By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
So far Kristen Bell has been a standout addition to the new freshman class of teenage TV stars. She’s already wowed discerning viewers on HBO’s Deadwood as a murderously tough swindler, and believably played a 13-year-old at the Dorothy Chandler this summer in Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. What she does nicely on Veronica is reveal how the rich-clique superiority of a lucky girl has hardened into the icy rebel wisdom of a castoff who’s seen how deeply fucked the world is. Hers is not the typical 17-year-old girl velocity — walking fast but going nowhere — but almost an athletic awareness of the movement of those around her, the tough, darting, watchful grace of someone who doesn’t want to get sandbagged by life again. And she shows the swindler’s charm, too, when goading others into risky detective work and sweet-talking her father into thinking she’s staying away from the Lilly Kane murder case. Bell’s at-home scenes with Colantoni are genuinely appealing and ground the show in much the way Peter Gallagher’s scenes with Adam Brody do The O.C. In shows that thrive on crazy situations, Colantoni and Gallagher are the kind of banter-ready, swell-guy dads that can prevent a concept from turning into cheap melodrama.
Perhaps the real test will be how dark Veronica Mars is willing to get, which might be a struggle if the show helps further UPN’s ratings upswing of late. (The pre-debut buzz was that it could be a defining show for the network the way 21 Jump Street was for Fox and Buffy was for the WB.) Already, Veronica knows that solving a mystery doesn’t necessarily make problems go away. Sometimes she’s used the information she’s gleaned to try to bring a tense situation — disharmony between students, fear of retribution, a breach of the racial divide — back to normal. Other times, she has no qualms exposing the crime. In this respect she’s certainly closer to becoming a world-weary Lew Archer than a peppy Jessica Fletcher. If the creators stick to their guns, things should get especially weird for Veronica as she tries to reconcile an all-too-human desire to be accepted again in a closed society with a need to make the pieces of the Lilly murder puzzle into more than just fragments of information on her crowded corkboard. Are they compatible? This is a show with the potential to be a gripping, sad, funny and rollicking collision course into adulthood. Here’s one more comparison. Joan of Arcadia asks: What’s a smart girl to do when confronted with the Almighty? Veronica Mars asks: What’s a smart girl to do when confronted with the possibility that the Almighty doesn’t exist?Veronica Mars | UPN | Tuesdays, 9 p.m.
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