The reboot expedition started by broadcast networks in a bid to mine the 1980s and 90s for recognizable material has now officially arrived in the mid-aughts. On Monday night, smack in the middle of the Video Music Awards, MTV announced it would be reviving “The Hills,” a teen girl reality show staple that ran from 2006-2010. Now it seems like a second teen staple of the era may be close to a reboot as well: “Veronica Mars” the girl-detective show starring Kristen Bell that ran from 2004-2008 on UPN, and later The CW.
Word is Hulu has stepped in and is working towards producing a reported eight-episode revival of the cult hit, once again with Bell in the lead role and series creator Rob Thomas penning the scripts. If the series does indeed get a second life on the streaming service, it will likely become Hulu’s second must-watch series in its portfolio.
If the series does indeed get a second life on the streaming service, it will likely become Hulu’s second must-watch series in its portfolio.
“Veronica Mars,” for those who may have missed it the first time around, is the story of a once-popular high school teen who turns to a life of (investigating) crime after the murder of her best friend, Lily Kane (Amanda Seyfried.) Her father Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), the county sheriff when the show begins, discovers evidence implicating Lily’s influential billionaire father in the girl’s death, and is subsequently voted out of office and becomes a private eye. Undaunted, Veronica goes to work for her father at his newly opened Mars Investigations agency, in the process becoming an empowered Nancy Drew for the 21st century.
The series had a devoted following, but the merger between the WB and UPN that created The CW network didn’t help the show’s already narrow ratings, and it was canceled after a year at the new station. The show’s fan base, though, never gave up hope. A Kickstarter formed in 2013 in hopes of creating a “Veronica Mars” movie netted $5.7 million dollars. The movie was released in 2014, but with that sort of audience interest, investing in an eight-installment revival seems like a smart deal for Hulu to make.
From a business perspective, Hulu desperately needs a second series to prove that “The Handmaid’s Tale” is not a fluke. This year’s Stephen King anthology series “Castle Rock” is doing well among the genre/horror crowd, but there’s nothing else like “Handmaid’s Tale” on the roster, with its very topical, political and unabashedly feminist angle.
But there's a big cultural benefit as well. Despite being mostly set in a high school, the original "Veronica Mars" tackled topics including wealth inequality, misogyny, sexual assault and corruption in a mature if accessible way, even if it had to refrigerate a woman to get there. (Don’t worry, Amanda Seyfried got a career out of it, along with Bell.) Notably, the show dug into sexual assault and its aftermath — Veronica is herself drugged and raped, a plot detail Thomas fought the network to include at the time.
The original show also let teens be teens, though. Veronica’s decision to get a job working for her father is really part of her attempt to regain control of her life following the loss of her best friend and her mother (who deserts her family). Some of the show’s most poignant moments concern father-daughter dynamics and the emotional limits of a teenager who sometimes acts too much like an adult for her own good.
The 2014 movie, which despite mixed reviews would make a potentially good jumping off point for the reboot, ended with Mars taking over her father’s detective business in her hometown. Kristen Bell, who has been pushing for this mini-series since the end of 2017, is well known as a wholesome, church-going star. (The fact that fans know this about her is partly what makes her performance on NBC’s “The Good Place” work as well as it does.) She is also an outspoken proponent of gender equality in Hollywood, evidenced by her public support of the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements.
Her activism, coupled with her heavy involvement in the reboot process, suggests she would be influencing the sorts of stories the show will tackle. Considering the original series' exploration of how trauma affects women and girls was so ahead of its time, it would be interesting to see if a new mini-series could follow a similar path. One would hope any new offering wouldn't have to center on the death of teenage girls this time, or have Veronica hook up with a bad boy as her soul mate, but it would be great to see the show explore how universal the experience of harassment is among women, and how the resulting damage can last for generations.
During the show’s original run, Rob Thomas pushed to make the show darker, suggesting it should even be on cable so as not to have to conform to network standards. This was before “Mad Men” or “Breaking Bad” came along and solidified that what “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” were doing was prestige TV, making Thomas more revolutionary than he probably knew. But the choice to relaunch the series now feels auspicious — the show may be coming back at the exact right cultural moment, and free from the restrictions of The CW.
A darker, more mature “Veronica Mars” reboot would pair nicely with Hulu's other main hit and provide a hook for new subscribers. Plus, Hulu will always be able to say it was the streaming service that brought back fans' favorite "Marshmallow." It may wind up being a more somber version of the original drama, but even that feels fitting — the kids from Neptune High are all grown up.
Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. Regular bylines can be found at Elite Daily, WETA's TellyVisions, and Ani-Izzy.com.