Thursday, October 05, 2006

Veronica Mars - 'Welcome Wagon' (3x01)

Another series to watch, my schedule's getting a bit too crowded. I'm already a week behind on Nip/Tuck and Weeds, and in the case of Nip/Tuck, I don't know if I'll bother catching up. But, that's beside the point, I'll probably be sticking with Veronica Mars for the long haul, despite this not particularly impressive season premiere.

The show had major ratings problems during its time on UPN, and the pairing with Gilmore Girls gives it a second chance to find an audience. However, I don't think this is the episode that's going to hook new viewers. I think it would have been smart to do some kind of quick summary of the series to date before the show to give people an idea of who these people are. It's impossible to totally catch someone up in one episode, but at least give people the basic dynamic. Maybe it's just my style of viewing, but I don't think I'd have the patience to watch the show if I didn't really know what was going on.

Beyond that, I think the show made some errors in not emphasizing its strengths in the season premiere. The first scene plays up Veronica's arrogance and doesn't make her particularly likable. I think there's a lot of room for exploring that aspect of her character, but the intention of the scene was to engrain her to the audience and even as someone who's watched the show, I found her annoying there.

What does work is the fallout from last season's events. We see all of the characters in a subdued mood, particularly Mac, who's clearly still smarting from what happened with Beaver. On the one hand, it makes for a pretty low key premiere, but I think it's necessary because the end of season two brought forth some really heavy issues. Dick in particular has a potentially interesting arc.

The vast majority of TV shows work because of our attachment to the characters, and interest in where they go. So, I liked the stuff with Veronica's crew, but the rather generic college mystery doesn't work so well. College just doesn't work as a setting for a show, both Buffy and Gilmore Girls stumbled when the lead character went off to college, and they each ultimately decided to move away from college based stories. It seems like Veronica will go the Buffy season four route and try to transfer its previous storytelling structure to college, but I just don't think it will work. One of the cool things about the first couple of years was the way the high school population remained consistent, but with college there's so many people you won't get that sense of community. Also, it becomes a lot more difficult to keep the characters in contact. I'm not sure where it will go, but I don't see this format working for the long term.

That said, next week's episode looks to recapture some of the fun of the show at its best. I have the feeling it will be difficult to balance the show's generally irreverent tone with an extended storyline about a serial rapist. The episode last season that foreshadowed this ran into problems, and I think it's a mistake to hang the whole season on it. I have no problem with shows blending comedy and drama, a show like Buffy could fluctuate from the goofiest comedy to really heavy emotional stuff. But, I feel like rape isn't the sort of thing where you can jump to a goofy bit in the next scene. Maybe they'll pull it off, we'll see.

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