Mission ‘Veronica Mars’

veronica_mars third season cast

As much as I enjoyed “Serenity,” the big-screen follow-up to Joss Whedon’s cult classic TV series “Firefly,” it didn’t set the world on fire at the movie box office. So it’ll be interesting to see how “Veronica Mars” does when the former UPN and CW show comes to the big-screen on March 14 courtesy of a Kickstarter campaign.

I’ll be there, no doubt, and I know a few other fans of the series – which aired for three years ending in 2007 – but was a decade ahead of its time – will be, too.

But it’s hard to imagine the movie will be a box-office success. And you know what? That’s okay.

“Veronica Mars” was nothing more than a cult series during its three seasons on TV. And while I wish it had been a hit and was still on the air, those of us who watched it then loved it.

Like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and a few other cult classics, “Veronica Mars” probably suffered from airing just a little before the prevalence of social media, especially when paired with TV watching. It’s pretty common now to see people live-tweeting “The Walking Dead” or “Game of Thrones” or, before its finale, “Breaking Bad.” “Veronica Mars” would have greatly benefited from that kind of love, which can turn a small cult show into a big cult show.

If you haven’t watched it, I urge you to seek it out, online or streaming or on demand or on disc. Because “Veronica Mars” was almost certainly the smartest, darkest, hippest, snarkiest and most downright appealing show to mix noir crime drama with a coming-of-age story.

In the Rob Thomas-created series, Veronica (played by Kristen Bell) and her father, County Sheriff Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) live in Neptune, California. Veronica is part of the high school in crowd when her world is torn apart: Her best friend Lily Kane (Amanda Seyfried) is murdered. After Keith pursues Lily’s father, a software millionaire, for the killing and the case falls through – a more “perfect” suspect is arrested and confesses to the crime – Keith is thrown out of office by Neptune’s vengeful upperclass. Veronica is exiled by her crowd and, on a fateful night, is given a date-rape drug and assaulted.

If “Veronica Mars” sounds dark, it is. But it’s lightened not only by the way Keith and Veronica deal with their outlier status – Keith opens a detective agency, Mars Investigations, and Veronica helps out in the office but takes on her own cases at school – but the tone of the series is slyly, ironically funny.

Not that the series could help but be darkly funny with a cast that included not only Bell and Colantoni but Jason Dohring as Bell’s sometimes antagonist/often boyfriend Logan. Logan was the “bad boy” that so many fans loved to see Veronica with.

The series walked a delicate balance between high school and college heartbreak – Veronica found out what it was like to be an exile in teen society – with real noir crime stories about missing persons, assault and murder.

Bell was always believable as the resourceful young woman who often put herself in danger but never came across as a superhero. In fact, it was her vulnerability – and her realistic and loving relationship with her father – that gave the heroine, who could be hard-edged, a lot of heart.

“Veronica Mars” had its finger on the pop culture pulse, including when Veronica adopts the expletive “frak” from the contemporary “Battlestar Galactica” series and when “Buffy” creator Joss Whedon, a big fan of the series, stopped by for a cameo.

Thomas’ eye for casting the series’ many supporting and recurring roles was second to none. Besides Seyfried, who went on to a movie career, small roles were played by cult-y actors from Ken Marino as Keith’s rival PI Vinnie Van Lowe to Krysten Ritter as Gia.

If the “Veronica Mars” movie isn’t a huge hit – or even, hard to imagine, isn’t very good – that’s too bad. But the series will always be the series and it will always be good.

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