Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Veronica Mars: The Dando Warhols?

Brief spoilers for "Veronica Mars" coming up just as soon as I warn people about the dangers of latenight swimming...

I was half-tempted to turn this entire post into a mock version of "Roy Rules!" called "Rudd Rules!" in tribute to how great Paul Rudd was as Desmond. Then I realized two things: 1)Parodies of parodies are kinda lame, and 2)There are other things to talk about in this episode, a vast improvement over last week's preachy, simplistic Racial Profiling Is Bad, MMMkay? show.

Start with the inevitable coupling of Mac and Max. In the space of a season, Mac has gone from the asexual virgin scarred by Cassidy to a girl having to choose between two suitable guys (or cafeteria foods, if you prefer the "absurd level of symbolism" scene). Seeing Mac and Max's hot nerd-on-nerd action as they put together Logan's website was fun, and yet I can't help feeling that Mac made the wrong choice, that Max is so obviously compatible with her that something's got to be wrong. Or maybe the writers are trying to make it up to the character after traumatizing her last year and then marginalizing her this year.

Then there's the return of Leo and the entrance of Vinnie Van Lowe into the race for sheriff. Good to see both characters, though this subplot more than the other ones -- including Veronica and Piz, and Logan's angst over same -- suffers from the real-world knowledge that there probably won't be much follow-through to it. If the show's coming back next year in college format, then it's fun to speculate about the havoc Vinnie could wreak as sheriff, and whether Leo might be another complication in Veronica's love life. But chances are neither will have a chance to go anywhere, either by cancellation or the FBI time-jump. Ah, well.

But, obviously, the highlight of the episode was Rudd, who took the stock character of bitter aging rock star and made me feel like I hadn't seen it a thousand times before. Particular favorites: comparing Veronica to "a feisty young Barbara Eden" (a reference designed to point out how old he is), him mocking the fake Jews For Jesus group, him instantly regretting the ocean dip ("OH MY GOD, I DON'T RECOMMEND THIS!"), him baiting Keith about The Beatles, and the brief snippet of Rudd and Rob Thomas sporting their Evan Dando wigs in that old My Pretty Pony video.

If last week was a sign of what the self-contained college show would look like in the future, then I'm fine with it probably not happening. If this one is a better indicator, then I'm more disappointed.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I can't believe you are so high on this episode. I was totally bored. I was eating potato chips throughout, something I would never do to a show I cared about. I wouldn't risk missing dialog due to the crunching noise. I noticed tonight that this show no longer passes that subliminal test.

These self-contained episodes are a disaster. The level of detective intrigue is now - swapped bags? With a friggin name tag in it? Vinnie could have solved this faster than Veronica.

Having the mystery begin and end in one episode means it will always be a minor plot device instead of the central theme of the show. Which, unfortunately, means they are going to lean on that old crutch of love triangles (and now squares with Leo coming back). That holding hands crap made me moan out loud. "Your a good dude..." Puke. This show as a mystery noir is totally dead.

What was the whole point about the Logan story line, beside filler? That a professor would possibly act that way and dismiss his idea because the audience might not be beaten down with the 'misunderstood' hammer enough yet? When did this become the Veronica and Logan show? Maybe minor characters are meant to stay minor for the full run of a series, or at least the one-dimensional ones should.

No funny lines, predictable 'life lesson' you could see a million miles away (This weeks PSA - believe in yourself!!!), more stupid teenybopper romance that is poisoning the remaining non-pubescent-girl masochists watching this show, another 5 minute story line with Sheriff Stickuphisass, and acting that screams "I want to move on to movies now!!!" from all the actors, Kristen Bell especially. I'm actively pissed at the insults enough that I hope even the FBI idea dies now.

Anonymous said...

I agree with UAM. It is telling when the best thing about the episode is the celebrity guest star. VM and Piz help an aging musician come to grips with his past and play music anew? Give me a break. These last few episodes have really convinced me that Thomas is in a slump and that it is better to put the show out of its misery than to create Veronica Mars: The Phantom Menace or whatever they are going to call it.

G. Bob said...

Ugh. I've never disliked an episode of VM before now. The mystery is solved by Veronica actually looking at the bag? Yeah, that's the smart Veronica we've grown to love.

