Television series exist at the whim of a programming exec. Series not pulling in the right audience for advertisers get pulled, sometimes within weeks of the pilot airing. There have been times when the number of weeks is less than one. One case in Austrailia had the show pulled during airing.
The longer a series lasts, the more fans it picks up, through word of mouth or even accidentally catching an episode. If you’ve been following MuseHack or any site through Crossroads Alpha for any length of time, you’ll know that fans can get creative when supporting a series. This was as true with the original Star Trek as it was with Veronica Mars. What Star Trek fans didn’t have available to them was Kickstarter.
Veronica Mars aired first on UPN then on the CW after UPN merged with the WB network, lasting three seasons from 2004 to 2007. Sixty-four episodes, one fewer than traditionally needed for syndication, chronicled the life of the titular character in a film noir homage. Each season had its own mystery arc, with Veronica working on smaller cases each episode as well. Veronica was also an outsider in her school, the fallout of her father, as sherriff, trying to arrest a prominent Neptune, California, billionaire for the murder of one of Veronica’s friends. When her father became a private investigator, Veronica helped out, and took advantage of the skills she picked up to find her friend’s murderer.
Over the course of the three seasons, Veronica gained close friends and solved cases. The series ended with her having to make a difficult decision – leave the wretched hive of scum, villainy, and corruption known as Neptune or stay as a licensed detective herself.
Veronica’s choice was never shown. The series was cancelled after the third season, though work had been done for a potential fourth that would have seen Veronica as a rookie FBI agent. Fans wanted more. The Mars bar campaign saw ten thousand of the candy bars sent to CBS headquarters. However, the fate of the show was sealed. Being on a fifth network that had to merge to survive took its toll.
All was not lost. The creator, Rob Thomas, had written a Veronica Mars movie script. CBS, one of the co-owners of the CW along with Warner Bros, passed on the idea. However, a new player had arrived. Kickstarter gave people a chance to directly fund projects; money would only change hands if the donations reached the dollar value required set by the creators. All Kickstarter campaigns last thrity days, to give projects enough time to get the word out and drum up support. When the Veronica Mars movie went to Kickstarter, the $2 million goal was reached within 11 hours. Fans wanted the movie. The studios, seeing the interest, added to the funding and greenlit the movie.
The movie was released as a limited engagement, on a smaller number of screens than the typical release. At the same time, the movie was available for digital download. Opening night saw theatres sold out of tickets. With nine years between the end of the series and the movie opening, could the movie adapt to the time gap?
Adapting a TV series to a movie involves some growing pains. With Veronica Mars, there is an added complexity. Many adapted TV shows become just longer episodes, not really taking advantage of the new format. Fans can be vocal about what they want, but may not be aware of what they truly desire; it’s a delicate act balancing the familiar and the unexpected. Veronica‘s added complication is the lack of time for the season-long arc. Can the script handle needing to be both longer and shorter while still being Veronica Mars?
To appease the fan need for the familiar, the movie brought back many familiar faces. Along with Kristen Bell, Veronica herself, the movie reunited her with Jason Dohring, Tina Majorino, Percy Daggs III, Francis Capra, Krysten Ritter, Chris Lowell, Daran Norris, Ken Marino, Ryan Hansen, and Erinco Colantoni. Veronica gets dragged back to the wrteched hive after one of her Neptune friends is accused of murder before the weekend that the Neptune High School reunion takes place. The reunion acts as the perfect metaphor for the movie; almost ten years have past since fans last saw the characters. Who would they be now? Almost every character* had changed in surprising ways, the unexpected that the fans also want.
The core of the TV series was the drama that Veronica herself went through, the changed lives, even hers, in the wake of her investigations. Without that core, the Veronica Mars movie could just be the Betty Jupiter film. Rob Thomas, though, knew that core and used it as the base to build the rest of the movie on. Few characters get through the movie unscathed, and even Veronica herself gets caught in her own wake.
With the script getting to the heart of what made Veronica Mars a popular hit, even a cult classic, the adaptation to the big screen allowed fans to return to Neptune and enjoy a proper Veronica Mars story, gaining from the change in format without losing anything in translation.
Next week, Mr. Peabody and Sherman.
* There’s always that one person who doesn’t appear that he has left high school. For Veronica Mars, that person is Dick Cassavetes, played by Ryan Hansen.