Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A Christmas Mystery

The UPN hourlong weekly drama show Veronica Mars, produced by Rob Thomas, is a good deal more than just another TV show featuring attractive young performers pretending to be teenagers of various levels of family wealth (though it is certainly that, too). The program has an interesting and fairly innovative mystery angle, with the show's title character solving crimes, usually falling far short of murder, both with and without her private-detective father. Her father, the PI, is a balding middle-aged man who, like Paul Drake in Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason novels, looks much more like an accountant than a detective.

Last night's episode, "An Echolls Family Christmas," presented two separate mysteries, one done in puzzle form and the other in private-eye style, plus references to an ongoing subplot regarding the murder of Veronica's best friend, some amusing satire of Hollywood, a pointed and fair look at class and race issues, and a Christmas background.

Mysteries and Advent are two things I greatly enjoy, though on different levels, of course, and this episode integrated them quite well. Veronica makes the point, early in the episode, that Christmas is supposed to be about the birth of Christ, and the show is wisely content to leave it at that. Point taken, and thank you very much for mentioning it.

Veronica's solution to the mystery is almost completely fair-played and was quite satisfying. (In mystery fiction, fair play means that the reader or viewer is given all the clues necessary to solve the puzzle, though in most cases one would have to be a genius to achieve it, especially if, as in last night's case, you are not expecting the producers to make it a fairplay puzzle and hence don't keep a sharp eye out for the clues).

The program is well worth a look, and I hope that it will last out the season so that we will be able to see the main plot elements resolved.

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