Veronica Mars Part 1: Rob Thomas Buy Us Drinks Transcript

Chelsee: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the second season of Casually Obsessed. I’m your host, Chelsee Bergen. And I am really excited to be sharing with you a conversation with my dear friend, Bill Friday. In addition to being a poet and a baseball enthusiast, Bill is also a noir know-it-all so it only seemed fitting that we recorde an episode together about Veronica Mars.

We actually had so much to say that I split our conversation into two parts. This episode is part one. If you’re not familiar with the show, some things you will want to know is that it is a teen noir drama that was created by Rob Thomas. The series is set in the fictional Southern California town of Neptune, California, and it stars Kristen bell as Veronica Mars. The show begins after Veronica’s best friend has been murdered and she spends the first season diligently trying to solve that murder. 

The show’s original run was from 2004 to 2007. And then in 2013, Kristen Bell and Rob Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a feature film, which was released in 2014.

And then, a whole five years later, in 2019 a fourth season was released on Hulu. Since Veronica Mars has had a few different iterations along the way we decided to focus part one of our conversation on the first three seasons of the show. We’ll talk about the movie and season four in part two. So if you haven’t watched the fourth season yet, no need to worry.

Okay, let’s start the show.

[Theme Music]

One of the things that I was really… struck by— and this is going to maybe sound dumb— but one of the things that I was really struck by in preparing for this conversation is how good the first season is. Like, obviously I knew that it was good. I loved it. And I would tell people that, like, the show has three seasons and… the first one is really like the best, but it had been a while since I had watched it. And I think I had honestly forgotten just like how good it is. Like honestly, I think the first season of the show is, very nearly, a perfect season. Like, there are some things that could be better, or different. Um, but a lot of things about it are just like, really wonderful.

And I’d honestly forgotten until I watched the pilot again and then episodes two and three. And I was just like, wow, like, the show is so good. And I would be interested in talking a little bit about like, what is it about that first season that just, like, makes it so… such prime television?

Bill: [00:03:44] Like with many shows, um, that sort of come out of nowhere— and for the most part, Veronica Mars came out of nowhere. It was the kind of show that… What I think most of the… the prime time networks not called NBC, CBS or ABC, were trying to do at the time was grab hold of a much younger demographic and this was what they always tried to do and it didn’t happen until Veronica Mars.

And I, I mean, not even with Buffy the Vampire Slayer because Buffy the Vampire Slayer came from another medium. It was the film written by Josh Whedon from like 1992. And it, and that was so campy, uh, yeah… 

Chelsee: [00:04:42] It’s so bad it’s good, is what I would say about the, the Buffy movie. 

Bill: [00:04:47] Every review, you read that, “Oh, you need to watch this knowing how bad it is. You’ll like it better.” And, and I didn’t watch the movie until I had seen, jeez, at least the first five seasons of the series. And I thought, “Oh, God, I watched it in the wrong order. Didn’t I?” I should have seen the bad representation of the Whedonverse first. And then I can say, “ha ha, yeah, I remember that.” And everything would have felt better, but it felt awful for me watching it in reverse order.

But, you know, every, uh… the CW wants the WB and, and anything UPN wanted to call itself at the time— I mean, they all wanted to capture a something, and I think this is what every production room on all of the lots in, um, on the other side of the Hill of Hollywood tried to capture and they didn’t get it right until season one of Veronica Mars.

It, it wasn’t, “ooh, let’s watch Gossip Girl” or, ugh, okay I’m gonna— I’m gonna forget every series and, uh—

Chelsee: [00:06:04] Well, Gossip Girl did come after Veronica Mars by… not an insignificant amount of time. Given that Kristen Bell is the voice of the eponymous gossip girl.

Bill: [00:06:17] Eh. Point. 

Chelsee: [00:06:18] [Laughs]

Bill: [00:06:18] But it was just like this great big bucket of maybe that the networks kept trying to throw out to the public every year. Like, “please like this, we’ve done this for you.” And it never worked. Because I think all of the shows to some extent were so niche they didn’t hit enough levels to not just bring in broad demographic, but to interest a particular point on a demographic line long enough to establish loyalty … for lack of a better way to describe it. But when- when season one of Veronica Mars came out, it had damn near everything. And I think that was also seen in Veronica having a dad who wasn’t portrayed as an idiot. And as a very old person myself, let me just say thank God one show didn’t have the idiot dad, because that alone allowed for a broader reach of construct in the universe that was Veronica Mars. Um, characters weren’t caricatures. Well, except for Vinny van Lowe, but that was okay. Um— 

Chelsee: [00:07:46] That was intentional. 

