Veronica Mars and TV-Inspired Movies

Veronica Mars TV series posterThere once was a teenage private detective named Veronica Mars who lived in the coastal town of Neptune, California and wowed viewers with her spy skills, quick wit, and tumultuous relationships. The Veronica Mars TV series aired from 2004 to 2007 and was cancelled, to the massive disappointment of many faithful viewers — I among them.

So when creator Rob Thomas and series star Kristen Bell launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $2 million to make a Veronica Mars movie, I thought, What a good idea. Which was followed immediately by concern that this was a bad idea. Because TV series brought to screen are sometimes not all they’re cracked up to be.

Take, for instance, one of my favorite television series, The Avengers, starring Patrick Macnee as John Steed and various co-stars including Diana Rigg as Emma Peel. Years later they decided to make the movie, with Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman in the starring roles. I couldn’t wait to see Steed and Peel together again. Bad, bad idea. None of the chemistry, the quirkiness, the magic of the original British series translated at all to the big screen remake. Not only was I disappointed, I was miffed at how badly they had desecrated the iconic TV show.

But then again, there was Dragnet, the original series created by and starring Jack Webb as detective Joe Friday. When the movie remake came out with Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks, I was skeptical. Would the film capture the spirit of the original while treading new ground as well? Indeed, it far exceeded my expectations. And provided a marvelous villain performance by Christopher Plummer as well. Well done, Dragnet.

To me, the record on other TV-to-movie offerings has been mixed. Here are a few I’ve seen:

Charlie’s Angels
The Flintstones
The Fugitive
George of the Jungle
Get Smart
Mission Impossible
Serenity (Firefly)
Star Trek

There are plenty of others I haven’t seen — like The Brady Bunch Movie, Dukes of Hazzard, MaverickScooby Doo, and Sex and the City. But it’s a risk to take a beloved TV series with 30-minute to one-hour episodes and then find a big enough story worth telling on the big screen.

So how did this one measure up? Was Veronica Mars worth the over $5 million ultimately raised on Kickstarter through 91,000+ donors?

Julie w/two friends & marshmallows in their mouths
We had our marshmallows ready!

I went into the Saturday afternoon showing with low expectations and emerged very happy. The film makers did a good job of maintaining the characters, paying homage to the TV series, and yet recognizing that we’re several years down the road. If you weren’t a fan of Veronica Mars, I think the movie still holds up on its own. But if you were a fan of Veronica Mars, you should find something in here that stirs up good memories and sucks you back into the fictional community of Neptune and its residents.

And now I’m a little more hopeful about the trend to take good TV series and make them into movies. For the times that it pays off, it’s worth the risk.

ROW80 Update

Now let’s look at the payoff of my last week with A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Participants choose their own goals and report weekly or twice weekly on their progress. Here are my round’s goals and my week’s progress on each:

1. Read 12 books. Read #12, A Marine to Remember by Danette Fogarty (fiction), and #13, Writing from the Middle, a short book by James Scott Bell (nonfiction). Goal met for this round! But of course, I’ll keep reading.

2. Complete two drafts of short stories. First story is done, and I reworked a couple of chapters in the second story. Thanks to a wonderful idea from my lovely teenage friend “A” this week, I resolved one remaining story issue. I can see it all coming together now, and I’m close to having a full draft. Good progress this week.

3. Take care of ROW80 sponsor responsibilities. Checked in on the Sunday and Wednesday posts from my crew. Good weeks overall. Done.

4. Edit at least once through Good & Guilty, young adult mystery Sharing Hunter, young adult contemporary. This goal has been taking a back seat each week to my short stories, which I expected to take less time than they have. Here’s hoping I can tackle this with greater fervor this week, especially since my kids’ Spring Break is over and they’re returning to school. Progress? Not so much.

So what do you think of TV shows made into movies? What are some of the best and worst you’ve seen? Are you a Veronica Mars fan? And how was your week?