Veronica Mars: The Complete First Season

Enough buckets of ink have been spilled in praise of UPN's low-rated teen snoop drama Veronica Mars to drown one of the high schooler's obnoxious classmates; the show got enough attention to warrant a second season but unless it finds a willing audience on DVD it's probably over. Too bad — the show is a beautifully written and wonderfully performed (particularly from lead newcomer Kristen Bell) balance of Buffy spirit, Columbo sleuthing and Clueless high school brats. And while that concoction may sound a little saccharine, the show also has a serious dark side: in the pilot episode alone we learn that Mars's father has been shamed out of the sheriff's office, her best friend has been murdered and Mars herself was drugged and raped at a high school frat party. This ain't The O.C., bitch. It is these central mysteries that carry the thread through the first season (wisely resolved by its conclusion, leaving no serial storyline summer hangover), but episode-by-episode, Mars — the character and the show — proves to be smart, self-aware, tough and sensitive. The teen sleuth plots are edgy and realistic (striking a balance between busting a high school fake ID ring or ransom-demanding dog-nappers and the darker explorations of her friend's murder and its raft of suspects); they're boosted by the assistance both given to and garnered from her private investigator dad (Enrico Colantoni). As brilliant as the show is, the DVD issue seems half-assed. Twenty minutes of perfunctory deleted scenes, poorly organised and presented, and a slightly recut (but unexplained) pilot episode are the extent of its offerings. Given the passion that's gone into this show, the fact that the network couldn't even muster up a cheap EPK featurette means that there's no mystery surrounding the fact that ratings trump quality work, even when Veronica Mars is on the case. (Warner)