Bill: [00:07:47] Yeah. Cause you had to have some buffoons somewhere, but it was appreciated. But it was seen as just that, uh, you’ve got a two minute spot of, of farce and you can get on with the rest of the show because you were allowed to breathe for a minute in between heroing moments.

But that first season, like you said, that was about a perfect season. And, and maybe that’s where people, even, even, even hardline Marshmallows, uh, kind of lose their way going from season one to two to three, because it was just so good that the, the crew in creation couldn’t put together another story arc of a season, as good as that. Um, enough slow reveal, the onion peel, all of those things where they didn’t give it to you all at once.

Like, “here’s the first 20 minutes of the pilot. Do you know everything now? Great. Now we don’t have to tell a story.” No! It was everything- you knew- they gave you just enough to keep coming back instead of so much that you said I’m good and… that’s rare. God, that’s rare. 

Chelsee: [00:09:13] Yeah. Yeah, the pilot is actually like fairly understated.

Like they give you all the key elements, they introduce you to the major players, but I was actually surprised in rewatching it, that I was like, “that’s all that happens in the first episode?” Like, because there are so many things having seen it all that I remember that I would have… I dunno, sort of assumed happened like early in the show, not specifically remembering the timeline, but it’s actually very, uh, evenly doled out I feel like.

Bill: [00:09:54] Mmhm. Yeah. They, they didn’t, they didn’t choke you on an entire story arc and, and that’s the mistake I think most series try, uh… that try to make it as quickly as possible they just give you, uh, you know, fireworks and noise in the first episode and they tell you everything. And then they say, “okay, you love us now. Right? I’ve told you everything.” And you get a real quick out of the gate response and by week three or four, everybody’s moved on to something else and this allowed for you to grow into wanting to make it back the next week where I don’t think most new shows trust the product enough to do. 

Chelsee: [00:10:50] Mm. Yeah, that’s a good, that’s a good point.

I think one of the things that they do, is the first episode almost starts in the middle of the action in the sense that like… when the show starts, the most significant parts of the story have kind of already happened in terms of like Lilly Kane’s murder and the, um, sort of botched investigation of said murder and Veronica’s assault.

Like those things have already happened, such that in the first episode, you’re almost just, um, kind of catching the audience up on the things that they need to know to go forward. So it sort of, it sets up the season and it sets up this broader story of the show by kind of telling you the past of this like universe and protagonist.

Does that make sense? 

Bill: [00:11:49] Yeah, it does. They, they drop you in the middle of a story they’ve told you nothing about and, and, and you are forced to let them tell you the story at their pace rather than you being dropped in the middle and saying, “yeah, but what about—” no, no, no, no. Get your popcorn. Sit down. We’re going to tell you a story. And I think that’s a lot of it is, it was storytelling.

It wasn’t, it wasn’t, um, it wasn’t something that just exploded your eyeballs or assaulted your senses. It was, “okay, we’re going to tell you a story now.” And, and the narrative without… well, I mean, Veronica narrates, but the narrative without narration was, was such that you just had to slow yourself down and allow the story to be told and I think that built a deeper connection between the viewers and the story itself. Uh that’s to me, that is so rare. It’s almost, it’s almost, uh, cinematic where you’re going to be told a story. It’s not up to you to know everything that happened before the lights went down and it’s not up to you to know everything after the lights go back on. It’s, “have a seat. We’re going to tell you a story.” And I think the show itself became a long form film concept, for lack of better. So instead of a two hour movie, you got a 13 hour movie and you felt like none of it was wasted. And at the same time you felt like it, there was no filler, it was all properly paced and it was… Things were revealed as they needed to be revealed. You, you got your shocks when they were supposed to happen in some kind of natural progression. And so you didn’t feel manipulated. You might’ve been manipulated because you kept going back, but you didn’t feel manipulated. It felt like, like natural, um, organic storytelling and yeah, again, back to how rare is that?

That’s how good the first season was. 

