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VERONICA MARS
The Complete Third Season

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Percy Daggs III, Ryan Hansen, Tina Majorino, Francis Capra, Enrico Colantoni
Creator:  Rob Thomas
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  See Review
Length:  842 Minutes
Release Date:  October 23, 2007

“And boom goes the dynamite.”

Shows ***

Dearly Beloved…we are gathered here today to mourn the passing of a truly great television show that was taken from us far too soon.  Oh Veronica, we hardly knew ye.

Veronica Mars earned a fiercely loyal audience during its short run, but one that just wasn’t big enough to impress the powers that be not to pull the plug.  Its life was always in jeopardy, but the studios kept it on life support, bringing it back for one final season.  As an effort to save it, the show was even paired back to back with the more successful Gilmore Girls on the new CW network.  Unfortunately, the end result was that both shows are now no more.

From the very first episode, which remains possibly the second greatest pilot I’ve seen apart from Twin Peaks, Veronica Mars was a must-see television event for me and my fiancée.  Thanks to DVD, we were able to catch up and keep ourselves in the loop as this smart, sassy and terrific title character (Bell) solved mysteries both great and small.  Both of the first seasons ended in climaxes that had us reeling and eager to anticipate what the next year would have in store.

Creator Rob Thomas tried to make the show a little more audience friendly in order to save it…instead of one big mystery carrying us through from start to finish, he broke it up into three.  As Veronica started college, he also focused more on her relationship issues, particularly with her on-again, off-again love with bad boy Logan Echolls (Dohring).  In other words, he tried to reel in the Gilmore Girls audience, and played down to audience expectations instead of up to them.

As a result, the resulting third year lacked some of the punch of the first two.  It took a while to get going for real…many episodes, as a matter of fact.  The climax of the first mystery, involving a serial rapist terrorizing Veronica’s college campus (that was first glimpsed in season two), was strong and memorable, and it segued nicely into the second mystery, the mysterious death of the dean (Ed Begley Jr.).

Watching the third season with my fiancée was fun, and she seemed to still get into it as much as ever.  For me, it seemed a lot of what made the show great in the first place was watered down.  The dialogue had some wit, but not quite the constant zing of before.  Logan and Veronica’s relationship troubles became a trial to endure rather than a crisis to be experienced, and more than once hinged on the ‘idiot plot’ where one piece of information revealed could have spared us all a lot of grief.  And what was with the sad eyed Logan this year…what happened to his testicles anyway?

Though it felt a little weaker than before, and more eager to please, the show still boasted better writing and acting than most of what passed for entertainment on the tube.  Word has it, and it’s confirmed by the extras, that Rob Thomas intended to flash forward in the fourth year and have Veronica at the FBI.  Sadly, we’ll never know how good that could have been.

So it is with sadness and fondness that I look back on the young life of Veronica Mars.  As in life, it’s unfair and hard to understand why those with great promise, youth and vigor are sometimes taken away from us with so much promise left unfulfilled.  It joins the ranks of illustrious others in premature death, like Arrested Development, Ned and Stacey and many more.  One can’t condemn when something we love tries to stave off death with everything in its power, but I can’t help wishing Veronica had gone out more on her own terms than compromising so much…she might have had a new chance at life, but what kind of life would it have been?

Then again, these may be far too heavy handed questions to be pondering over a television show.  So I’ll conclude my remarks by saying to those who knew and loved Veronica Mars well to celebrate the short life she lived and what she managed to accomplish in that time instead of mourning her loss.  I, for one, will always be grateful for the time she spent with us, and my marathon sessions of the show with my fiancée.  Veronica lived but three short years, but those were enough to insure immortality to those of us who knew and loved her best.

Video ***

The show, presented in anamorphic widescreen, looks plenty good…some shots are occasionally deliberately soft, but nothing distracting.  Generally, images are clean and well rendered, with minimal grain interference.

Audio ***

5.1 sound this time around…nice.  The music is still the biggest plus in the series as far as audio goes, but the extra dimension of surrounds makes for some nice scenes.

Features **1/2

The extras, all on the last disc, start with a treat for fans…a 12 minute look at what would have been the fourth season with Veronica at the FBI, plus a preview featurette in which Rob Thomas discusses his plans for the show had it gone on.  There is a series of “Going Undercover” bits where Thomas and supervising producer Dan Etheridge discuss the third year in detail, plus a gag reel, a collection of deleted scenes, and five webisodes featuring interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.

Summary:

The third time isn’t always the charm, and one of television’s brightest has now gone the way of so many others.  But at least with DVD, old and new fans alike can continue to discover the dusky gem that was Veronica Mars.

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