Complex TVMain MenuIntroductionVideos for IntroductionComplexity in ContextBeginningsVideos for Chapter 2AuthorshipCharactersComprehensionEvaluationSerial MelodramaOrienting ParatextsTransmedia StorytellingEndsVideo GalleryTable of ContentsJason Mittell06e96b1b57c0e09d70492af49d984ee2f68945deNew York University Press
VERONICA MARS series opener starts with an explicit homage to film noir, framing genre expectations.
12015-03-11T14:36:15-07:00Jason Mittell06e96b1b57c0e09d70492af49d984ee2f68945de13503VERONICA MARS, "Pilot" (UPN, 2004) highlights the mixture of film noir and light-hearted teen dramaplain2015-03-13T12:49:06-07:00Critical Commons2004VideoVeronica Mars, "Pilot" UPN2015-03-11T21:15:42ZCraig Dietrich2d66800a3e5a1eaee3a9ca2f91f391c8a6893490
12015-03-12T19:59:08-07:00p. 73-74: VERONICA MARS2plain2015-03-12T20:02:27-07:00In just under a minute and 40 seconds, this teaser has set up a great deal of information and context for the episode and series as a whole. We have established the title character as a savvy and brave young woman, juggling life as a student and paid private investigator. The neonoir style serves to set a cynical and world-weary tone, with clever narration encouraging a more sophisticated take on conventional crime stories. The frank sexual content of adulterous motel trysts signals a level of maturity unexpected in a program that will later be shown to be based around a high school. And the cliffhanger ending suggests that suspense and action will be a prime ingredient of the dramatic action.
It is not hard to see both why Thomas might have preferred this opening for the pilot, highlighting maturity, unconventionality, and suspenseful noir, and why UPN forced the more typical opening at Neptune High to appeal to its core teenage target audience with a more familiar milieu, style, genre, and set of characters. These two openings high- light the central challenge of any pilot: demonstrating how the series is both freshly distinct and yet familiar enough to be recognizable and comfortable, striking the delicate balance between similarity and difference that structures commercial television. The UPN opening starts with the familiar and slowly complicates it with intrigue and genre mixture, while the DVD version puts us in the midst of something unconventional for television, a young female-centered noir, and then links it to the more conventional facets of teen drama. Both educate viewers on the program’s norms and inspire them to keep viewing, but clearly each approach speaks differently to various subsets of the potential viewing audience.