Chelsee: [00:14:15] I’m interested in the way that you described the first season as being cinematic, because I will be honest, I— as a general rule— uh, I’m not a fan of when people try and make television movies. And by- what I’m, what I mean by that is I think, you know, for, for a long time, um, television was not taken seriously as a, as a serious medium. And I think that’s definitely changed now, but you know, like I said, at the top of the episode, in 2004, I was busy pretending to be too smart to watch television because at the time that was kind of the like perception at large, that like smart people, you know, went to the cinema and like read books.

Um, but television was dumb, um, kind of in the way that people talk about reality TV  now, I feel like is the way that they talked about all of television in that time period. And I think there’s a way in which we are still kind of getting out from under that perception. And one of the things that I really love about television is that, uh… it is, I would say that it’s not really an auteurs medium in the same way that maybe film can be, because it’s so collaborative. Most shows are written by a writer’s room so you have a group of people who are writing the show together and, you know, you’re kind of sometimes writing it as you’re airing it so you’re getting to know the actors as you’re creating the show and seeing how things air, and those are a lot of things that I think are really wonderful about television.

Um, and I at times have been not a big fan of the kind of HBO approach of like, “let’s make an eight hour movie.” Um, because I don’t want to watch an eight hour movie. I want to watch a television show. All of which I say, uh, not because I think that’s quite what you were… Not to, I guess not to direct my irritation with other people at you, um, but I think that’s an interesting comparison or an interesting way to describe the first season. 

Bill: [00:17:01] Like, I can see, I can see where your irritation comes from because most, most things like that say, uh, the last season of Game of Thrones, um, where each episode, and you heard this in the, the reviews and the teases and the spoils where they were saying as the last season was in production.

“Oh, it’s like each episode is its own theatrical release.” And you think, “Well, okay. That’s nice.” And I guess, but what ended up happening was… And I, you know, maybe even with the writers and the creators, sorry, David Benioff, you blew it. Um, was that by the time we got to the last couple of episodes, we didn’t give a shit.

They wore us out, um, with the spectacle of it. And I don’t think spectacle is storytelling. Spectacle is spectacle. I can watch Ben-Hur. That’s cool, but I don’t want to see Ben-Hur on loop. Uh, it’s a four hour movie. It’s a spectacle, but… It tells a story in four hours, nothing lags. That’s fine. But if you’re going to say, “Oh, I got your, I got your 12 hour, uh, piece of cinema. Uh, here you go.” No, you’re, you’re gonna run out of whatever momentum each of those episodes as, as an individual piece had. You’re going to lose, it’s going to be gone and your, your followers aren’t going to follow anymore. And in that example, by the time I remember when I was watching the last episode of the series, um, I had to watch it again later because I was having a conversation during the, the live episode the, “here it is, we’re watching it on East coast time. Okay!” 

I didn’t care, by the time it ended, it’s like, “Hey, wait, what?” And it was gone. And it was gone because they lost me four hours into the season because they were trying to be bigger than they were and not telling a story. It was, it was filler and it was grand cinema. But they didn’t tell a story. And the first season of Veronica Mars told a story that required the… God, what was it? 13 episodes, 13 hours, like 13 episodes, the first season or less? Off the top of my head I don’t remember. But however many hours they gave you, you needed every minute of it to tell the story and, and none of it was wasted. So yeah. Uh, cinematic in, in scope and spectacle for TV shows, yeah generally sucks. But we’re talking about the perfect season here and there was nothing wrong with it and wherever they may have gone after that in season two and three in the original run, doesn’t even matter.

It’s like, um, it’s like anybody who can— okay, like with shows that, that you catch years and years later and you know, “Oh, they only made one season. Do I even want to invest in just one season?” And you watch that season and if it’s done right, you think, “no, no, that was fine. I don’t need more.” Uh, most recent example for me was, um, HBO’s Watchman.

I don’t know if you got to see that, but, one season done right is plenty and most, most companies don’t move past that. Everybody, the parent companies all say, “well, God, we love season one. Boy, did we love season one. And now we want season two, three, four, five, and six.” And… err that’s a lot like with, like the old joke about, um, bands that get signed and, and they, they cut an album and the album is amazing.

And then the record company says, “yeah, and we need an, we need another one in six months.” And the band members just look at themselves saying, “it took us 20 years to do this album from life experience and, and the emotion that we felt in each song. And now they want us to do 20 years in six months?” And… that’s why so many sophomore albums are crap because you just can’t recreate the life that went into the first one and… I kind of feel the same way— I love the entire run of Veronica Mars dearly all the way through the, seeing the movie 30 times, times and season four. But god that first season was, was everything. 

