‘Veronica Mars’ Hangs with the Cool Kids
Kate O’Hare, Zap2it.com
October 2, 2005
LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) – UPN’s teen-sleuth drama “Veronica Mars” was definitely lingering at the bottom of the ratings heap in its first season, but that doesn’t mean nobody was watching. While the show wasn’t exactly getting a mass audience, it became a cause celebre for many TV critics and Hollywood insiders.
With further help from the show’s passionate fans, “Mars” won renewal, only to wind up on Wednesdays, right across from ABC’s megahit “Lost.”
“I wish that the juggernaut that is ‘Lost’ wasn’t our direct competition,” says “Mars” creator Rob Thomas. “The flip side of that is UPN gave us their number-one time slot [after 'America's Next Top Model']. I just pray that the people with the TiVOs watch us and tape the other show, because we need it.
“I’ve got friends who write for ‘Lost,’ and I say [to them], ‘You don’t have to suck much, just suck enough to lose two million viewers.’”
Thomas’ friends are writing partners Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. Regarding Thomas’ comments, Horowitz replies, “Eddy and I would be happy to respond. We love Rob. We LOVE ‘Veronica Mars.’ So we decided to run the ‘just suck enough’ idea past our boss, [executive producer] Damon Lindelof. He responded with what we think is a fair counter proposal. We will ship two million ‘Lost’ viewers over to ‘Veronica Mars’ ASAP. But on one condition … Rob must rename the show ‘Lost: Veronica Mars.’ It’s time to franchise up, baby.”
Whatever the outcome of this match-up, “Veronica Mars” has definitely amped up the stakes and the star power for season two — with the help of some personal connections.
Those who watched the season premiere last week (if you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading now or forever hold your peace) know that at the very end of the episode, a bus carrying Neptune High students home from a field trip — those not wealthy enough to pay for a return limo ride, that is — plunged off a cliff into the sea. Left behind at the bus’s last convenience-store stop, Veronica (Kristen Bell) was spared.
Viewers also met pro-baseball team owner and Neptune mayoral candidate Woody Goodman (Steve Guttenberg, who’s in at least seven episodes), and bikini-clad trophy wife Kendall Casablancas (former “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” star Charisma Carpenter, who’s in at least six). Carpenter’s stint follows guest appearances last year by “Buffy” star Alyson Hannigan and online comments this summer by “Buffy” and “Angel” creator Joss Whedon, who called “Mars” the “Best. Show. Ever.” and will also being making an appearance.
Some have called “Veronica Mars” the successor to “Buffy,” since both shows feature a plucky blond high-schooler coping with large dramas.
“I see a lot of similarities between the two shows and the two writers,” says Carpenter, “with the wit and the humor and the hero involved, the drama of it all, struggling to be your own person and have an unusual life.”
Thomas says he and executive producer Joel Silver compared notes about casting for Kendall, and the two names they came together on were Heather Graham and Carpenter. With Graham on ABC’s midseason comedy “Emily’s Reasons Why Not,” Carpenter was first choice.
“What made it much easier,” Thomas says, “is that my wife is an acquaintance of Charisma. My wife used to manage a children’s bookstore in Los Angeles, and Charisma was a frequent customer. So I already knew Charisma was a big ‘Veronica Mars’ fan. Trust me, it’s so much easier to ask an actor who’s a fan of your show to do your show.”
Also helpful was the fact that Carpenter attended high school near San Diego, where “Mars” is filmed. “I’m home,” she says. “I went to Bonita and Chula Vista high schools. I’ve rented a condo in my old stomping grounds, and I’ve enjoyed that.”
The personal connections continue this week in “Drivers Ed,” in which Veronica returns to the convenience store and meets clerk Duane Anders, played by writer/director Kevin Smith (“Clerks,” “Chasing Amy,” “Dogma”).
Smith comes to “Mars” because of his friendship with producer Dan Etheridge, who has acted in three of Smith’s films: “Dogma,” “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” (with Smith as Silent Bob) and “Jersey Girl.”
“We were talking about the show,” Smith says, “and I said, ‘Hey, dude, I’ll be happy to go on any time you want me to come on.’ He said, ‘I’ll keep that in mind.’ A week later, he’s going, ‘OK, how about the second episode?’
“When you meet me, I’m a guy who works at a convenience story that was the last stop for the driver before he went off the cliff. I’m capitalizing on the disaster. It’s not that I’m a mean guy, but I’m kind of a capitalist.”
After filming, Smith found time to actually watch season one of “Veronica Mars.” Calling in after seeing six episodes, he says, “It’s awesome.
“It’s proof that TV can be way better than movies. It’s phenomenal. Kristen’s a great actress, cast is really tight, great writing, crisp plotting. I think it’s the best show on TV right now.”
Asked if his show has become where the cool kids want to be, Thomas says, “Man, I hope so. It certainly feels like there’s momentum building in that direction.”