Veronica Mars, R.I.P.

VERONICA MARS has been canceled.  We're mourning at our house -- me, my wife, and our two daughters.  This was a show that we could all watch together -- not a lot of those on TV these days.

In fact, I think VERONICA MARS was brilliant.  Part of the wake at our home has involved re-watching the first and second seasons.  (We own the DVDs, went out and bought them after my colleague Austin Lugar loaned us his set.) The girls are doing all of it; I've been dipping in and out.  Those first two seasons were just incredibly good.  Taken as a whole, seasons one and two add up to one of the most intricately plotted mysteries I've ever seen (in any medium).  There's so much plot in each episode; most episodes, more happens before the credits than happens in whole episodes of other TV detective shows.

The most incredible thing?  The individual episodes not only solved weekly mysteries but added pieces towards the solution of larger, season-long questions.  And it all made sense.  The pieces fit together.  The resolutions were satisfying -- horrifying, sometimes, but just right.

I love the attitude -- Neptune High is so tough and Veronica is so hardboiled, maybe the toughest detective ever on broadcast TV (except for the last ten minutes of the last episode of season one when she whimpers a lot -- weirdly out of character).  The setting is so Raymond Chandler -- the amoral rich, the downtrodden working class.  You won't see a starker portrayal of haves versus have nots than you see in this series, and it's not just window dressing, it's an integral part of how the stories play out.

The other thing is that there wasn't anything that the show wouldn't do; no character was sacred.  We know this right away when we find out in the first episode of season one that Veronica was raped.  Season two begins with a bus load of kids dying when their bus plunges off the Pacific Coast Highway into the ocean.  (I think season two is the best single season of series television that's ever been done.)

Veronica has a great relationship with her dad.  He's a private eye; she works for him.  They're both great characters, and their relationship is beautifully portrayed.  It's fascinating to see what she'll tell him and what she won't (and visa versa) -- though we all think she made the wrong choice about what to say/not say at the crucial moment in the final episode of the final season, broadcast last night.  I'm also really fond of a lot of the secondary characters -- Cliff, the lawyer, and Vinnie, the really sleazy private eye, are especially cool.

We haven't been as fond of the show this season; they've dumbed it down and Veronica's gone soft and the whole Veronica/Logan thing has gotten ridiculous.  College just isn't the kind of hardboiled place that high school is.  (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER had the same problem when the gang graduated from high school and went off to a college that was just not that interesting a place.)  Last night's two episodes were an improvement over most of the rest of this season.  But still not up to the earlier standard.

At least VERONICA MARS is good enough to stand up to repeat viewings.  We're spotting new things that we missed the first two times we ran through this series, seeing clues, spotting connections, etc.  Knowing where it's going, it's fascinating to see how the characters (good, bad and variable) are introduced.