Friday, May 18, 2007

Well

By now you've probably heard about Veronica Mars's cancellation. Michael Ausiello has it from the horse's mouth.

Everyone always says that it's better for a show to die at its peak, rather than linger for an unnaturally long life, hemorrhaging quality and viewers. That's usually true, but it less painful--for the viewers--when a show dies at a midpoint between these two stages--when it's still good, but no longer as transcendentally excellent as it once was. I was pleased with this season's opening mystery arc, but less impressed with the murder mystery, whose handling I found aimless and half-hearted. Worst of all, when the time came for the standalone episodes (two of which have been quite good), I found myself caring a great deal less than I thought I would. I was ready to let go.

The truth is, Mars's writers never worked out how to extend their series into a multi-season format. They tried replicating the first season and discovered that lightening couldn't hit the exact same place twice. So they frantically changed formats, and lost a great deal of what made the show special. They carried characters over from one season to the next without having any idea what to do with them, simply because of fan affections, and ended up either sidelining or neutering them, often both. There's a good argument to be made that Veronica Mars should never have gone on past its first season. Alternatively, we might argue that had the show not been constrained by a conservative network mindset that seeks to preserve as much of the status quo as possible, its writers wouldn't have been forced to return to the high school setting in the second season (I seem to remember an old interview, possibly pre-second season, with Rob Thomas in which he mentions wanting to take Veronica several years forward, long before the Veronica Mars: FBI idea was floated as a possible last-minute save) and might have been able to create something of similar quality to the first season.

These are, however, academic discussions. We're losing Veronica Mars not at its prime, which would be tragic, nor at its lowest ebb, which would be, in certain ways, even more tragic, but in its comfortable middle age. Which is sad, but still allows us to remember that Veronica Mars was exceptional TV. The first season alone is a fantastic accomplishment, and for all their problems the second and third season have a lot to recommend them. The television landscape will be a great deal bleaker for its absence, but I can withstand the loss. This might not be the worst possible outcome.

8 comments:

yatima said...

I agree. The worst outcome is a seventh season, say, with a replacement showrunner who doesn't get how to write the dialogue, so that characters you once loved are walking around like zombies of their former selves.

Bye, Gilmore Girls!

ianras said...

> The television landscape will be a great deal bleaker for its absence

Hera, hear.

ianras said...

> The television landscape will be a great deal bleaker for its absence

Hear, hear. Even.

Stephen said...

So say we all.

Kristen said...

I agree mostly; though, I don't think it's far enugh past it's prime to warrent cancellation. Although I have not been wowed by the recent stand alone mysteries. And feel that Piz is way too vanilla for Veronica.

A.R.Yngve said...

If you love Veronica, you'll let go of her.
;-)

Maybe in some distant future, computer technology would allow us to conjure up lost actors/actresses and sets, and finish every unfinished TV series...

Ilana said...

Abigail, I am curious to hear what you thought of the season (series) finale. I was unbelievably disappointed...then I got online and found out that it was supposedly the "Best. Episode. Ever." Even Couch Baron loved it. I am confused...what gives?

Abigail Nussbaum said...

I'm at a midpoint between the two opinions. On the one hand, the finale takes Veronica back to her iconic season 1 status - victimized by the rich and powerful, publicly humiliated, and rarin' for some Old Testament-style vengeance. Add Jake Kane and a healthy dollop of bitterness and moral ambiguity and you're practically back in the first season.

This, I suspect, is why so many viewers were thrilled with the episode. I don't entirely disagree, and certainly in light of the show's failure to create a setting and emotional tone that rivaled the first season's, it makes a certain amount of sense to go back to basics.

On the other hand, the secret society ploy was already absurd when the show used it two seasons ago. More importantly, Veronica has left high school, and there's a certain degree of desperation in the writers' attempts to take her back there. And then there's the fact that, as a final statement on the series, this open-ended and rather grim story was exteremely unsatisfying.

So, my feelings are that taken on its own, this was a good episode, but taken as either a series finale or an attempt to take the show in a new direction, it left something to be desired.

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