Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars

2004 - United States

‘Taut, twisty, and often willing to go to really dark places for a teen drama’

Veronica Mars review by Jennifer AJ

This teenage detective series might have been short-lived (for its time), but it’s one that would continue to be loved by generations of fans thanks to its whip-smart writing, epic love story and Kristen Bell’s indelible turn as the titular sleuth. 

Veronica Mars was part of early aught’s teen show boom, thanks to the prominence of teen channels like the WB and UPN (remember those?). At its height, the WB was home to the likes of Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Roswell - all certified teen classics today. Veronica Mars itself was not on the WB; it was originally on UPN, another channel with similar teen-slanted programming. The two channels would eventually merge into what we now know as the CW, which perfected the ingredients for high-brow teen shows featuring adult subject matters like sexuality, violence, murder, class struggle, you name it. Long before Pretty Little Liars and Riverdale, Veronica Mars provided the blueprints for dark coming-of-age series to come.

Veronica Mars tv series

The series centres around Veronica (Bell), a former popular high school girl living in Neptune, a fictional Californian beachside town where the rich and the poor co-exist in frequent high tension. After her best friend Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried) was murdered, Veronica’s sheriff dad falsely arrests Lilly’s powerful billionaire father for the murder and loses his badge as a result. With their reputations tarnished, Veronica pulls herself out of the in-crowd and begins assisting her father at his private investigation agency. Each episode, she would solve a case for her schoolmates while trying to uncover the truth behind Lilly’s murder. The latter puts her at odds with her wealthy former friends, mainly ex-boyfriend and Lilly’s brother Duncan (Teddy Dunn) and resident bad boy – and Lilly’s boyfriend – Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring).

Veronica Mars tv series

Taut, twisty, and often willing to go to really dark places for a teen drama, Veronica Mars was way ahead of its time. The teens in the show go through a lifetime’s worth of traumatic events even before graduation – murders, drug addiction, school terrorism, rape, jail times, etc – and somehow still come out of it rather decent. It’s the kind of scenario that can only exist on screen, and damn if it isn’t addictive! The mystery aspect, especially in the first two seasons, is top tier. The teen angst part is deliciously soapy, with a memorable enemies-to-lovers dynamic between Veronica and Logan. The undercurrent of interclass struggle between the haves and the have-nots of Neptune serves as an intriguing background to the murder mystery, creating a layer of depth that no other teen shows airing around the same time bothered to explore. Ironically, its genius wasn’t appreciated in time. Due to low ratings, the show was cancelled unceremoniously after its third season. 

Despite it, fans continue to rally around the series for years. It also keeps finding new generations of viewers who love it, culminating in not one, but two revivals: first, a Kickstarter-backed movie in 2014 and then in 2019, a fourth season on Hulu. The subsequent additions were quite good, but really, nothing beats the scrappy original. The early aughts aesthetics and the juxtaposition between typical teen drama and crime solving hijinks were a potent mix that really belonged in its time. Brought to the present day, its grown-up protagonists have lost the vulnerability their younger selves had. But the emo 2000’s sleuthing teenage drama would forever remain a perfection, and that’s enough.

Published on August 7th, 2023. Written by Jennifer Ariesta for Television Heaven.

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