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.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Home Again

Just popping my head in to say that I am back, safe, sound and exhausted, from my travels. Brazil was gorgeous and I will have pictures and reports up soon.

The big news from my period of absence is that M. John Harrison's Nova Swing won the Arthur C. Clarke award. Congratulations to Mr. Harrison and a hearty 'well done' to the judges.

In less satisfying award news, the Nebula winners were announced yesterday. Given the general mediocrity of the ballot, I can't quite find it in myself to get worked up over the winners, and of course things could have been much worse--"Unfinished Business" might have won the best script award.

Finally, if you haven't done so already, be sure to check out Andrew Rilstone's ongoing series A Sceptic's Guide to Richard Dawkins, in which Rilstone mercilessly filets Dawkins's failures as a religious historian and as a philosopher in his recent The God Delusion, in a sort of counterpart to Fred Clark's by-now monumental takedown of the Left Behind series. Be sure, as well, to read Bruce Alderman's hilarious The God Delusion: A Source Criticism.