Monday, March 06, 2006

The Genius From 'Mars': Rob Thomas Talks College, Kendall and Which Episode He Can't Wait to Show You

Thomas stands in front of the ill-fated bus (photo courtesy The Attractive Nuisance)

When you meet Veronica Mars creator/executive producer Rob Thomas, you're expecting someone intimidating. After all, this is the man behind what Buffy creator Joss Whedon calls "the best show ever," and it's the show that author Stephen King can't take his "eyes off of." Someone this creative and talented has to be intimidating, right? Not in Thomas' case. The surprising thing about him is his approachability and his candidness when it comes to discussing his critically acclaimed UPN show or the hot topics facing its future success. Ask him about the new CW network (the merger between CBS Corp. and Warner Bros. that will essentially shut down both the WB and UPN, Veronica's current home, to form one, unified network this fall), and he candidly and honestly lights up with excitement. Thomas feels its a positive development for his little-show-that-could, that is, as long as Veronica makes the cut. Things have been promising on that front since CBS Corp.'s Les Moonves announced the merger back in January. At the press conference to introduce the CW, Moonves excitedly raised the prospect of a Gilmore Girls (currently airing on the WB)/Veronica Mars night on the CW when it launches this fall. It's an idea that Thomas feels could help his show garner more viewers. Gilmore Girls averages around 6 million viewers an episode, almost double that of Veronica's average audience.

With the recent brief February Sweeps hiatus, a move UPN says was designed to help the show find its audience again after suffering from its ratings-plagued lead-in South Beach, a lot of new episodes are still left to air (which UPN says it plans to show uninterrupted until the second season finale in May). Some of the show's most interesting plot points, including the most intriguing one - who caused the bus accident that claimed so many students' lives - are still left for viewers to unravel. Included in those plot points is the upcoming "Versatile Toppings" that features guest star Kristin Cavalleri as an outed gay cheerleader at Neptune High. Thomas says viewers can also expect to learn more about the students killed in this season's central mystery - the bus crash. And if that wasn't interesting enough, Thomas excitedly promises that episode 17 "Plan B" is one to watch for this season, calling it "an amazing episode." He says, "I think Veronica Mars gets at its best in episodes 17-22. Things happen fast." The same was true for last year's Lilly Kane murder mystery as it unraveled in the season's final episodes and viewers were surprised to learn who was responsible. Thomas says when he plans out the central season-long mystery he tries to strike the right balance. "You don't want it to be so obscure that no one figures it out, but you don't want it to be so easy that 60% of the people have it figured out," Thomas notes. He believes it's all about the small bits of information along the way saying, "We try to get all the clues in there so people look back and go 'Oh, yeah.'" Some of those clues will introduce some elements of the season three mystery as this season progresses. Thomas devilishly points out that the next mystery is already planned out and he thinks that "savvy viewers will see what it will be." He coyly says that viewers should pay close attention to the next three episodes to find the clues.

Next season's big mystery and a hopeful move to the new CW network aren't the only changes in store for Veronica Mars. This season marks Veronica's senior year in high school, so expect her to head off to college next season. With the loss of Neptune High, many viewers may be wondering how the show will morph from a high school setting to a college one. Thomas says that the basics will stay the same, including the mystery-of-the-week and the big overarching mystery. He says he's not worried about the change because he believes Veronica is more than just a high school show. "So many high school shows are built around a coming-of-age story, so it's about high school and those formative years. We are sort of a noir-mystery show, so it's less about 'what personal strides am I making in high school?' We're not tied to those age years." He also expects that "the characters we love will be back." One character not returning next season is Kendall Casablancas (Charisma Carpenter) because Thomas explains that her story is a one-season thing. He says, "In any given season, we're going to have our regular cast and each year we'll probably have 2-3 big recurring guest actors who are integral." Last season Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna were integral to the season-long mysteries, but play little to no role this season (Rinna's character committed suicide last season). Thomas says, "We need new blood each year." And more characters to further the show's penchant for blurring the line of moral ambiguity. Thomas likes that area of the show even if viewers are a little more black and white at times. "I think a lot of television is built around moral absolutes. With noir, the genre itself is all suppose to exist around that gray area," he explains.

