“It’s OK, but it needs more demons.”

11 October 2006, 5:47 pm

That’s my considered critical opinion on the first season of Veronica Mars.

It’s supposed to be funny, but also serious. I think you could argue convincingly that the first season of Veronica Mars showed about as much potential as the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It took me a while to give Mars’s creators credit for featuring a protagonist who’s not very likeable - at first I thought it was just sloppy or inconsistent writers. I think Mars’s first season story arc was more interesting and better executed than Buffy’s The Master/The Anointed One guff. But both shows’ first seasons suffered from less-than-consistent acting, sketchy character development, and hackneyed episode plots.

I remember being a teenager well enough to remember that my day-to-day problems, at the time, seemed pretty well world-threatening. I think that’s one of the reasons that supernatural threats are so common in entertainment for (or about) adolescents: externalizing a teenager’s internal emotional landscape is a very powerful trope. Against threats that threaten to **End** *the* **World**, solving problems like “Why did my boyfriend dump me?” and even “Who killed my boyfriend’s sister?” can seem like comparitively small potatoes.

Ironically, some of Buffy’s most powerful moments centered around the aspects of life that magic powers can’t fix — and that was pretty resonant too. Perhaps one of the toughest things we have to learn on the way to adulthood is that we really aren’t the center of the universe, and we don’t have super powers (or the germ of the Great American Novel). (Maybe I’ll be able to figure out that part better if I ever actually achieve adulthood.)

I think it eventually became a crutch for Buffy that most of the obstacles its characters faced had supernatural roots. But Mars’s first season often left me wishing it had a bit more of the thematic wallop that the supernatural antagonists leant Buffy — most especially when Ms. Mars was investigating sinister fraternity hijinks, of course. Less clichéd plots would help too, but they seem to be a bit of a rarity in the mystery genre. (And at least Ms. Mars hasn’t yet been stuck someplace where the ingredients of gunpowder just happen to be lying around . . . not in the first season, anyway.)


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