Chelsee: [00:22:20] Yeah. Do you know the, the story of kind of how Veronica Mars came to be? 

Bill: [00:22:27] I do not. 

Chelsee: [00:22:28] So I think that there is some, like, kismet at play here, and I think it actually really speaks to what you were saying in your kind of analogy of the band who spent essentially like 20 years kind of collecting data that became, becomes their, you know, their, their first album.

So Rob Thomas, before doing Veronica Mars, he actually wrote a YA novel, which I believe is his first book. 

Bill: [00:22:55] And you didn’t mention this in your first podcast? 

Chelsee: [00:22:59] Um, well, I haven’t read said YA novel, but he wrote a YA novel and he was actually like teaching high school to sort of supplement being like a writer and had sold two more books, two more book ideas to Simon and Schuster.

I don’t think that they were ever actually produced. But then, so that kind of sets the scene. He then leaves teaching in Texas to come out West and he starts working in TV and like pretty much right out of the gate he’s like, very successful with television. Uh, he works on Dawson’s Creek for awhile then he gets his own show called Cupid, which I haven’t watched. 

Bill: [00:23:45] Was that Jeremy Piven? Was that, that one? 

Chelsee: [00:23:48] Uh, I, you know, I’m not sure. 

Bill: [00:23:49] Sorry to throw that question out. “Hey, Chelsee answer this one, answer this one now!” I’m sorry, this isn’t in my research. I don’t know. 

Chelsee: [00:23:57] Yes, it’s that one. I just did a Google. So here, I’ll read this summary of what the show was about.

“Cupid is an American comedy drama television series created by Rob Thomas that aired on ABC from September 26, 1998 to February 11th, 1999 and which featured Paula Marshall as Doctor Claire Allen, a Chicago psychologist who is given charge of a man named Trevor Hale [Jeremy Piven]. Hale believes he’s Cupid sent down from Mount Olympus by Zeus to connect 100 couples without using his powers as a punishment for his arrogance.”

Now that I read that summary, I’m like, “did I watch this show? This sounds vaguely familar to me.”

Bill: [00:24:35] I watched probably three entire episodes. Three. Yeah. And I do remember Paula Marshall in that and couldn’t think of her name to save my life. But yeah. So that’s it. That was Rob Thomas’s first, huh? 

Chelsee: [00:24:50] Yeah. So he sells that show, which like— to sell a show early in your career is not that common. It’s, it’s uh kind of a big deal. So he sells the show. Things seem like they were just like really going well for him and then… they take a turn and then they’re just like going really poorly. And so he was, uh, in the midst of a five-year dry spell in his career, um, very nearly ready to like give up the game.

Uh, but he wanted to do a teen show, particularly like given his background in YA and that he’d been a high school teacher and, uh, a show that he really loved was Freaks and Geeks, which, uh, did not, did not do well. Um, and he sort of saw like, “okay, this kind of show is not making it.” And the only teen shows that were getting made or that were successful— to your point about Gossip Girl— were kind of soapy, sexy teen dramas.

So there’s sort of that element at play. Then years earlier, when he was writing books, he had pitched a book, sold this concept about, “a boy who becomes ostracized by his peers when his sheriff father botches the murder investigation of one of his classmates.” 

The boy was going to start working in his father’s PI agency after school.

That boy also happened to be named Keith Mars. 

Bill: [00:26:20] Haha, I was going to say, “that boy’s name is Veronica? Wait a minute. I know this show.”

Chelsee: [00:26:26] Originally it had a male protagonist, but then somewhere along the way, he kind of came to the decision that it would be… that the story would function better if it had a female protagonist at which time Keith became her father and so he just started basically like writing it for fun because he pitched it and like nobody was interested when he initially pitched it. So he wrote the script on spec, just like had a ton of fun with it. And he actually originally thought the show would be too dark for broadcast television. He was hoping to sell it to someone at FX or that maybe HBO or Showtime would pick it up.

I think you kind of see that in the DNA of the show a little bit.

Bill: [00:27:06] Yeah.

Chelsee: [00:27:06] But he just had this informal meeting with someone from UPN. He didn’t think it was going to go anywhere. And they, at the time, we’re trying to skew towards a more younger female audience because what they had been doing historically, uh, prior to that had not really been working for them.