One of the more talked about plot points this season has been the relationship between Duncan (Teddy Dunn) and Veronica (Kristen Bell). Many fans would love to see Veronica with bad-boy Logan (Jason Dohring) because they don't feel that Duncan was a good person after he got former girlfriend Meg Manning (Alona Tal) pregnant and dumped her for Veronica. Thomas blames himself for the resulting Duncan-hate. "I think the audience didn't go along with that relationship largely because we didn't invest enough into showing it," he says also pointing out that it paled in comparison to season one's Logan and Veronica relationship. But Thomas is quick to clarify that Duncan did not sleep with Kendall Casablancas. He says the show meant for that revelation to be ambiguous at the time, but he wants it to be clear now that Duncan was not the type to do something like that to Veronica. He says Veronica never fully confronted him about Kendall because "the type of guy he is, Veronica would just trust Duncan."

For now, fingers are crossed and hopes are high that the CW gives Veronica a chance to expand its audience next season, but Thomas says these next few weeks are critical with his show going head-to-head with ratings juggernauts Lost and American Idol. And then there's the recent hiatus that UPN employed to help the show with a better lead in. Now with that lead-in, America's Next Top Model, returning this week and Veronica next, things will hopefully look brighter for the show. Thomas knows that fans grumbled about Veronica's sudden absence from UPN's February schedule, but he is quick to point out that the move was "good for us." He goes on to say that it further showed the network's and president Dawn Ostroff's commitment to giving the show the best chance for success possible. And Thomas is happy to have the network support. Veronica Mars returns March 15th at 9 p.m. EST on UPN.

About Last Night... ABC won the first hour of the night with its Oscar telecast, followed by CBS' Criminal Minds rerun and the second hour of NBC's Dateline. At 9, ABC continued its run with the Oscars, followed by CBS' Cold Case (r) and NBC's Law & Order: Criminal Intent. The final hour of the night went to ABC's Oscar telecast, followed by CBS' CSI (r) and NBC's Crossing Jordan (r). For more on last night's ratings, visit Zap2it.

~Primetime Pass~
@8 p.m. - Fox airs special back-to-back episodes of 24. Over on NBC, Deal or No Deal begins its weekly run.

@9 p.m. - ABC Family's hit summer show Beautiful People begins its next cycle of new episodes.

@10 p.m. - Allison tries to help find a missing person who is close to the District Attorney and finds herself experiencing paranoia and delusional encounters with government agents trying to route out terrorism. Over on CBS, Horatio asks Natalia to reveal a dark secret form her past in order to solve an investigation on CSI: Miami.


QUICK CUTS

*Preliminary data from Nielsen Media Research shows that last night's Oscar broadcast on ABC was down in the ratings compared to previous years. The data shows this year's broadcast down about 3 ratings points, which would make it the least watch Oscars since 2003. More accurate numbers are expected later today and tomorrow.

*So, you love Desperate Housewives, but do you want to smell like one? Disney/ABC and Coty Inc. are hoping that you do. The media group and the fragrance company are joining forces to develop a new scent based on the popular satirical dramedy about the happenings on the fictional Wisteria Lane. They plan to have the scent on department store shelves this fall. This is the first time Coty has teamed up with a major studio to produce a perfume based on a hit television show.

*And finally, it's TV on DVD Monday! Look for the fifth season of The Brady Bunch to hit store shelves tomorrow along with Three's Company (season 6), The Cosby Show (season 2) and Hogan's Heroes (season 3). For the full list of releases, visit tvshowsondvd.com.

That's all for today. Be sure to tune in tomorrow for a special preview of America's Next Top Model and thoughts on Medium. Plus, all the latest television news. And be sure to stay tuned to Pass the Remote all week for more news and information from my Veronica Mars set visit including an interview with Veronica herself, Kristen Bell.

SAVE EVERWOOD NOW! Click HERE to learn how to help the show get another season

Don't forget to help Veronica Mars with the $4,000 Shower Campaign. Click HERE for details


6 comments:

The Attractive Nuisance said...

Again, I am a famous photographer! I said over on (I think) the Vast Wasteland blog that Rob Thomas is a handsome man, but he looks half retarded in every picture anyone has from the bloggers press event. Poor guy. It must keep him un-intimidatingly humble.

suekola44 said...

I enjoyed all your info from Rob Thomas about VM. Looking forward to all the new episodes!

bitter said...

Desperate Housewives has a scent??? ...wow....

I'm just thrilled they've kept CC for next season. I knew they would. They'd be fools not to.

Anonymous said...

The Invisible Touch Tour Rob's greatest influence
is Steve Burry Rob dropped out of high school at 17. He was raised by
cute boyscout twinks He ran away from home but called his mom to tell her how he
was doing. He used to write cheesy love songs to get girls in high school.

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Farrah Khan said...

9 years after this was posted, this still gave me (a lover of V.Mars, watcher of all 3 seasons at least 6 times) insight on the show. Thanks!