Veronica Mars is not only back, she’s back early — and she’s getting down and dirty. The once-and-future private investigator portrayed by Kristen Bell is back on the job in Hulu’s revival of the cult-favorite series, which retains the show’s trademark wit but adds a considerable amount of adult-themed spice to the mix.
The Veronica Mars preview panel on Friday at Comic-Con International in San Diego was packed, and the crowd was plenty pleased with the premiere screening of the opening episode of Season 4. They were especially pleased with bawdy sass of the show, which at one point has Bell’s gumshoe and her scantily club boyfriend (Jason Dohring) negotiating the value of “a hand job with eye contact” before the pair close the deal with a romp in bed.
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Clearly, Veronica Mars is not in high school anymore. She is back in her hometown of Neptune, CA, however, because (as she explains in the opening voiceover) she needs the town and the town needs her. Then she corrects herself: “It didn’t a private investigator, it needed an enema.”
A new flow? Yes, that’s one way to describe the Hulu revival, which got a surprise early release today when the subscription streaming service put the eight-episode Season 4 up a week ahead of schedule. That’s a pleasant surprise for fans of the show who are more accustomed to the show making unexpected exits instead of early entrances.
The early release was the surprise announcement at the end of a Q&A panel with Bell and other cast members as well as executive producer Diane Ruggiero-Wright and creator/executive producer Rob Thomas. Bell celebrated her 39th birthday on Thursday, and the early release was framed as gift to her from Hulu.
“I think it’s pretty safe to say that everyone is in love with Veronica and Kristen,” Ruggiero-Wright said. There was no disagreement from the crowd, and it’s true that fans have been pining for the show for years. Bell opened the panel by acknowledging the power of that love. “None of this would have been possible if you all didn’t watch the show.”
The private investigator role was Bell’s career breakthrough, but the only mystery she couldn’t solve was how to stay on the air. Veronica Mars started in 2004-06 on UPN as a high school neo-noir series, which makes coastal Neptune a spiritual sister city of sorts to the title towns of Riverdale and Twin Peaks.
The third season aired under The CW banner but, to the crushing dismay of fans, the series got the hook before reaching its fourth season. Then the brand returned in 2014 with a feature film funded by a Kickstarter campaign. Now, it’s the eight-episode Hulu iteration, which — like Murphy Brown, Gilmore Girls or Roseanne — banks on the curiosity that surrounds any beloved character that gets a new lease on broadcast life.
Nostalgia alone won’t sustain a revival, but if the fan reception at Comic-Con is any indicator, that won’t be a problem for Bell’s new caseload. Friday’s cheering crowd in Ballroom 20 of the San Diego Convention Center made it clear that this is the Mars mission they had wanted all along.
In the first episode, Mars reunited with boyfriend Logan (Dohring), gets an interesting proposal and finds a new friend (the scene-stealing Kirby Howell-Baptiste). She also works on several cases, including. bombing at a local motel that may be connected to a Arab-American politician. Her father, Keith (Enrico Colantoni), is having some serious health issues as well. (On the panel, Colantoni said, yep, fans should be “very worried” about his character.)
Bell said described her character as “a superhero without a cape” and an important example of a strong, independent woman. She cited the value of the character and what she represents, connecting back to the legacy of Mary Tyler Moore as a working woman on television in the 1970s.
Bell said she will stay on the job until the job is done, too. “I’ll play Veronica until everyone in Neptune is dead,” Bell said, raising the unexpected possibility of a 21st century Murder, She Wrote with a view of the ocean.