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Veronica Mars: The Complete First Season

Review Written by: Arlo J. Wiley
Film: A+
Video/Audio/Extras: A+/A/D+

Directed by: Mark Piznarski, Harry Winer, Michael Fields, Nick Gomez, Sarah Pia Anderson, Nick Marck, etc.
Written by: Rob Thomas, Jed Seidel, Diane Ruggiero, Dayna North, Phil Klemmer, Aury Wallington, etc.
Produced by: Paul Kurta
Starring: Kristen Bell, Percy Daggs III, Teddy Dunn, Jason Dohring, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Francis Capra
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it

When someone asks you what you're going to be doing later, how often is it that you have the opportunity to respond, completely seriously, "I'm going to watch this great new show on UPN"? That's the kind of response you usually get only when someone really needs an excuse to get away from you because you have ebola or something equally life-threatening. UPN has never been a very popular network, not even when they hosted the last two seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer after the WB dropped it. However, after Buffy's closing, they were doubly screwed: They didn't even have their little cult hotspot anymore. Thus, it came as a great surprise when, in fall 2004, one of UPN's freshman series debuted to rave reviews and pretty decent numbers by the network's standards. Say hello to Veronica Mars.

From the mind of novelist Rob Thomas (who originally planned the series as one of his books) comes this fresh, funny, romantic, compelling, moving and completely addictive mystery series. In the year preceding the pilot episode, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) had several life-altering events take place: Her best friend Lily Kane (Amanda Seyfried) was murdered, her father Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) was removed from the sherriff's office for suspecting that Lily's father Jake Kane (Kyle Secor) had perpetrated the deed instead of the convicted Abel Koontz (Christian Clemenson), her boyfriend, Lily's brother Duncan Kane (Teddy Dunn), broke up with her for no apparent reason, she was drugged and raped at a party and her mother Lianne Mars (Corinne Bohrer) left Veronica and her father. Talk about a rough year. Now, with all of that heavy emotional baggage in tow, the smart and sarcastic Veronica has dedicated herself to finding out who really murdered Lily all the while working for her father's private investigation firm with the aid of her friend Wallace Fennel (Percy Dags III), taking cases from fellow troubled Neptune High School students such as biker gang leader Eli "Weevil" Navarro (Francis Capra) and Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), the son of famous movie star Aaron Echolls (Harry Hamlin). This is an excellent DVD transfer of the series, with some of the clearest video I can remember seeing. Veronica Mars is a colourful series, oftentimes using certain colors to highlight certain themes, and the DVD set represents that perfectly. It's a beauty to behold. The sound is also fantastic, the series' music coming through very effectively, especially the great theme song, "We Used to Be Friends" by the Dandy Warhols.

Veronica Mars is the best TV show on the air now. It is even better than Arrested Development, The Sopranos or The West Wing. When it first hit airwaves, Veronica was being hailed as "The New Buffy" and I'm going to have to second that claim. It is every bit as sharp, witty and densely plotted as Buffy was and provides the greatest week-to-week thrill since the Hellmouth closed up shop back in early 2003. This is not to say that Veronica lives in Buffy's shadow; far from it. It is its own wildly engaging animal with more-than-memorable characters and great dialogue. It starts out rocky and a tad awkward, though most series do. By the end of the first disc, however, you'll be completely in love with the characters and the amazing cast that brings them to life. Kristen Bell is fantastic in the title role, providing a great teen heroine that calls to mind a mix of a somewhat more optimistic Buffy and a much spunkier and sexier Nancy Drew. The relationship she and Erinco Colantoni have as daughter Veronica and father Keith is superb. It doesn't feel forced or strained like most TV family relationships; they know each other's faults, but they still love and accept each other as they are. Jason Dohring as jackass Logan and Francis Capra as delinquent but smart and resourceful Weevil are also of notice. Series creator Rob Thomas does a brilliant job of managing the overall story arc, weaving the mysteries together in a fashion that will have you perpetually on the edge of your seat. When all of the threads come together in the shocking season finale, "Leave It to Beaver"...yowza. Other great episodes include the poker-centric "An Echolls Family Christmas" and the revelatory "A Trip to the Dentist."

It's a shame that such a great series is so lax on the extras. However, let's not blame Rob Thomas: Warner Home Video proposed that he could have an extras-heavy set released after the second season of the series began or an extras-light set that would be released before the second season premiere so that new viewers could catch up. Thomas wisely (considering the options) chose the latter, only to have Warner push back the release date to after the second season started anyway. You always get bit in this business when you try to be a nice guy. So, all we've got here are a plethora of short deleted scenes that add up to about 20 minutes. None of them are particularly enlightening, nor do they really add anything to the show, but it's still nice to see more material featuring such wonderful characters. Even if we wish that material had been extensive enough to cover all six discs.

It may be special features-challenged, but the Veronica Mars season one boxset still looks and sounds great, and is more than worth purchasing if you're into intelligent, thoughtful, well-plotted serial storytelling...and who isn't?

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