Romantic subplots have always been a bit of seasoning to a show full of strong storytelling. Last night, that seasoning was the main course and it tasted pretty bad.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, VM suffers from some of the problems that many shows do. Sophomore and junior slumps. A longer television season as opposed to the shorter British ones. Scheduling issues (which are of course beyond Thomas's control). Really, if this episode is as good as it gets when Thomas KNOWS that he might get cancelled and needs to do his best, why bother with another year in any format? He was obviously desperate enough and in love with his characters enough to compromise on the long arcs. By the same token, he turned the show into a silly high school/college mystery procedural with the occaisonal after school special preaching. Who needs another year of this when there are Scooby Doo reruns?

Lisa said...

Huh. I wasn't bothered by not having an intriguing mystery at all, and I liked how this episode gave all these characters some breathing room. I thought it was the most enjoyable VM episode I'd seen for a long time.

RandomRanter said...

I felt like, much like this week's HIMYM, they took stuff that on the surface seems dumb and trite and made it really work. Yes, the mystery solution was relatively easy, but I think that makes sense for a self contained episode. The mystery worked better than last week's. Although, the actor playing Bronson seemed very off to me this week.

Anonymous said...

I liked this episode, but wow, there was a lot going on -- at times I thought it felt a little jumpy. I can definitely sense that the writers and producers had to scramble to cover more ground in these last few episodes once they got the shortened season order.

It was a nice showcase for Piz, though. I've always liked the character but he's been pretty underused until now, like most of Veronica's friends. (I hope poor Chris Lowell is enjoying working with decent writers before he switches over to Private Practice. I still can't believe how annoying that back-door pilot was.)

K J Gillenwater said...

I liked this ep, too. Wallace had some classic lines with Veronica. Mac had an actual role to play with stuff to do. More like the old VM we've missed.

Paul Rudd was a delightful addition.

I even found the awkwardness between Piz & Veronica watchable. I was very glad to see they didn't make him into some kind of lovesick fool (although I think he probably was off-camera and keeps it well-hidden).

What I really miss are the long-arc mysteries. There was something else going on with Veronica's free time besides a 'minor' case. There was always something more major going on...a murder, a rape. Something big and scary.

How are they going to have a good season finale without a life-threatening moment in there?

Tobias said...

This show has a pretty good track record of using their Special Guest Stars well, and this was no exception. Dug Rudd quite a lot, especially the Beatles argument.

(Incidentally, there's a debate on the basis of Rudd's character here.)

Anonymous said...

There was actually more "mystery" in previous PSA episode than in this one. And even though I agree that Paul Rudd was a good guest star that wasn't enough to make this a good episode. I'm giving it a B-

I've thought about this, and the biggest problem I have with season 3 of Veronica Mars is that one of things I used to enjoy most about this show - the excellent characterization of even it's minor characters - no longer exists.

Logan has devolved into a whipped mopey shadow of his former-self. Even worse: he's become dull! All the great non-PC lines that usually went to him are now Dick's (and even though Ryan is doing a great job with them I still mourn for the demise of former funny, sarcastic Logan Echolls).

Keith: Killing off Lamb was an ever bigger mistake than I imagined, because righteous Sheriff Mars is kinda annoying.

Wallace: well, those few rare moments when he actually gets some screen time he's 50%funny and 50%Meh.

Mac: Still great.

Weevil: they're obviously playing another round of Where's Weevil? on the show.

They need to fix those characters if they want the show to become great again, but considering it's either gonna be cancelled or turned into a whole other show that'll probably never happen.

Unknown said...

Well, this episode sucked less. But I am hating the one-episode mysteries, because they're so...lame. They did them so much better before this that I don't know what the problem was.

I am HATING the Mac/Max thing. It makes no sense that she'd dump the hottie for...another nerd. Who has HOOKER ISSUES. Ew. Ew. Ew. I hated this. (However, since one way or another the character is done in three more episodes, does it really matter? I guess not.)

The good moments: Wallace having to deal with Girl Talk, and Dick's "lion" speech. That was about it.
*sigh* Even I'm about ready to say, cancel already.

Anonymous said...

FYI - The Hollywood Reporter has an article this morning that says the FBI version of the show went over very well and is now looking good for a pickup. The failure of Gilmore Girls to return helped out a lot as well.

Anonymous said...

"FYI - The Hollywood Reporter has an article this morning that says the FBI version of the show went over very well and is now looking good for a pickup."

I've said it before, if this pickup news is true (and, at this point really, what blackmail photos does Rob Thomas have of Dawn Ostroff?), I hope they realize that carrying on the Veronica Mars name does more harm than good.

I hope they realize that being able to carry over the pathetic 1.8 Million viewers who are VM loyalists pales in comparison to the audience-repellent the branding "Veronica Mars" has become. It is in their best interest to start anew without the legacy of awfulness VM is now carrying. If they really need this new pilot FBI series, give the series and the lead character a new name and identity.

