If you’re wondering why there’s so much fuss about the “Veronica Mars” movie opening Friday, where the heck have you been?
Clearly, you weren’t paying attention the first time around. And those of us who were fans sure wish a lot more of you had been watching when Veronica debuted on TV a decade ago.
This is a show that a lot of critics (including yours truly) went gaga over back in 2004. That a lot of critics (including yours truly) worried and fussed over, always concerned about the ratings. Which always gave us cause for concern.
The term “cult hit” is overused, but that’s exactly what “Veronica Mars” was. In its two seasons on UPN and one season on The CW, the show averaged about 2.5 million viewers. In the world of network television, that’s not a lot.
But viewers who watched “Veronica Mars” really loved it. Because as outlandish as the premise of the show was, the characters transcended the screen and quickly came to feel real to avid fans.
Make no mistake about it, making that work was no easy task. Veronica (played by a then-unknown Kristen Bell) was a 17-year-old student who was also a detective.
Long a member of the high-school in-crowd in the seaside town of Neptune, Calif., Veronica became a social pariah in the wake of the murder of her best friend, Lilly (then-unknown Amanda Seyfried) — a case that her father, Keith (Enrico Colantoni), was unable to solve, costing him his job as sheriff.
You had to buy that a 17-year-old girl could be incredibly smart, incredibly perceptive and incredibly lucky (at times). That before she graduated from high school, Veronica could be right up there with the best detectives in TV history.
It was shockingly easy to make the leap — a combination of great writing, great casting and great acting.
Nearly a decade ago, as the show was about to launch, creator/executive producer Rob Thomas acknowledged that the challenge was, “Can you make that notion of a teenage private eye seem real?
“I did get into this thinking — what is the postmodern Nancy Drew? How can you get to a place where it’s not a curious girl finding the secret jewels in the haunted cave? Where it feels like today? Where that girl feels real? I started with that idea that could sound hokey [and] I tried to make it feel real.”
It worked. And the show holds up remarkably well a decade later. Last summer, my 22-year-old daughter finally watched the “Veronica Mars” DVDs I gave her a couple of years ago. And as much as it pained her to admit that I was right, she, too, fell in love with the show.
If you haven’t seen it, by all means buy the DVDs or watch the repeats on cable channel Pivot. (Check the listings — it’s all over the schedule.)
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@ sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.