Not another teen show

I am not suddenly remembering that Veronica Mars exists because the movie is about to premiere. I have always thought about it as one of the best and most underrated shows of all times.I never really got a chance to write about all the reasons I love this show and, let’s face it,  I may never get another chance. So here it goes, this is basically my 10-year-delayed fan manifesto.

When Veronica Mars premiered I was barely out of my teen years and I’ve always enjoyed teenage shows [I still do, I confess!]. However, classifying VM as just another “teen show”  is completely unfair. VM was so much more; it was complex, it was original, it had heart, it had mystery. It was good TV, period.

So, it was not just another teen show, but it did have teenagers… and most of it took place in high school. Nevertheless, it approached the subject in such a distinctive way that it made it superior to all its counterparts of the time. Here are just a few reasons why:

Teenagers are insecure and troubled, but they are not horrible people [not always, at least]

If teen shows teach us one thing is that teenagers are horrible selfish unstable people! They all want to be popular and they all care more about their love life and bitchie friends than they care about their family. Sure there is always a third act revelation where the character “grows up” and realizes what is truly important in life. This has always annoyed me. It especially annoyed me when I was a teen because I wasn’t like that. Yes, teenagers are walking bundles of insecurities, but they are not horrible people.

When writing Veronica Mars, Rob Thomas didn’t wait for the end to make his character understand her priorities in life. The show starts with the premise that the once popular Veronica knowingly becomes a pariah when she makes the decision to stand by her father’s side after a town-wide public scandal. Veronica loved her dad so much, she was willing to sacrifice her circle of friends and her high school “status” for him, growing up and seeing everyone for who they really were in the process. That’s the Veronica we meet in the first 5 min of the pilot and I loved that! Some people may argue that teens are not mature enough to endure the shame and attacks of an entire community like Veronica did, but I truly believe [even with all my insecurities] I would have done the same for either one of my parents and I think 8 out of 10 people I know would have done it too [at least I like to think that]. Unlike virtually every other teen character, Veronica was strong, confident and smart enough to realize what’s important in life. 

We are all outsiders

There is this feeling that haunts you when you are in high school. It’s the feeling of not fitting in, no matter what you do, of being misunderstood and unable to connect. Sure, this is the basis of all teen drama, but I don’t think anyone got it right until Rob Thomas with Veronica Mars. I don’t know if all viewers felt like this, but as I watched [and recently re-watched] the early episodes of Veronica Mars, I was taken by how well they captured that feeling of being an “outsider”.

And I am not talking just about Veronica. Sure, she was the obvious outsider of the show: a castaway, smarter and not as rich as everyone else. She wanted to connect, but she also saw the “popular” kids (the oh-niners) for what they were, so she didn’t aspire to be like them. However, the show was full of complex characters that one way or another couldn’t fit in. Logan was originally presented as the heartless antagonist, later shown to be misunderstood and eventually becoming the leading man of the show [and Veronica’s main love interest]. Weevil was another example, he was the classic “bad boy”, low class gang member, but upon closer examination we discovered he had a decent sense of right and wrong and more wits than we would have thought.

This might be just a personal thing and probably not something one can generalize, but I felt Veronica reflected my high school experience [and state of mind] closer than any other character ever written for TV or film ever has. 

No silly stereotypes

Besides having issues with their parents, teen shows tell us that teen girls must have a frenemy. I never understood the type of girlfriend relationships they show on TV like: Serena & Blair on Gossip Girl, Marissa & Summer on The O.C., Alison and everyone on PLL, etc.I don’t comprehend how someone can be so mean to their so called friends. [I relate much better to duos like Rory and Lane from Gilmore Girls].  

Even while being the ultimate outsider, Veronica was able to forge meaningful relationships. My personal favorite was her friendship with Wallace; because I do believe, in rare circumstances [contrary to what Nora Ephron taught us], men and women can be friends. So, yes, teens have issues and they are all outsiders, but true friendships are also possible.

Another thing that annoys me to death on teen shows is that suddenly they start acting like adults. They go into business, get into crazy situations without their parents noticing, they start serious commitments with their partners, etc etc. It happens all the time on shows like Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl. But Veronica, with her extra-curricular activities and her beyond her years wits was, at the end of the day, just a kid. She was often a victim of her inexperience, needed the support of her dad and she wanted her mom to return home [and eventually to leave again]. She acted her age and that made her real.
Finally, Veronica Mars destroyed another wide-spread cliche: The dumb blonde. I don’t know if they set out to cast a blond actress in the first place, but I actually like the fact they did. Kristen Bell could more than pull off the snarky witty character of Veronica, often using the “blonde bimbo” stereotype to her advantage. She was the clever P.I. and the femme fatale, all at once… which brings me to my last point:

It was a film noir show! and it was a good one!

The show had all the elements for a good detective story: A private detective (Papa Mars), small town with big secrets, over-privileged families and a solid, intriguing mystery. “Who killed Lilly Kane?” became the new “Who killed Laura Palmer?”, with the difference that they actually solved the mystery in a timely and satisfying way, leaving room for more mysteries to come and more seasons [not enough] to be developed.

It was also evident, the show had elements directed for a knowledgeable [and probably older] audience. They incorporated constant references to films like The Godfather, Gone with the Wind, The Maltese Falcon, Thelma & Louise and more.

For all of these reasons Veronica Mars ruled… not just as a “teen drama” but simply as a great TV show that will forever be among my favorites. Will the movie live up to everyone’s expectations? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every single tease and clip I’ve seen so far [so many one-liners in 10 min of footage!], but when anticipation is so high, people are usually disappointed. Personally, I will love the movie no matter what because I love what it represents. It is a testament that networks don’t know everything and that a relatively small show can still bring people together even after a decade.
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The TV Empress is a Media Management graduate, screenwriter in the making (and financial engineer in the meantime). She has serious plans to take over global television. You can follow the TVEmpress on twitter @TVRepublik

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