Taken on synopsis alone, Veronica Mars — the cultish mid-aughts teen detective series starring Kristen Bell — can sound a little, well … girly. Any show about a plucky teenage heroine is a tough sell to male viewers, especially one entirely devoid of science fiction. Yet anybody still thinking that Veronica Mars is just for women is seriously underestimating its appeal. A few months back, we made the case for men watching Scandal, arguing that the ABC drama shares some DNA with certain guy-friendly shows, but that’s even more true of Veronica Mars. With the 2004–2007 series’ long-awaited big-screen sequel arriving tomorrow in theaters and on VOD, Vulture offers up seven reasons male hold-outs should finally commit to binge-watching Veronica Mars.
1. Its creator is Party Down’s Rob Thomas.
Just as Veronica Mars should be required viewing, so should Rob Thomas’ follow-up co-creation: Party Down, a legitimately brilliant short-lived Starz comedy about a catering crew in Los Angeles. Those who have seen all twenty Party Down episodes will notice a lot of similarities in style and humor, as well as many familiar faces (besides Kristen Bell, obviously): Not only do Ken Marino and Ryan Hansen have majorly funny recurring roles on Veronica Mars, but Adam “Are we having fun yet?” Scott and Jane Lynch pop up in episodes, and many other actors cross between the two series as well. (Plus, Martin Starr has a big role in the film.) If nothing else, three seasons of Veronica Mars should be a nice tonic to tide fans over until they finally give Party Down the Kickstarter movie it deserves. It’s time.
2. It’s basically Buffy without the vampires.
Buffy Summers, the definitive kickass TV heroine with crossover appeal, is the spiritual godmother of Veronica Mars, who is just as witty, determined and charismatic as the Slayer. A similar comparison can be made of Joss Whedon and Rob Thomas, whose signature shows both
began on the WB did hard time on UPN, crammed in pop-cultural references and allusions galore, and embraced goofiness along some heavy drama. While Veronica Mars forgoes Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s supernatural villains for real-world baddies, the heroines’ respective quests are structured similarly, with season-long mysteries being juggled along with episodic cases. As is often the case with Veronica Mars, the proof is in the guest stars: Buffy alums who turn up on the show include Alyson Hannigan, Charisma Carpenter, and even Joss Whedon himself.
3. It has guest stars to rival Arrested Development.
Looking back at the roster of now famous actors who guest-starred on Veronica Mars over the course of the show’s run, it’s surprising how many turned up before they became household names. Not counting the Party Down and Buffy folks mentioned above, the show has memorable scenes and episodes featuring, among many others, a young Leighton Meester, a pre–Zero Dark Thirty Jessica Chastain, and a pre-“yeah, bitch!”-catchphrase Aaron Paul. Other notable cameos and appearances include Kevin Smith as a convenience store clerk, Paris Hilton as a particularly irksome classmate, and Paul Rudd as a disillusioned ’90s alt-rocker. All this, plus Arrested Development’s own Alia Shawkat and Michael Cera appear in a season-two episode that aired a mere month after AD’s cancellation. Underdogs gotta stick together.
4. It’s an addictive murder noir, like Twin Peaks.
Like the iconic David Lynch series, Veronica Mars initially centers on the murder of a high-school girl — in this case, Veronica’s best friend, played by Big Love’s Amanda Seyfried — and explores a world in which everyone is a potential suspect. The show lacks the mystical elements and outright quirkiness that made Twin Peaks so unique, but as Veronica’s quest to solve the mystery sends her further down the rabbit hole, its puzzlelike narrative slowly unfolds in a way that Agent Cooper would approve of.
5. It’s a high-school show that deals with real issues, à la Freaks and Geeks.
Like the great ‘90s teen show created by Paul Feig and Judd Apatow, Veronica Mars features high-school-age characters who are relatable and fully-formed, with conversations and concerns that extend far beyond which lunch table they’re doomed to sit at. Like Freaks and Geeks a few years before it, Veronica Mars’ dialogue is grounded in sarcasm and off-beat humor, but doesn’t shy away from or sugarcoat serious issues that young people can face, such as parental abuse, date rape, drug use, and inequality. Did we mention that the second season starts with, like, tons of kids dying in a school bus crash? As we said: dark.
6. Like The Wire, it actively addresses class politics.
Okay, so Veronica Mars isn’t really that much like The Wire (sorry to get your hopes up). That said, unlike shows like Gossip Girl and The O.C., which focus largely on the lives of the rich and glamorous, with a token Dan or Ryan thrown in for contrast, Veronica Mars is a show that actively calls attention to class difference and the divide between the haves and have nots. (As our heroine says in the pilot: “This is my school. If you go here, your parents are either millionaires or your parents work for millionaires. Neptune, California, a town without a middle class.”) Mars herself is a lower middle-class daughter of a disgraced private investigator father, and the world of the show is ethnically and socioeconomically diverse, paying just as much attention to characters like Weevil, the head of a Latino biker gang, as it does the rich, popular set that Veronica used to run with.
7. It’s way better to geek out about than True Detective.
Veronica Mars seasons are built around a sprawling, season-long mystery, and with 20-plus 40-minute episodes per season, it gives viewers a lot to work with. This is a show that rewards attention to detail and lends itself to obsessive dissection, and the number of fake-outs, cliff-hangers, callbacks, and red herrings built into each season are enough to overflow a subreddit. Plus, unlike True Detective, the clues actually lead somewhere and the mystery is actually mysterious. Sorry but not sorry, green-eared spaghetti monster.