Veronica Mars premiered on UPN in 2004 and immediately stood out amongst other teen dramas of the time. Helmed by Rob Thomas and starring Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars told the story of a teen detective desperate to solve her best friend’s murder. On the surface, the concept seemed trite: Nancy Drew for the modern age. However, the show quickly proved it was anything but.
I came into the Veronica Mars craze halfway through its second season and found that I was utterly lost on the plot. That season, there were two season-long mysteries instead of just one. However, the acting in S02E10, “One Angry Veronica”, made me immediately crave more. I bought the first season on DVD and binge-watched it in a day and a half. Then I went online to look up what I’d missed in episodes 1-9 of the second season. I was in high school. My family had dial-up. There was no illegal streaming for me.
I thought I was sinking my teeth into Veronica Mars; really, it sank its teeth into me. Once I started watching, I couldn’t stop. The storytelling, the mystery arcs, the character development, and the individual episode plots wove together to create something intricate and beautiful. Rob Thomas and the creative team didn’t shy away from anything. The series utilized extremely dramatic colors, vivid flashbacks, and constant hint-dropping to lead its audience along.
It also tackled topics other teen shows wouldn’t touch: rape, pedophilia, murder, alcohol addiction, and child abuse. Sure, Pretty Little Liars had a murder mystery. One Tree Hill dealt with child abuse (sort of). Everwood had that one memorable arc about abortion. But Veronica Mars dared to treat its target audience — teenagers — as adults. It got at the heart of the cruelty, anger, and rampant depression that plagues high schoolers. It dealt with race relations and classism and sexism.
And it lasted for just three seasons.
A part of me thinks that this series was too far ahead of its time. The cult following Veronica Mars has amassed since the series ended in 2007 says a lot about its staying power. So does the $5+ million fans donated to the film’s Kickstarter campaign in 2013. A full six years after The CW canceled the series, fans were so desperate for a proper ending that they paid — some of them in the thousands — to bring it back to life.
The Kickstarter came after several years of fans accosting Rob Thomas and series star Kristen Bell about a potential reunion. According to Thomas, no studio wanted to back the movie. Veronica Mars just didn’t have enough klout when it was a television series. But the Kickstarter shattered records, with fans raising over $2 million in eleven hours. That’s bonkers.
Many of the series’ issues started after UPN and The WB merged into the super network we now know as The CW. In today’s climate, with shows like Riverdale and The 100 drawing in thousands of viewers to the network each week, Veronica Mars would be right at home. Its downfall was that it was too edgy, too well-written, too eager to tackle subjects and take no shit.
In 2006, among shows like Gilmore Girls, the tone of Veronica Mars just didn’t fit. The third season, which aired on the inaugural year of The CW, broke its episodes into smaller arcs that didn’t stretch across the season. The intention was, I assume, to draw in new viewers who might not want to follow a long arc. It did a disservice to the slow-build mysteries of the series’ first two seasons, as well as the intelligence of its audience.
Too often, series that push the limits are canceled for the sake of easier to digest entertainment. Veronica Mars demanded much of its audience and stood out for its efforts. Ten years later, its cancellation still smarts. The finale didn’t tie up any loose ends or offer any insights to what the future may hold. It barely felt like a finale at all. By the time the movie came out, fans had been pontificating for years via fan fiction just what happened to Veronica, Logan, and their peers. All we wanted was an ending, which was something The CW didn’t see fit to grant us.
The Veronica Mars Movie was amazing, and brought back so many cast members and amazing moments from the original series. It also ended with Logan and Veronica together, which the series was canceled before accomplishing in a lasting way. But it still irks me that the series was forced to end so soon. There were years worth of material to explore, as evidenced by the pure span of events represented in the film.
I guess it just goes to show that when a series has enough life left in it — and enough dedicated fans — anything can happen. Do you think The CW executives who chose to cancel Veronica Mars ever kick themselves for it? I kind of hope they do.