Veronica Mars premiered ten years ago today and the witty dialogue and riveting mysteries still outshine some shows on today.
Hypable’s “revisited” series looks back at older pieces of media and attempts to evaluate their meaning today. Are they better or worse than we thought when they were originally released? What have we learned from them and what has their lasting impact been?
I can’t remember much of my television life pre-Veronica Mars. Sure, I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer like any child growing up in the late ’90s but I think I was a bit too young to really identify with Buffy as a character and a young woman.
But ten years ago, I watched the Veronica Mars pilot for the first time and it practically changed my life. I’m aware it sounds a bit extreme to say a UPN show is life-changing but it’s true. I mean, I wrote my college essay about Veronica and the rise of feminism on television. And in case you were wondering, I got into my dream university so thank you very much Rob Thomas. I even started writing for Hypable because they were looking for someone to do the Veronica Mars movie coverage and if that isn’t life-changing I don’t know what is.
At the time when the pilot first aired I remember feeling a bit on the fence about Veronica Mars. In fact, it took me up until episode four to really feel like this show was for me. Since then I’ve made it my rule to always give a show four episodes before writing it off. It’s not that I didn’t like it right away, but I wasn’t hooked from the get-go.
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I remember at the time having a few issues with it, like not being able to tell the difference between Logan and Duncan. A fact I am ashamed to admit today. Back then, though, I kept thinking “Why would they cast two tall white boys with light brown hair? I’ll never be able to keep them straight.” This confusion led me to mess up a few of the plot lines so I had to rewatch it. But even at age 14 I was a sucker for snappy dialogue. I can still recall Veronica and Keith’s conversation about powdered macaroni and cheese and being amazed that the writers could actually make this seem so clever and charming.
As with any pilot, it’s always a bit bizarre to look back on how the characters all started off. Veronica was so angry in the beginning, which I don’t blame her for but it eventually morphed into more sassiness instead of hostility.
Logan, who had the most drastic change in my opinion, was really only the obligatory psychotic jackass. I look back on the pilot and am so grateful the writers realized the chemistry between Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring and decided to go in a different direction with Logan’s character. Even when he’s smashing her car in you can already see the pair command the screen together.
The pilot is also a lot to take in. It’s jam packed with mystery after mystery. Who killed Lily? Where is Veronica’s mother? Who raped Veronica? Why did Duncan break up with her? And to add to all of that they included the biker gang robbing the gas station subplot. Yes, that is a lot to cram into 40 minutes but in reality it’s all just a showcase for Kristen Bell’s acting abilities. It is impossible not to be mesmerized by her as she jumps from a spiteful girl who lost everything to naive teenager in love for the first time and back again without skipping a beat. Her performance is compelling and that of an old time pro.
The voiceover is true noir and Bell’s voice is the perfect amount of soothing and mysterious. It can be a bit much but that is to be expected when you need to set up everything in the first episode.
The themes that run through the episode are still prevalent issues in today’s world which makes the pilot relatable to audiences even now. One overarching theme is the war between the classes, which is a problem that is all over the news lately and so many people can identify with. There is also the delicate issue surrounding Veronica and her rape, something that is still sensitive to this day and I think the pilot handles it really well and continues to throughout the series.
Sure, there are plenty of cringe-worthy moments like when Veronica is outside The Camelot and her dog Backup starts to growl at Weevil and the PCHers. All she needs to say is “Backup, chill!” and the dog retreats. Maybe it’s just me but the whole dog whisperer thing made me shudder a bit. And the main thing that rang true in both my first viewing and my viewing today? Veronica’s terrible flared out pixie haircut. It just isn’t flattering. Even when I show my friends the pilot I feel as if I’m always saying “Don’t worry, her hair doesn’t always look like this.” But that’s just me nitpicking.
With all the hype surrounding Veronica Mars on social media and with the movie, books and spinoff we can’t help but wonder what the show’s fate would have been like in 2014. There are definitely some negative things you could say about the Veronica Mars pilot but at the end of the day it is just plain good. The plot keeps moving at an even pace, all of the characters are interesting and have their own niche, and it’s smarter than most shows on television today. This is probably why even now I am constantly introducing the show to everyone I meet.
What can I say? I’m a Marshmallow.