Monday, March 10, 2014

Veronica Mars Week 2014: Writers' Spotlight: Rob Thomas

So it’s been a while since we had a Writers’ Spotlight post. But given the impending release of “Veronica Mars” (the movie), it seemed appropriate to take a look back at the career of its creator, Rob Thomas (no not the front man of Matchbox 20). Both Jen and I are proud supporters of the Kickstarter campaign which allowed the film to finally be made, some seven years after the show went off the air.

Before Thomas made it big with Veronica Mars, he was the mastermind behind the 1998 dramedy “Cupid”, starring Jeremy Piven and Paula Marshall. Many of you may not have heard of the short-lived show because it only lasted 15 episodes and was never actually released on DVD. But it followed a man who believed he was Cupid, exiled from Olympus by Zeus until he could make 100 true love matches sans bow and arrow. When we initially meet him, he adopts the name Trevor Hale and begins seeing Dr. Claire Allen. It was a delightful little show with a lot of charm and touching storylines. And Thomas kept you wondering whether Trevor really was Cupid or not. He also populated the world with believable secondary characters. We never will find out if Trevor made his 100 matches and returned to Olympus (or if he made the one match he couldn’t make…finding true love for himself and stayed on Earth). But it was our first foray into Rob Thomas’ quirky brain. I suppose it should be noted that Thomas was involved in the equally short-lived Cupid remake in 2009. I tried to watch but it was just far inferior to the original. Thankfully, he was only tangentially connected to it.

We wouldn’t see Thomas’ brilliance on the small screen again until Veronica Mars debuted in 2004 on UPN (home to the likes of Buffy and Angel before merging with the WB to become The CW). Veronica Mars followed the titular character as she navigated the perils of high school in a high society area all while solving crimes with her PI pop. One of the great things about Veronica as a character was her sense of humor. Some of the lines that came out of her mouth were just priceless. I think the time between “Cupid” and the three-year run of Veronica Mars helped Thomas hone his skills a bit. The storytelling was also really intriguing, at least for the first two seasons. In and amongst Veronica dealing with teenage issues like prepping for colleges and boyfriends, she had season-long arcs to solve which were very personal to her. Season one focused on solving her own sexual assault and the murder of her best friend and season two focused on a bus-full of kids going off the road and the reason behind it. Season three, having moved on to college, split the season into two smaller mysteries which I didn’t think worked quite as well. Maybe it was because I wasn’t a huge fan of the first half of the season storyline that made the final season less exciting than the previous two.

Another of Thomas’ genius moves was building Veronica’s romantic relationships. By season three it was pretty much the LoVe fans (veronica and Logan) against the Veronica and Piz fans (they don’t even have a cool mash-up nickname). Even though we as viewers knew that Logan had issues (let’s just say he doesn’t react well when people threaten Veronica), you still wanted to root for him and Veronica to make it. We’ll be bringing you a deeper look at the LoVe relationship in another post.

Thomas would go on to craft “Party Down” after Veronica Mars ended which featured some of the cast, including Ryan Hansen and Kristen Bell. And he had a hand in The CW’s 90210 remake but his TV career has been pretty quiet since the population of Neptune, CA disappeared from our airwaves in 2007. And then, after a long wait, Rob and Kristen launched a campaign on Kickstarter, asking fans to chip in to make the long-desired Veronica Mars feature film. And we did it. We hit the goal of $2 million in less than a day and broke a slew of other records. And Thomas got the chance to dive back into the world of Veronica Mars one more time.

From what we’ve seen of the trailer and heard through updates, it seems like it will have a closer feel to season 1 or 2 than season 3 (although Veronica is dating Piz again). We know we are looking forward to seeing Veronica don her PI hat again and work the clues, whatever they may be and where they may lead, to solve a murder and reconnect and hopefully reunite with Logan. We expect zippy dialogue, witty voiceovers and some great character development out of this film. After all, the characters have had a long time to grow and mature. Hopefully that maturation period will help Veronica and Logan cure some of their relationship ills. And of course it wouldn’t be a proper Veronica Mars production if she wasn’t aided by her usual band of supporters, including Mac and Wallace. It will be interesting to see where the characters pick up in their relationships as it seemed like the trio was beginning to drift apart a little near the end of season 3.

If you want to see more of Thomas’ work going forward, then keep your fingers crossed because he’s got some new projects on the horizon. A Veronica Mars tie-in novel and web mini-series are in the works. And The CW has recently ordered a pilot for iZombie, a new thriller where a medical student-turned zombie gets a job as an ME and ends up working with local law enforcement to solve cases. If it is anything like his previous body of work, it will definitely be worth checking out. If he includes some voiceovers it could be a nice window into the main character’s mind (hey it worked beautifully for Warm Bodies). Whether Thomas gets this pilot ordered to series or not, we will look forward to whatever he develops in the future.

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