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VERONICA MARS
Season One

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Kristen Bell, Percy Daggs III, Teddy Dunn, Jason Dohring, Francis Capra, Enrico Colantoni
Creator:  Rob Thomas
Audio:  Dolby Surround Stereo
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  Unaired Footage
Length:  935 Minutes
Release Date:  October 11, 2005

“I hear you do detective-type stuff.”

“I do favors for friends.”

“I can pay.”

“Sit down, friend.”

Shows ****

Saying Veronica Mars is a show about a girl detective is like saying Cheers is a show about a bar.  Technically accurate, but way too simple and dismissive of a description.

The fact is, Veronica Mars is one of the most intelligent, well-acted, well-crafted and intriguing programs of recent memory.  In two years, it’s built a small but fiercely loyal fan base, who are currently trying to save it from premature demise at the hands of the networks.  If you don’t know what they’re passionate about, may I humbly suggest you check out the six disc set of season one and join them?  That’s exactly what I did.

I’m not a big television watcher, but I first heard about the show from a comic strip, of all places.  My beloved daily comic “Mallard Fillmore” spent a week basically pleading openly for Veronica Mars not to be cancelled.  Considering Mallard, like myself, frequently wonders aloud who actually finds “Doonesbury” funny, I couldn’t help but find my interest a little piqued.

Turns out, Mallard nailed this one, too.  The pilot episode is a sheer delight; smartly written and brilliantly executed.  It introduces us to Veronica Mars (Bell), a high school student with a sharp brain, a keen wit, and a tough exterior to hide her kind heart.  We also begin to learn of the mystery that defined and partly ruined her life.

The mystery involves her best friend, Lily Kane, who was murdered before the events that take place in the pilot.  Veronica was also dating Lily’s brother Duncan (Dunn).  Her father Keith (Colantoni) was the sheriff.  He believed, to the town’s amazement, that Lily and Duncan’s own father, a software billionaire, was somehow involved in his daughter’s murder.  The outraged down soon drummed Keith Mars out of office, and Veronica into outcast-land at school.  The fact that another criminal later confessed to the murder didn’t do anything to help either Veronica’s or her father’s reputation.

Keith starts a private investigation firm, and Veronica helps out in the margins.  With her gift for intuition and analysis, she proves more than capable of following in her father’s footsteps.  These threads I’ve mentioned are the ones that propel the whole series.  Individual episodes have their own crux, with beginnings, middles and resolutions, but certain lines become increasingly complex and surprising as the series unfolds.  Veronica doesn’t know, for example, why her father remained so convinced that Lily’s family were somehow involved in her murder.  Or what it was that really drove her mother away so soon after Keith was recalled from office.

Normally with a review of a series, I’d delve a bit into what happens in this episode or that.  But in the case of Veronica Mars, that would be like quoting a chapter here and there from the middle of a great mystery novel.  You don’t want to know what happens before you actually can see them happen, and I certainly don’t want to deprive you of the joy that I felt in experiencing this show for the first time.  I’ll just say the first episode was an instant classic to me.  And the finale?  WOW.

Kristen Bell really pulls all the mystery, drama and intrigue together as Veronica.  Her fresh faced, sharp witted and determined demeanor make the title character instantly admirable and loveable.  Her ability to handle being shunned while returning dogged loyalty to those who stand by her is an endearing quality.  This is no Nancy Drew program with unbelievable crimes and solutions, nor is it some Encyclopedia Brown show aimed squarely at kiddies.  This is a mature, intelligent drama, and probably the most engrossing and satisfying mystery series since Twin Peaks.

Shows of this caliber are a rare commodity indeed, and if Veronica Mars ends up going away, that will be a mystery even the spunky blonde detective herself won’t be able to solve.  Come on friends, and give this show a try.  You’ll thank me as much as I’ve thanked Mallard.

Video ***

Pretty good for a television program…I was pleased to see it presented in anamorphic widescreen.  There are some limitations; a little grain here and there in darker scenes perhaps, but good overall clarity and detail.

Audio **

The stereo surround is as good as it needs be…a fair amount of dynamic range, clear spoken words, and minimal use of the rear stage make for a decent listen.

Features *

Disc Six contains some additional unaired footage, but it’s not broken down or categorized for easy accessibility.  The pilot episode also features some never-before-aired bits. 

Summary:

Getting hooked on Veronica Mars was easy.  Waiting to pick up with the second season on DVD is a little harder.  The thought of the show going away for good is almost unbearable.  It's coming back for a third season...22 episodes...but it's fated to be re-evaluated after 13 air as to whether or not we'll get the full year.  I hope this DVD release will bring the show the audience it deserves.  Let's tune in and keep a damned great show going!

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