Veronica Mars is dunzo, say some of today and yesterday's rumor-mongers. Others have spread the item that if the show has a fourth season, it will be set at Quantico, VA, years in the future as Veronica trains to join the FBI. Some people seem to be busting up at hearing news of cancellation or radical alteration.

This is the predictable reaction among those passionate about television. Fans seem to want their favorite shows to be love affairs that last forever and a day. But seriously: Veronica should have ended after two seasons. It is spent. This season's stories have been preposterous, unintelligible, and offensive, often all at the same time. I'm thinking especially of everything to do with campus feminists, the culture of academia, and Veronica's relationship with Logan. Its style keeps getting more strangely baroque, with pretentiously shadowy lighting, aggressive canted angles, and overuse of colored lights. The narrative structure of the season has been a shambles, with lame bits of arc-storytelling slipped into teasers and final scenes and banal mysteries-of-the-week dominating. Good prime-time serials balance episodic and arcing narration, but VM stopped doing that this year.

I would rather a good show have a short run than see it extend beyond its natural life into a parody or pale imitation of itself. Veronica was great for its first season and pretty good for its second. That's a lot more than we get from most TV shows.

Next on my personal chopping block: Battlestar Galactica. I hope they kill that one off too, and soon.


Jason Mittell said...

Wow - glad you don't run the networks! I'd rather see a once excellent show that has slipped get a chance to regain footing, rather than cutting it off at its kneecaps. This season's VM is certainly a step down, but not a huge step - the dialogue is still as good as anything on TV, and the performances remain top-notch. I'll give you some clunky plotting & questionable relationship decisions.

Here's a bigger question - can we think of any shows that were once great, slipped, and then regained their greatness in later seasons? Aside from momentary glimpses of past glories (select episodes of seasons 6/7 of Buffy, for instance), the only instance I can think of is West Wing - the final season didn't quite match the first three years, but it overcame the brutal John Wells era to approach redemption.

michael z newman said...

Jason, I'll grant the point about dialog and performance. I just don't think that's enough to hang a show on.

I think you're asking whether a show can jump back over the shark. Is that what you're asking? I have no idea and can't think of any examples. I never really watched West Wing in the first place.

But another point occurs to me: shows set in high school often have trouble making a transition to college/real world life. Maybe one reason we remember My So-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks so fondly is that they never had to deal with this. I think Veronica was fundamentally about the conflict at Neptune High between the rich and poor kids, and the college setting isn't working for it at all. Many other shows seem less like themselves after leaving HS: Buffy, Happy Days...

And thanks for the image of myself running the networks. That made me smile.