Now that's more like it, "Veronica Mars." A good self-contained mystery, a suggestion that the show could do okay once Veronica leaves high school, a gratuitously awesome "Arrested Development" double-cameo, the biggest spotlight yet for wisecracking Cliff, and a fine showcase for Jason Dohring, who's becoming so good that Veronica may need to investigate a case of show-stealing.
First, let's consider "Veronica Mars: The College Years." Really, there are only four essential characters to this show: Veronica, Keith, Logan and Wallace. Veronica and Wallace are already going to be Hearst together (Veronica getting some kind of scholarship is a fait accompli), and Keith will be just at the other end of town, with Veronica no doubt still helping out around the office. Logan could decide to straighten up, fly right and go to school, and I'm sure a hefty donation could grease his admission into Hearst. Or, if the show wants to avoid the "90210" syndrome where all the characters miraculously wound up at the same school, Logan could keep living off his trust fund, hanging out with the college kids without actually bothering to take classes. I like Weevil, and he could pop up from time to time as a townie. And as much as I love Dick (feel free to quote that out of context far and wide), he and Beaver are expendable; there are at least as many asshole rich kids in college as there can be in high school -- not to mention twice as many cliques and weird societies as you can find in high school. So college wouldn't automatically spell creative doomsday for this show the way it did for "90210," and "Buffy," and "Gilmore Girls," and... shhh. I'm having a moment.
I wasn't exactly holding my breath for the return of Troy, but he served a useful purpose as a character whose involvement in the rape story would move Veronica to be involved, but who was sketchy enough that we could have some doubt about his innocence. I like that the rapist didn't go to jail, as that creates a nice parallel with no one really getting punished for what happened to Veronica. As cool as it was to see Michael Cera and Alia Shawkat only slightly out of Bluth character, I couldn't shake the feeling that he was the rapist -- not only because it felt weird that one of them was central to that story while the other was basically a walking in-joke, but because it would have been a twisted adaptation of George Michael's obsessesion with Maebe. Ah, well. Marian had the best suggestion of the night: "They should have gotten Ron Howard to narrate this one." ("And that's when Veronica realized she had made a terrible mistake.")
Cliff and Lamb are my favorite non-Keith adult characters, so any subplot that has one busting on the other gets the Sepinwall seal of approval. Best part of that entire story: Keith's "Gone on a puzzling errand" note for Veronica.
And jack-rammers, but Jason Dohring is good. Veronica as a character is great because she'll never change much from her post-rape personality, but Logan is still a work in progress, which gives Dohring more chances to stretch than Kristen Bell. I know the Felix subplot was cooked up to give Kristen a break from her crushing season one workload, and Dohring and Enrico Colantoni are the only other actors on the show who could shoulder this much non-Veronica screen time. The only problem, as Matt pointed out in yesterday's column (and as posters on forums throughout creation have been saying for months) is that it's kept Veronica and Logan apart for most of the year, and whether they're dating or just trash-talking each other, the show's not nearly as interesting without some major Veronica/Logan interaction.
Elsewhere in TV land (and did anybody catch the "Inside TV Land" special with William Shatner? because that guy may be stranger in real life than Denny Crane, and I love it), I haven't watched "Lost" yet, but "South Park" was an inevitable let-down after last week. Other than the George Clooney Oscar speech joke -- which was funny both because it was true and because it showed Trey and Matt aren't afraid to fuck with anyone, including the guy they owe their careers to -- the hybrid/smug joke felt labored, so the only fun was listening to Ike talk about being baked.
And only a week late, I was proven right about Lisa getting bounced from "American Idol." Again, didn't see the results show, but I doubt I would have been that shocked by Kat being in the bottom two. Weird shit happens on nights when everyone is good or everyone sucks, and she doesn't have the obvious fanbase that people like Taylor, Chris and Pickler have. (Guys generally don't power-vote for this show, so being a smoking hottie will only carrie you so far.) I suspect, however, that this should galvanize anyone afflicted with the McPheever to get off their ass and dial a few times next week (Undercover Black Man, this means you), so I'm not worried yet.