K J Gillenwater said...

Wow. That's pretty harsh. Already upset at a new version of VM before you've even seen it? Assuming that any problems with this season will carry over into something completely new?

I am the optimist. The first two years of VM was great. I think the 3rd season wavered mainly due to budget constraints (not being able to afford certain characters for more than just a handful of episodes) and the uncertainty of renewal. They tried to do something new this season to possibly garner more viewers, and it didn't really work.

But to assume that these issues will carry over to a brand new incarnation of Veronica is rather narrow-minded. I'm willing to give it a chance.

Anonymous said...

UAM - drinking some haterade with those chips? I don't really understand what was not to like about the episode.

Firstly, guest stars are usually the highlight of an episode - have you (anonymous) ever watched TV before?

Secondly, Veronica wasn't exactly championing her investigatory success when she discovered the bag, she looked just as annoyed as, I'm sure, everyone that thought it was a ridiculous ending looked like.

Thirdly, Paul Rudd (as always) was amazing. I obviously don't know the reasons why everyone that comments on here watches TV but I watch it (especially network, prime time TV) to be entertained- and Paul Rudd was highly entertaining.

However, I will agree that Logan's part in last night's episode was confusing. I'm enjoying his jealousy and confusion about Piz and Veronica but the rest of his story seemed just like a vehicle to get Mac and Max in a room together. It's always been frustrating to watch scenes like the one where Logan's professor wouldn't let him finish. The episode in Dawson's where Pacey 'spits in the face of academia' is one of my all time TV highlights and to not see Logan get that kind of satisfaction was upsetting. But, maybe that little story-line isn't over yet.

Last thought, Dick's ghost riding the whip video! The few minutes of Dick in every episode alone are enough to keep me watching.

Anonymous said...

Kristin: "But to assume that these issues will carry over to a brand new incarnation of Veronica is rather narrow-minded. I'm willing to give it a chance."

You misunderstand me. By all accounts, having a reboot 4 years into the future pretty much means that all the current story lines will die and new ones will replace them. That is welcomed.

What I am saying is that, outside of storylines and characters, there is a certain cachet associated with the name "Veronica Mars", just like there is for "Grey's Anatomy" or "Friends". A spin-off (which is what this FBI show would essentially be) is pre-judged by the public (not just by me) based on the perception of the parent show. The child show carries some of the parent's DNA and the public audience expects a lot of similarities based on that.

The point I was trying to make is that, at this point, the new FBI show would gain more than it would lose by disassociating itself from it's parent name. The new show would probably have a tougher time attracting a new audience if it ties itself strongly to its Veronica Mars name, as that name has already proven to be ignored by the public. And since it is set in a totally different environment and presumably a vastly different supporting cast, why DOES it want to keep the VM name?

This new show, IMHO, would be better served if it did its best to TRUMPET itself as nothing like VM of the past. The best way to do that is to give the series and Kristen Bell's character a completely different name. Yes, that means it is not VM at all. So what? What do they lose by doing this, since the VM brand is so unpopular? Just announce a new show this fall starring Kristen Bell as an FBI agent NOT named veronica mars, and people that got turned off by the year long teen soap opera association might give it a better chance. But if Logan Echolls is still there, and is featured in the FBI promos as the on-off love interest, I can assure you that many will assume that nothing has really changed about the 'new' VM and will not magically attract new eyeballs. Teen soap will just be seen as slightly adult soap.

Anonymous said...

fastcharles said...

"UAM - drinking some haterade with those chips? I don't really understand what was not to like about the episode."

I outlined what I didn't like. Obviously you don't agree. But a disagreement with your view does not imply that I suffer from irrational hate, or that (anonymous) has never watched TV before, or that we are so stupid that we don't know why we should watch TV. Your implied superiority is childish, and your simpleton views tells me exactly why VM is losing audience share every week.

Taking the time to be critical of something implies a level of caring higher than simply ignoring it would. Alan's whole job is based on this. This show used to aim higher. Many of us are disappointed that it no longer does.

fastcharles said...
"The few minutes of Dick in every episode alone are enough to keep me watching."

Enough said.

Anonymous said...

Really, when the only people still defending the show are those that will watch any version regardless of how far it has decayed, that should tell you something. There are always going to be people who will watch any version of VM. But just because diehard fans want to see it in any incarnation is not a reason to keep it alive.

Anonymous said...

