Conceived by Rob Thomas (the writer, not the 'Smooth' musician) and starring a spunky Kristen Bell as the titular character, the show launched to critical acclaim. Veronica Mars never drew in the audience numbers required to keep it alive, but it had a passionate cult following and is still fondly remembered to this day.
Veronica Mars: Originally broadcast from September 22, 2004 to May 22, 2007
Particularly in its earlier seasons, Veronica Mars was a joy to watch because it tried so much yet pulled it all off while striking the right balance. It was a series that was successfully funny, intense, gripping and fascinating. The show was also smartly written and rarely treated viewers as stupid with its thought-provoking storylines and quick, hard-boiled dialogue.
Bell (beating 500 auditionees) played Veronica Mars, a high school student once one of the 'popular' kids but now a social outcast - as a result of siding with her father and ex-sheriff Keith (Enrico Colantoni), when he supposedly accused the wrong man in a high-profile case.
Veronica gets most of her kicks from moonlighting as a private detective, cracking cases often originating from her school. Immediately likeable and relatable, Bell is perfectly cast, bringing a lot of enjoyable sass to the role. Veronica's quick-witted remarks were always a reliable source of humour.
Although each episode contained a new standalone case, what made the show must-see TV each week was the bigger season-long mystery. The first season centred on the brutal murder of Veronica's best friend Lilly Kane, played by at the time rising star Amanda Seyfried (turning in a string of performances that showed the potential she had back in 2004).
Each episode, Veronica and the viewers learn a little bit more about the case, and it's not long before a list of suspects and motives can be drawn up.
It's a 'whodunnit' that is executed wonderfully, especially as it's a death that has affected a tremendous number of characters other than Veronica herself - from Lilly's brother Duncan (Teddy Dunn) to former boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) - and to see great character development makes the murder that much more powerful.
The series was never scared to be dark when the mood required - after all, it is a murder, and you can't sugar-coat it with sunshine and rainbows. Significant and shocking developments are unravelled along the way, sometimes through flashbacks, before culminating in a fantastic and nerve-wracking season finale when Veronica finds her life in danger as she discovers the identity of the killer.
It wasn't all serious and doom and gloom. The show also focused on the trials and tribulations of Veronica's everyday high school life, and there was a fun mix of characters including best friend Wallace (Percy Daggs III) and troublesome biker Weevil (Francis Capra).
But the best interactions Veronica had were with her father, and the chemistry between the two actors was first-class. The father-daughter relationship Veronica and Keith had felt genuine. Sure, watching them jest and mock each other never got old, but this was backed up by Keith's protectiveness of her and Veronica's love for her father.
Season two was almost as impressive as the first, boasting arguably better standalone cases and delivering another riveting season-long arc - which involved a high school bus 'accident' killing several on board. If there was one very slight nitpick, one could claim that the central mystery started to get too complex for its own good, with one too many red herrings and tertiary characters to keep track of - but regardless of that, it was still no doubt amazing all the way through.
Veronica Mars also broached the serious topic of rape as it is made clear in the pilot that Veronica is a rape victim - the culprit unknown. The full story behind that night wasn't revealed until the end of season two, and the whole thing solidified that this was no ordinary fluffy teen drama.
In fact, when Thomas finished penning the pilot script, he was keen to pitch to the likes of the grittier HBO, FX and Showtime. But UPN was happy to give the green light - all they wanted was for the general tone to be a little lighter to fit in with their programming - and allowed a large amount of creative freedom that no doubt contributed in producing such a noteworthy show.
This was highlighted further when The CW took over the reins, as a result of UPN merging with The WB after season two. The third season was still enjoyable but it failed to live up to the high standards of the previous two years, possibly as a result of the network requesting core changes.
With Veronica now at college, the show made a number of changes signalled by a complete and moodier overhaul to the opening credits sequence. Understandably more mature at this point, the show lost some of its light-hearted charm - but fortunately, there were still plenty of fun moments with Veronica, Keith and the hilarious Dick (Ryan Hansen).
The biggest disappointment was The CW's encouragement to split the season into three arcs representing smaller major mysteries - mostly an attempt to make the series more approachable in the face of declining ratings. As a result, the cases felt less epic and captivating, but they were also less personal (a serial college rapist who targeted Veronica's annoying new roommate was followed by the murder of the dean).
It remained entertaining television, but the gambit failed to pay off - the third season didn't even get the chance to do its third mini-arc when the episode order was cut from 22 to 20. Instead, five strictly standalone episodes (again, to be more accessible to newer viewers) rounded off what would turn out to be Veronica Mars's final season.
The series most definitely ended on a high, though - the final episode imbued a lot of qualities from its peak and was arguably the strongest in the season. Stakes were personal and high (bigger than Veronica could have ever imagined), and viewers got to see a pissed off Veronica on a ruthless warpath for revenge but with ultimately heartbreaking consequences.
The episode wasn't intended to be a series finale, but things did come full circle and it reinforced the amazing relationship that Veronica and Keith shared - which was the heart of the show.
Veronica Mars was sadly axed but it didn't go down without a fight. Thomas shot a trailer of Veronica, four years later, working in the FBI in the hopes of winning over The CW with a radically new direction. In addition, fans sent 10,000 Mars chocolate bars to The CW, but the show never returned for season four.
There has also been talk of a Veronica Mars film, which legions of supporters have been campaigning for to happen. Thomas and Bell have both expressed their desire to do it, but Warner Bros remains reluctant to move forward with the project.
It was an abrupt end to one of the greatest shows on American network television in recent memory, but we'll always have three seasons of DVDs to rewatch and enjoy over and over again. Thomas went on to produce the excellent and funny Party Down, which featured a host of Veronica Mars alumni including guest spots from Bell herself.
Do you miss Veronica Mars? Are you still hoping for a movie? Let us know below!