So they’re trying to pivot toward stories for young women or targeted at young women. And he tells them he’s got this Veronica Mar script. He sent the script on Friday and on Monday they bought it. 

Bill: [00:27:37] Wow. 

Chelsee: [00:27:38] Yeah. And by his account, like they sort of, they like, basically, like, didn’t give him any like notes on the pilot.

They pretty much just, like, let him do his thing, which is also like unheard of. And. Kristen was the first person that they auditioned. They saw like a hundred people for Veronica and he was just like, “it’s Kristen.” Um, they actually had to like fight the studio though to get them to agree. Cause they were like, “Oh, maybe she could be like a best friend character,” but he was like, “no, like she should be Veronica.”

So there were kind of all these different things that come, had come together in order to make the first season of the show happen. It’s like this book that he had pitched that like had never materialized, he like wants to do a teen show, but you know, the kind of show he wants to make isn’t doing well so he’s trying to figure out how does he, like come at a sort of soapy, sexy teen drama from an angle that is interesting to him that he wants to approach and you know, didn’t expect it to be kind of what it ended up being. 

Like, this show on FX would have been a very different show than what it ended up being. Like, I think the setup for the show might’ve been the same, but an FX show and a UPN/CW show are definitely not the same. 

But I think there was just kind of like a lot that came together. There’s this sort of lightning in a bottle that made the first season of the show that I think maybe one of the reasons that the second and third season of the show can’t really like hold a candle to what the first season did is those were, you know, the sophomore album to the, kind of, all these threads pulling together that made for the first season of Veronica Mars. 

Bill: [00:29:34] Well, you can see that in the story that you’ve told, think of Rob Thomas as the band and how he had all these experiences from teaching high school and writing YA and pitching and running a show that died and all of this being his life story that he, and then writing the not picked up Keith Mars story. Which, one— wow. I would like to see a two hour movie of Keith Martin at the age of 16, that would be cooler than he could have other ever been because, you know. What was the story? Um, “Dad you were never cool.” 

“What do you mean? 77 Camaro, hot blonde in the passenger seat racing for pinks.” 

And she says, “that never happened.”

“Yeah. Yeah. But if it did, I would have been cool.”

Okay. So I want to see that. I want to see that so badly. And in the second half of the podcast, Holy crap. It ties into my belief that the world of Raymond Chandler is actually the same world of Neptune, California and it’s, it’s all one cohesive universe. I have proof.

So yeah, I, yeah, that. Oh! That would fit in so perfectly, that would be like the in between of it’s not 1946 in LA— no spoilers for the back half of the podcast. You’re all going to listen. Um, but, and then, and then take it all the way forward to the twenty-teens and there’s Keith’s child. Oh yeah, come on. We can, yes.

This needs to happen. And I would watch it. 

Chelsee: [00:31:40] So this might seem like a weird take from someone who loved Veronica Mars enough, that I was like, “I want to have a long conversation about it and then distribute it for public consumption.” But, I don’t really care about mysteries. Like I find that a good mystery is enjoyable, but primarily I am much more interested in characters and kind of what that mystery sort of does to those characters. So the idea of, of the kind of mystery procedural, where like the characters, maybe aren’t changing that much and you just get like a new mystery over and over again, like does not appeal to me. I am really here for the characters and maybe I’m sort of drawing a false dichotomy, but I say all this to say like mystery in and of itself does not interest me.

I’m interested in the characters that sort of populate the world of Veronica Mars. And then the ways that the mystery kind of tell us about those people. And so I would love if we could talk a little bit about some of the characters that populate the Veronica Mars universe and what makes the denizens of Neptune so worth watching a show about.

Bill: [00:33:09] I would love that. 

Chelsee: [00:33:09] Although, I guess I will ask you before we get into it. Do you— I feel like I know the answer to this, given that I know how many, like noirs you watch, but how do you feel about mystery? Do you, is mystery important to you? Are you a mystery person?

Bill: [00:33:27] Um, well, okay like I said, a little earlier in the podcast, I’m the type of person who, who watches a movie and everybody I know, says in the first 10 minutes “I saw that coming.” And I’m exactly who the writer, director, producer, studio wants. I’m your audience because I don’t and I’ll watch a two hour movie and I’ll get to the end of it and I’ll say, “wait a minute, wait. It was them? They?” And, and it’s, it’s that way with everything, which may be why I watch movies 30 times. And, and I will explain that because just that as a random sound soundbite will make me sound institutionalized. But—

Chelsee: [00:34:17] No! 

Bill: [00:34:17] [Huffs] I don’t know. Uh, all my friends who say they get it in the first 10 minutes would say that.

Um, but it goes like this and it’s, it sounds a lot like what you were saying, um, character and what the character has to say is everything for me in a movie, a TV show, a book. Um, I don’t usually watch something for the flashy lights and the car chases and the explosions. And in the same way, I don’t watch movies for, uh, the who-done-it parts of it. I don’t, I want to hear the characters tell their stories while they are scratching their heads, trying to figure out who-done-it. That’s their problem. Not mine. I want to know their story. Because the character holds my interest. Um, Lilly Kane dies. “Ooh. Okay. Who killed her? Let’s spend hours working that out and, and get in… well it’s 2004… chat rooms and, and talk about it and uh…” 

No!

Nah, it does me no good. Now, if you get in there and you say, you know what, let’s talk about that conversation that Keith and Veronica had that lasted 30 seconds and told me everything I need to know about them from when she was 12 or when she was five or whatever on their character’s timeline, I want that. And if you can’t give me that, you can’t give me anything I want and I move on. So Veronica Mars as a mystery, okay. I, I look at, as I look at it as a big bag of characters studies, uh, dressed up like a mystery for people who like mysteries. Um, you know, I’ll, I’ll watch a classic noir film and I don’t give a crap who did it.

I don’t care who killed whom, that’s not the point. The point was, did I enjoy what I was watching for the two hours? Not, not, “did I, did I solve a puzzle?” And I don’t know, maybe that’s just me and I’m in a really small minority probably, but those solving of the mystery does zero for me. And that’s funny given how uh, how, how tight a hold the series Veronica Mars had on me because, “okay. Uh, Lilly, that’s really cool. Okay. Um, don’t care.” And, you know, even up through the season that shall not be named yet, um, you know, I, I don’t want to guess the ending, um, first, because it’s me: I’m wrong. Just, just take me to Vegas and do the opposite of what I think, cause that’s how you’re going to make money. Um, so maybe because I guess wrong all the time, it’s not of interest to me. And I found something else that is. Uh, namely the story and, and how it’s told and the dialogue, the actual words of the portrayed humans coming out at me through the screen. That’s interesting to me.

So it’s almost incidental that Veronica Mars is a mystery show. 

Chelsee: [00:38:23] Yeah. There are two characters that you mentioned when you were talking about sort of things going on in Veronica Mars, um, that I think are as good a place as any to start, which is Keith, Veronica’s dad, and, uh, Lilly Kane. And Lilly is an interesting character in the show because when the show starts, she’s dead. And yet, like she has a huge presence in the show, um, especially in the kind of early episode. Both her implied presence just through the fact that like her death looms so large and has had so many consequences and also her literal presence that we get in the form of like hallucinations or, uh… The hallucinations I actually really love because they are Lilly usually with like blood on her face, because the way that she died was she had her skull bashed in, which is like gruesom but there’s something about the idea of her as this sort of like apparition who’s showing up and even after death is still kind of having an effect on these characters.

And then we also get to see her in flashbacks doing things. And I think one of the things that I appreciate about the way that they treat Lilly is that she does get to be an actual person, even though she’s dead. Because I think a lot of times you just kind of like gloss over, like when a… the person who’s dead on— shows that are premised on, like someone died— is usually… I feel like they don’t really get to be a person, like they are… they’re kind of a prop that the story functions around. Whereas I feel like Lilly gets to be an actual character.

Bill: [00:40:39] Well, like, um, and this is, this is throwing it sort of way back, but, uh, Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks. It’s like, “Hmm, okay, she’s dead. That’s nice. What is she bringing to the story?” And, you know, you can, you can do very little with very little, or you can do a lot with very little. Uh, Lilly Kane, they did a lot. Um, and I like stories like that. Like, um, William Holden’s character in Sunset Boulevard. Sorry, folks, if you haven’t seen Sunset Boulevard, the screenwriter is dead. He’s narrating from the dead. Yeah. Um, and there’s even a, there’s even a scene— there’s a deleted scene, uh, right after the he’s floating in the pool at the beginning and he’s talking, but he’s floating in the pool and then there’s a morgue scene and in the morgue his character is still talking from under a sheet on a slab. And the other bodies in the morgue are having a conversation too. Oh, oh yeah. Um, and the, God, that’s fascinating. And I can understand why that got taken out in 1950 and didn’t make it to theaters. That was creepy. But when dead characters tell me their story through the living characters recollections or, or, um, hallucinations, that’s cool. Please give me that, because that adds more than just the recounting ever does. 

Chelsee: [00:42:19] Yeah. I have a pretty hard and fast, “no dead girls” rule at this point, which is that there are so many shows whose premise is, “A girl is dead!” And then, then they sort of tell his whole show that like, doesn’t really have anything to do with the fact that the girl is dead, it’s just a catalyst for them to tell another story. 

Usually about men. 

Bill: [00:42:46] Right, yeah.

Chelsee: [00:42:47] The only exceptions to my dead girl rule are if that dead girl comes back from the dead. Then really here. Those are the kinds of stories I want. “It’s a dead girl. Oh, wait. The dead girl is alive.” Love those stories, but—

Bill: [00:43:02] Can you cite one? Just so I know where to go look. 

Chelsee: [00:43:06] There is a great comic book called Rachel Rising. And I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say Rachel gets murdered and then claws her way out of her grave. 

Bill: [00:43:20] I have never seen that anywhere, 

Chelsee: [00:43:23] Which is how the comic book starts, is her coming back from the dead and being like, what the fuck? So that kind of content really here for it. 

Bill: [00:43:35] Okay. Okay. Okay. And, and, you know, my next question is: was this comic produced before or after the second episode of season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Just asking for a friend. Okay. Yeah. But I’d still, I, look, I’d still do it. Cause that, that genre is a blast for me.

I’m, I’m all about speculative fiction, scifi, fantasy horror, et cetera, et cetera. 

Chelsee: [00:44:06] Rob Thomas also has another show, iZombie, in which the main character is dead, but then not dead because she’s a zombie. And so like that: here for it. Um, I mean, I have, I have some qualms with the execution of iZombie, but as a premise, I would say like that sort of circumvents, the, like, “no dead girls” rule.

So there are lots of shows that like, I just don’t have any interest in watching and they might be like, great television. Um, but you know what? Don’t need to watch True Detective. Don’t need it. Don’t need it. Um, and a variety of other shows that sort of— the setup is Dead Girl: here’s a story about a man.

Bill: [00:44:53] Having come from the Dead Girl: now here’s a story about a man era. Yeah, I, I do not require that in my life either. I’m… I want to be told a better story and not have it be, uh, “who can we use for the greatest shock value to get you to listen to us tell you this story of a man?” Okay. No, I don’t, I don’t need that at all. It’s, it’s weak storytelling and, and people should have grown out of it, but they haven’t.

So anytime someone shows something that, that indicates a better story— yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s the only way to go for me. 

Chelsee: [00:45:37] And so I think Veronica Mars gets around that problem in two ways. One of them is the fact that Veronica is not a man. And so just having the story be about like, what happens to this woman after a woman is murdered like that in and of itself is a more fresh take.

And then I think what really makes it though is that Lilly is to some degree, like still a character in the show after her own death, at least in the first season. 

Bill: [00:46:12] Yeah, she’s not a chalk outline. You actually experienced who she was that made everybody care after she’s gone. And in the case of Veronica, solve the crime.

Chelsee: [00:46:25] Um, yeah. 

I think a lot of the, sort of like red herrings that come up through the course of the first season, a lot of the like, “Oh, who like really killed Lilly?” Come out of the fact that, like, Lilly made some bad life choices or at the very least some like questionable life choices. And I think that’s much more interesting than, like, “Oh, this poor white girl was brutalized.” Um, I mean, you shouldn’t, you shouldn’t smash in people’s skulls. Um, but— 

Bill: [00:46:59] Just in general.

Chelsee: [00:47:00] Just, just in general 

Bill: [00:47:02] kind of a rule. Yeah. 

Chelsee: [00:47:05] I think one of the questions that Veronica Mars as a show is kind of asking is, like, how we’re party to the things that happen to us. And also the things that happen that like, we don’t have any control over.

I think it’s kind of exploring that. And I think that that happens really nicely in the character of Lilly. But to circle back to keith, as you mentioned, one of the things that’s really refreshing about the show is that Keith is not an idiot, um… 

Bill: [00:47:42] Flaws, but not an idiot. 

Chelsee: [00:47:44] Yeah.

Yeah. And I feel like also as a father figure or as a, like, you can see how Veronica is his daughter.

Um, like she is snarky and quick witted because like he’s quick witted. And like, she really respects him. And in a lot of ways, like Veronica wants to be her dad, even when he doesn’t want her to be him. And so I think he has this kind of… I actually think it’s in one of the early episodes of the show where he says something to the effect of like, “Part of me is proud, so let’s leave it at that.”

Bill: [00:48:26] Yeah. I tell people when it comes up, um, my daughter and I are a lot like that now, but. We were nothing like that when she was young, it was like she hit 25 and all of a sudden I felt free to be me with her instead of dad with her. And it made for a much more realistic relationship.

And I can see that. That kind of father daughter relationship at, in Keith and Veronica. Yeah. In that they, for the most part are living the person to person dynamic instead of the father to child build dynamic and. That that speaks to the, the rareness of the writing and the series. They, they didn’t make either of them, the cliche, the, the idiot, but dictatorial father or the smarter than everybody, including her father, a child who keeps secrets and runs around.

I mean, she’s keeping secrets because she, she believes she has the burden on her to keep them, but not just cause. You know? Yeah. Yeah. So more Keith less Al Bundy. 

Chelsee: [00:49:59] Yeah. Um, and I think actually one of the kind of tensions of the show is Keith trying to decide to what degree he should be, dad. And to what degree he should be, you know, Keith Mars. The, what you kind of talked about is that like person to person relationship versus like parental to child relationship. And I think when he tries to sort of take more of the dad role. Veronica at times, like really rebels against that. But I think also then it’s like sometimes what she needs, because she spends so much time trying to be the adult, even when she is, you know, a high school student, she’s trying to be the adult in the room.

And so I think she’s often relieved when she doesn’t have to be. 

Bill: [00:50:54] Yeah, she’s the adult in every situation, not, not just when she’s parenting her dad, but she’s always the defacto adult, whether that was around a old friend- when she had, well, maybe okay… when Lilly was alive, eh uh, probably, probably not, but.

Subsequently, she’s always the most mature, most informed by her circumstances person in the room, including, uh, around the sheriffs or her dad or whomever. And that’s a burden, but that’s a big burden to bear when you have to make your decisions based on how much you can share with people who aren’t as mature as you, even if they’re twice your age.

Chelsee: [00:51:56] Yeah. Huh. 

Bill: [00:51:57] And Keith Mars, uh, Yeah, I’ll, I’ll just keep circling back to the, we need the teenage Keith Mars movie. Um, we’ll see that Rob Thomas listens to the podcast and yeah, we’ll make that happen. 

Chelsee: [00:52:12] Oh, I don’t think Rob Thomas is going to want to listen to this when we, when we get later in this discussion. 

Bill: [00:52:17] Oh, sure. He will. He’s the kind of guy who likes a well-intended critique. Sure. He’ll be fine with us. He’ll love us. He’ll buy us drinks. Yeah. And maybe snacks. Yeah. 

Rob-

Chelsee: [00:52:33] I mean, I’m open to it, 

Bill: [00:52:34] Please. If you’re listening, Rob, come on. You can find us after all this is over. When bars are open, we will make ourselves available to you. 

Chelsee: [00:52:43] [Laughs] No, I mean, we really respect his work. We just don’t agree with all of his choices. 

Bill: [00:52:47] Right. Which since we’re not writers in the room, we can have opinions and we can say things like, “Oh, Rob. Rob, no.” And, and he will not shoot us down. He also will not buy us drinks or snacks, but we’re still gonna say it. 

[Theme Music]

And that’s the show. Thank you for listening.

Be sure to subscribe to Casually Obsessed on your podcast app of choice so you don’t miss part two. If you enjoyed the show, please consider sharing it with a friend. You can find the show notes for this episode  at casuallyobsessedpodcast.com/veronica-mars. And so I am working on releasing transcripts for every episode of the show, which you can also find at casuallyobsessedpodcast.com.

You can find the show on Instagram @casuallyobsessedpodcast. 

Casually Obsessed is produced by me, Chelsee Bergen and the theme music is i dunno by Grapes.

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