As with all the Smart Pop series, the word "unauthorized" is displayed twice prominently on the front cover and again on the spine, but make no mistake: show creator (and frequent episode writer) Rob Thomas edited this collection of essays, penned the opening piece, and...
As with all the Smart Pop series, the word "unauthorized" is displayed twice prominently on the front cover and again on the spine, but make no mistake: show creator (and frequent episode writer) Rob Thomas edited this collection of essays, penned the opening piece, and provided a half- to one-page response to each chapter. The CW owns the show, but Thomas was its heart and soul, so this is as authorized as most fans care about.
If you haven''t seen the show, a few of these essays will seem pointless, but even then most of them will read as well as any media analysis out there. Authors vary from media studies professors to critics, writers, fans, and psychologists.
As expected, the essays are uneven but none fall to embarrassing levels and a few stand out as excellent. Thomas'' responses are highlights of the book. He provides the expected anecdotes and "aw shuck"-ing but he adds context that helps interpret the essays.
The book is handicapped by having been published between seasons two and three. Since the show ended after season three, waiting a year would have provided a complete view of the run. As it is, many of the essays are left pondering if or how future seasons will challenge their thesis.
Over those first two seasons, the same episodes and the same lines from the theme appear repeatedly in the essays. This is good: it gives multiple views of the most-effective episodes and draws the (carefully chosen) theme song into most of the character elements in the series. But because of this, these episodes are discussed in detail and the finales of both seasons one and two are the most popular. If you haven''t seen these, be aware that you''ll know (almost) everything about them by the time you''ve finished the book.
Whether you like the show, are interested in its popularity, or are interested in media studies and screenwriting, Neptune Noir is a worthwhile read.
Specific comments on a few of the essays:
"Introduction: Digressions on How Veronica Mars
Saved My Career and, Less Importantly, My Soul" by Rob Thomas is the obligatory "How I created the show" reminiscence. It''s a fine read, but doesn''t add anything to the show itself; it''s really about Thomas. It has the expected amount of self-congratulatory tone (how he fell from grace into the writing schlock, how VM was his last, best hope to write something he cared about, yadda yadda yadda) but isn''t overly sanctimonious. I was pleasantly surprised.
"Welcome to Camp Noir" by Lani Diane Rich finally provides a term to describe the show. I''d argue that "arch" is more appropriate than "camp," but it''s a good term that most people who haven''t seen the show can "get." Thomas'' reaction (about how much he hates camp) is interesting. The essay does a good job identifying which characters bring the camp/arch elements and which supply the noir (and how the major characters balance or meld the two). A high point of the book.
"Story Structure and Veronica Mars" by Geoff Klock. I was very excited about this one, but it turns out to be a first-year walkthrough of one episode of VM. Not bad, but not what the title promised.
"Veronica Mars: Girl. Detective." by Evelyn Vaughn suggests that VM herself is allowed--in TV culture--to get away with her behavior because of her "girly" elements. Not quite a feminist analysis, this is worth a think.
"Daddy''s Girl" by Joyce Millman is the obligatory Freudian analysis of the show as Electra complex. Had to be here and Millman does a credible job with it.
"Daddy Dualities" by Amy Berner is a better analysis of the Kieth/Veronica dynamic. Berner contrasts all of the recurring fathers on the show (including Duncan).
"On the Down-Low" by Lynne Edwards is very short, but provides the most interesting view in the book. Edwards discusses the use of race in the show, from the lynching symbolism in the pilot to the appropriation signifying from American black culture.
"The Duck and the Detective" by Chris McCubbin addresses the question of why VM has so many avowedly conservative fans. I noticed a conservative bent while watching the show (in the traditional, Goldwater Conservative, sense) and McCubbin tries to identify elements of the show that appeal to that demographic--as well as to explain why these don''t turn off more liberal viewers.
"I''m in Love with My Car" by Lawrence Watt-Evans discusses the use of cars and motorcycles in the show. VM shows people in cars more than almost any other show on the air and Watt-Evans describes their use of vehicles more as costuming than props, with the model, age, and look of each car chosen to match the character and scene. Certainly Logan''s bright yellow SUV/Jeepy thing is a significant part of his character, but the other observations Watt-Evans makes would never have occurred to me.
"Boom Goes the Dynamite" by Misty Hook is the obligatory Veronica/Logal "shipper" essay. Enough said.
"Innocence Lost" by Samantha Bornemann hypothesizes that "teen girl drama" began in 1994 with the much-lamented) Claire Danes vehicle My So-Called Life and contrasts VM with that and Buffy (of course). It''s a shallow comparison and a shallow premise (readers older than 25, or who have seen television from before 1990, will certainly challenge the claim that MSCL was completely unprecedented), but Buffy is the elephant in the room of any 20-oriented drama circa 2000, so someone had to do it.
Overall, a good read that helps enjoy the show. It also makes a more informed viewer for other shows in or near the genre.
Just be sure you''ve seen all of season 2 first.