I agree that if The CW decides to go with Rob's "Veronica Mars in the FBI" idea, it's best if that's not Veronica Mars season 4.

I'd either go with a spin-off: she's still Veronica Mars, but the show has a new name, and only a few characters come along to the new show (and only if they'd REALLY fit in).

Or, just like UAM suggested (and perhaps that's best), lose the Veronica Mars name altogether and the stink of failure with it. And that's coming from someone who still likes the show and plans to keep watching.

The thing is, even if Rob's Veronica/FBI idea works out great and the show is better than ever before, (most) people still won't tune into a show that they didn't watch the first three seasons. So the ratings will keep on sucking.

A new start means a chance to gain a whole new audience, and the bulk of the Veronica Mars fans will check out Rob Thomas/Kristen Bell's new show anyway.

Anonymous said...

You know, I'm not sure it even matters. "CW's new detective show with the Veronica Mars girl" might have trouble drawing interest from people who've decided not to watch VM, despite a new title.

Donlee Brussel said...

Said it before, I'll say it again. Nielsen ratings don't mean anything. They're 5000 households getting paid $50 a week to write in diaries.

Veronica Mars could have 10 million households among the 110 million in the US. That 1.8 rating you guys are pulling out of your asses is from 5000 out of 110 million households.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you tell the advertisers that Nielsen ratings don't mean anything?

Anonymous said...

Donlee said: "Veronica Mars could have 10 million households among the 110 million in the US. That 1.8 rating you guys are pulling out of your asses is from 5000 out of 110 million households."

Talk about pulling numbers out or asses. Donlee, you are embarrassing yourself not only by your lack of understanding of the television industry and (for better or worse) how important the Nielsen ratings are, but your understanding of statistics is so poor that anyone with the faintest knowledge of it will dismiss you as a moron.

A 5000 sample size is more than enough to be accurate to within a few percentage points. Unless you can demonstrate a severe selection bias SPECIFICALLY against Veronica Mars among these 5000, you are talking out of your own ass. Furthermore, this number is even more accurate since it is taken every week, and not just a one time deal. How do you explain that, even among this 5000 sample, VM is generally trending downwards week to week this season? More conspiracy?

The possibility that the actual viewer number of VM is closer to 10 million (your number) and is just a victim of cruel selective fate is less than 1,000,000 to 1. It is MORE likely that the actual number of VM viewers is only 300,000 and is OVER represented in the special 5000 sample than your scenario (but both are highly, HIGHLY unlikely). Why does the bias have to be in disfavor of VM instead of in favor of it?

As Anonymous said, it is not a number WE pull out of our asses, but the number that the $50 Billion dollar TV industry accepts as accurate enough to invest their overwhelming huge amounts of dollars based upon it, flawed or not. The only person pulling numbers out of their asses is you.

Anonymous said...

I suppose my comment to anonymous was a tad bit caty - I apologize.

Fastcharles said...

I.. "obviously don't know the reasons why everyone that comments on here watches TV but I watch it (especially network, prime time TV) to be entertained- and Paul Rudd was highly entertaining."

I'm pretty sure that was me explaining why I enjoyed the episode.

I didn't call anyone stupid or any other names for that matter.

Hooray for angry bloggers! - The haterade comment still stands, obviously.

K J Gillenwater said...

Why is everyone acting like VM is a 2nd-rate show? This was the first season it was iffy, and it was all because Rob Thomas decided (or the powers that be) to change from a season arc to a partial season arc and then to no mystery arc. I think *that* was a mistake.

VM did so poorly in the ratings because of its Tuesday night time. The first season I couldn't watch it live because there were TWO other shows I and my husband wanted to watch more. I have TiVO, but can only tape 2 shows at once, not 3. I'm sure I'm not the only one out there who was in the same boat.

If they had given VM a Friday night timeslot, it may have fared better. There are teeny-boppers at home on weekend nights...and moms with small kids...and plenty of other people. If that "Ghost Whisperer" show can do well, then VM could have done better there as well.

I'm a defender of the show b/c the first 2 seasons were very entertaining. Not because I will watch anything with Veronica Mars slapped on it. If I didn't feel it was entertaining enough, I would have dropped it long ago.

Isabel said...

I admit to really missing the longer mysteries. I miss the NEED to tune in every week to see what will happen. Plus, the mysteries are pulled together too soon and don't give us, the viewers, time to try to figure it out along with VM.

I liked seeing Leo again. I missed him and I didn't even know it.

Paul Rudd did a great job. I wonder how they can bring him back for more?!