snarky and has very cute clothes and a bitchin’ camera. (I believe there is a song about that bitchin’ camera, oh no, that’s a Camaro.)
The show has a great cast over all, two of the best being Enrico Colantoni, who plays Veronica’s dad, Keith Mars, and Percy Daggs III, who plays her best friend, Wallace. Honestly, remembering Colantoni from his days on that abomination of a sitcom, Just Shoot Me, I was shocked at how much I like him on this show. He’s completely great on it though, and his character (former town sheriff who has been alienated by the rich targets of one of his investigations and now exists on the fringes, working as a P.I.) is one of the ones who help elevate the show from being merely a teen drama.
I recently acquired the Season 3 DVDs for a pittance (incidentally, may I recommend perusing the Amazon.com used selections? Oh, the cheapness with which one can acquire!), which completes my Mars collection. Why, I think that, in order to postpone the horribleness of my weekend for a few more meager hours, I will watch some episodes in my pajamas. I should not be up this early on a Saturday anyway.