16 great shows: veronica mars (2004)

(Bitter Script Reader challenged their followers to make a list of 16 Great Shows that have influenced them as writers and viewers. This is my list.)


A few weeks ago at the ATX Festival in Austin, Julie Plec (The Vampire DiariesDawson’s Creek) admitted on a panel that she had never seen Veronica Mars.

I honestly couldn’t believe it.

I know Veronica Mars is a cult hit, but it’s a well known cult hit.

(Side note: A co-worker of mine was pressuring me to send him my unfinished pilot so to get him to shut up I sent him the Veronica Mars pilot with a new title page that read “Betty Neptune” and listed me as the author. Months later I learned that he read the whole thing and 100% believed I had written it. So I guess the lesson here is not everyone knows this show or has even heard of it. But my point remains that someone like Julie Plec should have seen this show by now.)

I was a latecomer to Veronica Mars. I definitely watched it live at some point, but I don’t think I started until after the first season had aired. But when I did watch it, it floored me. Here was a smart, witty, tiny teenage girl with a chip on her shoulder and an axe to grind. She said and did things I only wished I had the balls to say or do.

And there was depth to this show. Not just the characters, but the themes and the plot. There were layers and twists and turns and it was all just pitch perfect. Sure, it struggled to find its new identity in Season 3 with the always difficult jump to college, but this was one of those shows that knew what it was from the very first episode. That’s such a rarity in television.

Most shows need a few episodes to find its voice. Rob Thomas knew right away what this show was and what it could be. If he didn’t, then he did a good job pretending.

This was one of the first and best of the peak hybrid shows. Meaning, it was a hybrid between serialized drama and procedural. Every week brought a new mystery, but every few episodes brought us closer to the season long mystery. That, mixed in with relationship drama and character arcs made this show a perfect blend of great television.

Rob Thomas blended hard boiled noir with modern day high school so well. In this way, it’s similar to Buffy. Not the noir aspect necessarily, but the idea that a high school show can be something more than just high school drama. That there can be real stakes. That there is a treasure trove of stories, both allegorical and very real, to mine from such a setting.

Veronica Mars didn’t live for very long, but its legacy is still evident, particularly in its successful Kickstarter movie campaign. With the advent of Netflix and other streaming services more people are discovering the show all the time. It may not be a cultural juggernaut like Lost or even Buffy, but it’s the little show that could and it was a singularly unique show that I will always return to.

(Also, I totally own the jacket in the picture below.)


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