UPN's 'Mars' fills the teen drama void in primetime

BY AMANDA MCALLISTER
For the Daily
Published October 11, 2004

Welcome to the O.C., – er, welcome to Neptune High.
Neptune, California, a town with no middle class, serves as the
setting for the new teen crime drama “Veronica Mars.”
High school student by day, detective by night, the trials and
tribulations of title character Mars (Kristen Bell) as a
not-so-normal teenager are the focus of this witty, solid show.

TV/New Media Reviews
Latex and gasoline: The new line of fragrances from the Paris Hilton collection. (Courtesy of UPN)

In the year since her best friend Lily’s murder, Veronica
Mars’s life has been turned upside down. Besides mourning,
Mars has to adjust to her breakup with Lily’s brother Duncan
(Teddy Dunn) and subsequent removal from the popular crowd, which
he leads. She must also cope with her mother’s desertion and
accept her role in her father’s new career as a private
investigator. Once a happy-go-lucky teenager, Mars is now a social
outcast, struggling to make sense of her life.

While Mars is the focus of the series, it features a solid
ensemble of supporting characters. Her father, Keith (Enrico
Colantoni, “Just Shoot Me”), is the most complex of the
lot as the formerly beloved, now belittled sheriff of Neptune, who
still obsesses over the debacle of a case that ended his career.
The case, incidentally, was that of Lily’s murder. While less
complicated, the rest of the cast is entertaining and all fulfill
their predetermined, stereotypical roles with enough grace to make
viewers forget they’re pretty stock characters. Duncan is the
rich boy with a heart, while his best friend Logan (Jason Dohring)
is the obligatory psychotic jackass. Mars’s friends come in
the form of the new guy, Wallace (Percy Daggs III) and Weevil
(Francis Capra), the head of the local motorcycle gang. Various
smaller roles round out Mars’s foes and provide a glimpse of
the bitterness the Mars family faces in the elitist Neptune.

Like many of its teen drama predecessors, “Veronica
Mars” is riddled with fresh, intelligent writing; banter
between the characters, particularly Veronica and Keith or Veronica
and Weevil, seems effortless and unscripted. Mars’s
monologue, which propels the audience through the exposition needed
to catch up with the events preceding the pilot, is a mixture of
sarcasm and confusion that fleshes out the title character
perfectly. The script glides easily between sharp wit and tension,
while avoiding both arrogance and melodrama — something
difficult to achieve, especially in a teen show.

The pilot sets up some ambitious goals for the plotlines to
explore — Lily’s murder and the question of
Veronica’s mother all remain, and the seeds of character
feuds and alliances are planted. While it’s not scandalous or
groundbreaking, “Veronica Mars” is intelligent and
quirky, and will likely become one of the guilty pleasure shows of
the season.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.