Here's the thing - "Veronica Mars" might not get renewed for a third season. Not only are its already low ratings slipping since it moved to a different night, but when the big UPN/WB merger goes down, some shows aren't going to make the cut for the new channel's line up. "America's Next Top Model" is a shoo-in. Adorable critically acclaimed neo-noir high school detective drama, not so much.
And you know what? It's my fault. I'm part of the problem. Instead of paying inflated costs for cable, I download all my favorite television shows illegally. With shows like "24," "Lost," and "The Sopranos," I don't have one ounce of guilt about doing it, either. To the television executives I say the same thing I say to the record companies - lower the price and I'll pony up. Until then, I remain a willing and gleeful thief. And those shows will stay on the air.
Unfortunately, this means that I can't do a damn thing to save one of the best shows on TV from going under. "Veronica Mars," if you aren't familiar, is an hour long drama/comedy about a teenage girl who solves crimes and struggles with the difficulties of living a lower middle class life amongst the rich assholes of Neptune High. Lest you think this is a show about the angst of having a pimple on prom night, Veronica's problems are far worse than those of your typical high schooler. Her best friend was murdered, for one, and when her sheriff father had the cajones to cast suspicion on the most reputable family in town, Veronica's life came apart at the seams. She lost nearly all her friends as people sided with the Kane family and shunned the Mars clan. Her alcoholic mother ran off mysteriously, and her father was fired from the police department. Oh, and she might also have been raped while unconscious at a party. All of this happens before the pilot episode, and things only get more complicated from there.
If the description sounds stupid, it's because the brilliance of the show lies not so much in its premise, but in its ability to pull it all off with considerable charm and intelligence. Kristen Bell is perfect as the sarcastic and precocious protagonist. In fact, the entire cast seems to understand the delicate balance essential to the shows success: it's funny but sad, silly but erudite, bubble gum but operatic. While each episode is a self-contained, semi-disposable mini-mystery in the tradition of Encyclopedia Brown or Nancy Drew (via Raymond Chandler), the real meat of the show is composed of the long narrative arcs that are developed throughout the entire season. This 'mythology' is lurid, tragic, and full of surprises. Like "The Wire" and early season "24," this arc builds and builds to a dramatic climax, which is to say that there's a beginning, middle, and end that seem to have been mapped out thoughtfully ahead of time. The mystery structure also keeps it from digressing aimlessly like a bad soap. Mostly, though, it's just a lot fun.
So please, help me out. If you have cable, tune in to UPN on Tuesdays at 9:00pm, and tell all your friends to do the same. Through the power of the Muck, together we can save Veronica from a shallow grave beside those of "Arrested Development" and "Freaks and Geeks." I promise I'd watch if I could afford the service. Broke as I am, though, watching recorded TV serials (and talking about them) is one of the few modes of entertainment I have.
Besides, how can you resist: