Veronica Mars: Rob Thomas on what season five would be
A teenage private eye is a hook. But a mid-30s private eye? Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas wasn’t so sure about that.
“I wondered going into this fourth season whether Veronica would have the same appeal,” Thomas tells news.com.au. “It felt a bit like, would anyone watch Doogie Howser, 40-year-old surgeon?
“But I’ve been thrilled with the response because I honestly didn’t know what it would be, but it seemed to be very positive. I feel like more people are watching Veronica Mars as a 34-ish-year-old woman than saw her originally as a teenage girl.”
Thomas created Veronica Mars, a Californian neo-noir teen mystery in 2004. It centred on a sassy and clever high-schooler who helped her private detective father in-between solving her classmates’ dilemmas like who leaked the results of an online purity test (yeah, remember those?).
The first season was driven by an arc involving the covered-up murder of Veronica’s best friend Lilly Kane. It was addictive TV, fuelled by strong characterisation and snappy writing. And Veronica Mars’ fans have never wavered after its cancellation three years in. Marshmallows are a loyal bunch.
There was a Kickstarter-funded movie five years ago, but this fourth season, commissioned by American streamer Hulu but available in Australia on Stan, is what fans are hoping will kick-off the continuing adventures of their smart-arse heroine.
“We would like to do a season five, but that’s up to Hulu,” Thomas says. “Hulu were happy with the show itself, they were happy with the reviews, and I know they were happy with how the first three seasons were performing on the service.
“They’ve asked us to provide a schedule for a season five. But we’ve not been given a green light on that. We’re hopeful but nothing is official yet.”
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If there was to be a season five, Thomas already has an idea kicking around in his head.
“I’m leaning real hard into it being an Agatha Christie murder in a country manor sort of mystery. I’m thinking along those lines.”
But Thomas is adamant, even within a Golden Age mystery framework, Veronica Mars would retain its neo-noir tone.
Veronica Mars, Agatha Christie-style. Yes, please. Sign us up.
But there would not be a season five without star Kristen Bell. Without Bell, there wouldn’t have been a season four or the 2014 movie.
“If Kristen wasn’t involved enthusiastically, it would not happen,” Thomas says. “She’s a key partner in all this and once Kristen gets tired of playing Veronica that’s when the series will shut down. Happily, she keeps telling people she will play it until it’s Murder She Wrote. So I’m very fortunate for that.”
Veronica Mars was Bell’s big break and she’s gone on to star in movies such as Frozen, Bad Mums and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and TV shows including House of Lies, The Good Place and Heroes.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that out of all her regular cast mates, she’s the one who has had the most post-Veronica Mars success. Thomas still remembers the moment she auditioned after a casting director had alerted him to a TV movie she did with Anne Heche, Gracie’s Choice.
“She was the first actress we auditioned for the role and she knocked it out of the park,” he says. “It was a spooky thing to see the first person in the room do it better than you had it in your head.
“You usually have to see 50 people to see someone who measures up to what you had in your head, and it wasn’t like we saw her and shut down all the auditions. We went ahead and auditioned 100 people and by the end, it becomes this blur and you start thinking in your head, ‘Man, I hope that first actress is as good as I remembered’. And she was.”
Before Veronica Mars, Thomas had been a writer on the first season of Dawson’s Creek and created Cupid, a one-season TV comedy. But it was his time as a high school teacher in his early 20s that probably helped him land that “teen voice” and Veronica’s superpower.
“I do love writing Veronica, I love writing Keith — those conversations are about as much fun as I have as a writer.
“When the show first came out in 2004, the thing that Veronica had going for her is she said all the things we all wish we were bold enough to say.
“When I taught freshman (year nine) English, I had a classroom full of 14- and 15-year-old girls, and so many of them were so painfully self-conscious. They were worried about everything they wore, they did and said out loud in class.
“In a world where there were powerful female heroines like Buffy or Alias’ Sydney Bristow, Veronica’s super power was that she didn’t care what people thought of her. That was a powerful thing for a teenage girl.”
Times have changed since 2004 and when asked what he would do differently if he was introducing this character for the first time in 2019, Thomas pauses.
“I think I would’ve been more nervous writing a story of a rape survivor in 2019 than I was in 2004,” he admits. “I would’ve been nervous about getting it wrong, about it feeling false.
“I think the consequences of getting it wrong would’ve been maybe more severe in 2019 than in 2004.
“But the other thing we wrote a lot about in 2004 was income inequality, the gap between the wealthy and the working class. That seems to work even better now.
“It’s weird to say I’m proud of it but I’ve written a lot things and it’s nice to be ahead of the curve on something. That has felt like richer material to mine the longer the show has existed.”
Veronica Mars is streaming now on Stan
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Originally published as You’re going to want more of this TV show